|Professional Card Grading
We Grade THEM!
1976 Topps Garagiola #1 Joe
Garagiola (very scarce!)
Professionally graded cards are cards that are sent to a service that authenticates and grades the cards. The cards are then sealed in a tamper-proof case, or "slab."
These services can be useful, especially when it comes to buying expensive cards. There are numerous counterfeits out there, along with cards that have been trimmed or altered
to make it appear as if the card were nicer than it really is. Some grading services will put the fear factor into you - "Beware of the "Card Doctor..." But make no mistake about
it; these companies are in it for the money- these services rake in bijillions of dollars a year! On this page WE ARE GOING TO GRADE THEM! I will assign our own grade for
each of the three major grading services left standing: Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), SGC (Sportscard Guarantee Company (SGC), and Beckett's Grading Service
(BGS). I probably have about 2000 professionally graded cards from the above companies (and from some companies that are no longer around) and here I will give my
honest opinions of each service. Hopefully from this you can make an informed decision of your own about which service (if any) you wish to use.
Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA)
PROs: Professional Sports Authenticators, or PSA for short, claims to be the "cornerstone" of your collection (actually I
feel the cards themselves are the cornerstone, not the plastic slabs they are put in). They have been around the longest of
the all the grading services so they get a plus for longevity (+). They also get a plus for resale value (+). Of all the
Professional Grading Services that have ever been, PSA cards generally will sell for more than a card graded by another
company. Why is this? Longevity and brand name recognition. PSA also has graded some of the most expensive cards in
the hobby including the "Holy Grail," the infamous T206 Honus Wagner which is graded PSA 8 NM-MT and has sold for
over TWO MILLION DOLLARS. Supposedly this was the first card they ever graded. PSA has also graded more cards
than any of the services. But McDonald's have flipped more burgers than any other burger joint in history; does that make
them the best? (Personally I prefer "In-N-Out" Burger). In general, you can't go wrong with a PSA graded card. The card
might be slightly overgraded or undergraded and this was especially the case when PSA had a simple 1-10 grading
scale. Since that time, PSA have changed to a half-point grading scale which makes for more accurate grading and this is
another plus (+).
CONS: Now for the negatives. In order to submit cards to PSA you must be a member of the PSA Collector's Club. There
are a couple of different levels ("Gold" and "Silver") and basically what this means is that you have to pay a yearly
membership fee to have your cards graded by PSA. The membership fee does include some free submissions but it is not
worth the cost of the membership fees which is at least a $100 a year. You also get a "free" PSA SMR (Sports Market
Report; PSA's own price guide) but you can get that free online and you don't have to be a member to access it! So for
charging you for the privilege of grading your cards PSA gets a negative from us (-). Now you can submit cards to PSA
via another route: you take the cards to a "PSA Authorized Dealer," and they will submit the cards for you. There are not
too many card shops out there anymore but an alternative is also going to a card show. PSA and some other grading
services will sometimes be on site at a convention or show and will grade you cards there (also, it's not free).
Summary. Of all the grading services, PSA has remained on top. The cards are easier to sell and generally have a higher
resale value than other services. The bummer is the membership fees.
Check out the stain below "Willie" on the 1966 Topps #1 card to the right (NO qualifier!)
Sportscard Guaranty Company (SGC)
PROs: SGC has been around for several years now and have really proven to be one of the best and most consistent (+) services out
there. Part of this may be due to the fact that SGC started out with a more definitive grading scale than PSA. SGC has a 10 to 100
grading scale which takes into effect in-between grades (+). I have never had an unpleasant experience with SGC. Their customer service
is tops (+). For instance, once I did not send enough money along with my submission. It was only a few dollars but SGC went ahead
and processed the order. I did that with PSA once and they held up the order until they received payment. Which is their right, but for a
couple bucks? Holders (+); SGC holders are very nice and present the card much better than PSA. Where PSA uses generic holders for
cards, SGC uses a black insert which not only highlights the card, but the insert is trimmed especially for that particular card (which takes
into account minor size variations). Another plus (+) is NO Membership Fees! SGC also offers the only Written Guarantee (+). If an
owner of a SGC graded card feels the card is overgraded he can resubmit the card for review and if SGC agrees they will assign the
new grade and pay the difference between the two grades (current fair market value). This is probably the reason for SGC's consistency
through the years. You certainly don't see many overgraded SGC cards (if any, I may have a few undergraded SGC cards), while I have
several examples of PSA overgraded cards (see the PSA graded 1966 Topps Mays above and also our PSA SUCKS PAGE!).
CONS: SGC is a bit more lenient on centering then Becketts or PSA, though still within grading guidelines. So they do get a negative for
that (-). However, overall I rate SGC very high. They have maintained consistency from the start while PSA and Becketts did not. Of all the
"reputable" grading services out there (currently Becketts (BVG, BGS only), PSA, and SGC) I personally feel that SGC is the best of them.
HOW WE SCORE 'EM
Pluses (+) 6: Consistency, Customer Service, Custom Inserts, In-Between Grading Scale, NO membership fees, Written
Guarantee if card is overgraded.
Negatives (-) 1: A bit lenient on centering.
OUR FINAL ASSIGNED GRADE: SGC 92 NM/MT (= 8.5)
Beckett's Grading Service (BGS)
Beckett's Grading Service (BGS) has long been the hobby's premier price guide (at least for Dealers). Becketts jumped into the graded card industry with not
one, but 3 different services; Beckett's Grading Service (BGS), Beckett's Vintage Service (BVG), and Becketts Collectors Club Grading Service (BCCG). I am
just going to give a grade on Becketts Grading Service (BGS) in general as they no longer have separate services for vintage and modern cards.
PROs: Becketts has the brand name recognition as does PSA. So they get a plus for that (+). They also don't charge membership fees so they get a plus for
that as well (+). What made Becketts unique was they were the first service to use sub-grades. Originally on the back label Becketts would assign a technical
number (from 1-10) for Centering, Corners, Edges, and Surface. This was great because you could see why a card got a particular grade. However they
stopped doing this so they don't get a plus anymore for that. Which is too bad.
CONs: No longer doing sub-grades (-). I guess they felt it was too time consuming, but I thought the sub-grades where an innovative and useful idea. They
also get a negative for have multiple grading services (-). There is really only one grading scale. So why did they have 3 different services? Even worse, they
have BCCG which is a dis-service to the hobby. See the card to the left. It is graded an "8" which normally would be equivalent to a "NM-MT" grade. Not
with BCCG. An "8" with BCCG is "Excellent or better." So it is not an accurate grade. Why does Becketts have this service? Because it was a cheap way to
make money. They can give the card a quick "look over," slab it and send it on it's merry way. It was cheap for customers as well, something like a couple
bucks. But why bother if the grade is not accurate? The bottom line is you get what you pay for. And BCCG sell on the cheap on eBay.
HOW WE SCORE 'EM
Positives (+) 2: Brand Name Recognition, No membership fees.
Negatives (-) 2: No subgrades on newer holders, Multiple grading services.
OUR FINAL ASSIGNED GRADE: Beckett (BGS) 5 EX
Global Authenticators Inc. (GAI)
PROs: GAI made itself reputable almost immediately by name recognition (+). Even though they filed for Chapter 11
Bankruptcy in December 2008, these cards are for the most part still considered "reputable."Their claim to fame was the
fact that the company was started by one of PSA's top graders, which gave them almost immediate credibility. Well it sure
seemed to help as GAI established themselves as one of the top four grading services. And actually we really like their holders
(+). Like SGC, they have custom inserts which highlight the card. Their labels were the best of any grading service using a
"metallic" label instead of a simple paper label inserted into the holder. A unique feature is the top edge is also labeled so you
can see what the card is even while stacked up with other graded cards. Even today, the old GAI probably has the nicest
looking holders out there. Another plus was the fact that GAI used in-between grading which makes for more accurate grading
(+). The fact remains that even though the old GAI is no longer around, most savvy collectors know they can pick up some great
cards at great prices by picking up these GAI graded cards. Personally, I don't have a problem buying an older GAI card. They
generally sell for less than the remaining 3 "reputable" services that are still active.
CONs: Well GAI is no longer around. As mentioned above they filed for Chapter 11 several years ago. So that is a pretty big
consideration. Also at one time they actually authenticated a fake 1963 Bazooka card and this made news when it happened. I
don't know if that was their downfall but that is gonna cost them 3 and a half points (-3.5).
HOW WE SCORE 'EM
Pluses (+) 3: Attractive Holders, Half Point Grading Scale, still considered "Reputable" by most in the hobby
Negatives (-) 3.5: Authenticated a counterfeit card!
OUR FINAL ASSIGNED GRADE: GAI 4.5 VG/EX+
It is important to note to be extremely cautious if considering purchasing a card that has NOT been graded by either PSA, SGC or BGS. Why? Because
most of these "graded" cards were graded by a company that is no longer around. And then you have to consider, why are they not around? Were they
not accurate in their grading? Were they grading and authenticating counterfeit cards? Did they have lousy customer service, or did they just get into it a
bit late? I am dead serious when I say to be extremely cautious when purchasing cards from 3rd-rate so-called "grading" services, especially expensive
cards. Chances are they are not what they appear to be. On the other hand, a few of these services that are no longer in business actually did a pretty
good job but got into the game too late and pulled out. These means you can pick up some great graded cards at bargain prices!
Here is an example of a "Sports Cards Direct Authentic" graded card. This company tried to copy Sports Collector's Digest Authentic (SCDA; see above). Note the similarity in holders. However I would rate this as a 3rd rate service
which means don't waste your money. Notice the grade, 6.5 EX/NM (Excellent to Near Mint) which is essentially a NM card. However look at the centering side to side; it is way off! This company gave it a 6 on centering, which is
pretty damn generous! Now this card is, most likely genuine. Topps had all sorts of centering problems back in the day, and also remember that cards back then were not "worth" money like they are today. Anyway back to this card,
it is simply OVER-graded. Which sucks for the unsuspecting buyer. He might pay a fair price for the card assuming the card is as advertised. Problem? The problem is, the card is NOT EX/NM 6.5. Actually the best grade this card
could receive would be EX at the absolute best. So this buyer ends up paying EX/NM to NM price for a card that is actually in EX condition. In fact this card sold on ebay for $30.57. If it were really an EX/NM card it would have
sold for at least $100. So in conclusion, I would not waste my money sending cards to this service and if you are considering purchasing a card graded by Sport Cards Direct Authentic bear in mind that the chances are the card is
OVERgraded and bid accordingly (like the winner of this card did, he got a good deal!).
This service is even below 3rd rate. This one was on eBay recently. Who in the hell is "Sports Collectors Dimension???"
Instead of "Dimension," this company should use the word "Dementia" as anyone crazy enough to send an authentic
1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle to this rinky-dink, bottom feeder of a grading service is either a scam artist or
just plain crazy. This card sold on eBay for $1000 with just two bids, but if it was slabbed by a reputable service it
would have fetched at least 6 times that amount, if not more (I sold a genuine 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 3 VG for $8750
a couple of year ago). Chances are very high that this card is either a fake, trimmed, or altered in some way. Chances
are also very high that this grading disservice is either out of business already or on the brink of being so. Buyer
In summary, grading services where supposed to take the guess "work out" of grading. But instead they cause just as much confusion as before grading services! When you have 3 major services and 3 different grading guidelines,
how exactly does this unify grading? It doesn't. Just like one collector may grade a card "NM," and another collector grades it "EX," so you have BVG calling a card "EX" and PSA grading it "EX-MT." It is all subjective. The only
real benefit of a grading service is this; a plastic holder to store and display your cards. Nothing more and nothing less. Cards graded GEM MINT were MINT before they were slabbed weren't they? Vintage cards have somehow
survived in high grades (take for example the highest graded T206 Honus Wagner, a PSA 8 NM/MT, how did this card survive nearly 100 years without being "slabbed?") without the benefit of tamper-proof, protective pieces of
plastic. The reason for these services is simple; to make money providing a service you can do yourself (with a little knowledge). There are also plenty of protective sleeves and holders to protect your cards without costing you $6 to
$10 (or more) per card to slab. So consider these things before shelling out hundreds of dollars which otherwise could be used for buying... more CARDS!!!
Now if you choose to use a 3rd party Professional Grading Service, first make sure the company is LEGIT! Currently this means 3 companies: PSA, SGC and Becketts (BGS). Remember PSA has been around the longest and in
general PSA graded cards will sell for more than cards graded by other services. It also costs more to submit cards to PSA because you have to be a member and "pony up" $100+ a year. Avoid purchasing expensive cards slabbed
by some 3rd rate "service." Most likely the card is either altered or otherwise not genuine and at the very least it is probably way over-graded. If purchasing an expensive card it would be prudent to buy one graded by PSA, SGC,
or BGS, especially if you are not familiar with cards.
I would recommend that if you want to collect or sell cards that you become knowledgeable about grading. You can "grade" your own cards, thereby determining their "value" (if they indeed are "worth" money). The rule of thumb is
that the higher the grade, the higher the price you will get (or pay) for it. For more on how to grade your cards, check out our "How To Grade" Page!
HOW WE SCORE 'EM
Pluses (+) 3: Longevity, Newer Half Point Grading Scale, Higher Resale Value.
Negatives (-) 1: Yearly membership fees.
OUR FINAL ASSIGNED GRADE: PSA 7.5 NM+
1953 Bowman Color #117 Duke Snider
1971 Topps #20 Reggie Jackson
Even from the small scan I can tell this card is nowhere near "MINT 9" as graded by Elite
Grading Service. I have never heard of them until today when I saw this card in an eBay
store for about $900. While the corners may or may not be MINT, what immediately grabs
your attention is the centering. Which is way off, both top to bottom and side to side. So
you can slab this card in a cheap holder, claim that it is MINT 9, but that does not mean
diddly squat. In fact what it means is that ELITE is a lousy grading service and anyone
sending cards to this company (if they are even still around) should have their head
examined, are just ignorant and uninformed, OR they are into scamming the ignorant and
uninformed. In this case, the card isn't worth anything close to $900. Because of the
centering alone, the card should grade no better than EX (SGC) and PSA might grade it a bit
higher but with the off center qualifier (OC). Either way the card is closer to EX condition
than MINT 9. A PSA 5 EX 1952 Topps #175 Billy Martin recently sold on eBay for $119
(plus $5 shipping) and it had similar centering issues so figure this card is worth something in
that vicinity. PSA's Sports Market Report (July 2009) lists a PSA 5 example at $190 so figure
you can get one for less depending on centering and eye appeal factors.
Here is another one. Is this 1960 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle, graded by PRO grading service REALLY a EX/NM card? Just the corners alone would knock the grade down to around VG-EX. But even worse, check out the
centering top to bottom. The bottom does not even have a border, as such this card could be called "miscut" and for sure PSA would have given it the miscut qualifier (MC). It certainly would not have graded so high by either
BGS, PSA, or SGC (GAI is no longer grading cards). Yet the seller is asking close to $200 for this card on eBay. So before shelling out the hard earned moola, be informed!
This card was posted on GMA grading.com's website. While centered nicely side to side, it is off center top to bottom. As such, I would have a
hard time calling this card NM+, let alone NM. If submitted to Becketts, PSA, or SGC, the card would come back probably no better than EX-MT,
which is at least a full grade lower than what GMA is calling this card. Overgrading is a dis-service to collectors. It is a false grade and someone
not knowledgeable thinks they are paying for a card that is accurately graded. First, consider the source. Is the card graded by a REPUTABLE
service? There are only 3 reputable 3rd party grading services that are widely recognized in the hobby, Becketts (BVG or BGS only), PSA and SGC.
And even they make mistakes occasionally. So why would you want to pay money for having your cards graded to a company that is essentially
blowing smoke up yer #$%? You will never be able to sell these cards for even close to what similar graded cards by Becketts, PSA and SGC sell
for. So it is just a waste of money. By the way, GMA's big claim is that they offer the lowest prices for grading cards, $2 per card!!! Compared to
reputable companies, this is dirt cheap. But remember the saying "you get what you pay for." In this case you are getting paid for a plastic holder
and that's about it. This 1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron baseball card (pictured at right) is his rookie card and it is a very expensive card. As
such you are throwing your money away if you think you are going to get PSA prices for a GMA "graded" card. Even for $2. You would probably
get more for your card by breaking it out of the holder and selling it as "ungraded." I kid you not. Another thing about GMA; their website
contained so many "typo's" it made me laugh out loud. How can a professional website misspell simple words while trying to portray itself as a
company who is the same league as Becketts or PSA? Granted I have my share of typo's but I am not claiming to be something I'm not either.
Another GMA "graded" card I saw on eBay. MINT 9??? I don't think so. Even if the card was pulled right out of a pack does not mean the card is in
MINT condition. Chances are, it's not. Topps was notorious for centering problems from it's beginning to modern day cards. The above second year
Rickey Henderson card has some serious centering issues, namely a "diamond" or "slant" cut. Check out how the top border goes from wide to narrow
going from left to right. It is also really noticeable on the right border. A true "MINT" card should be perfectly centered or close and a slant or diamond
cut would significantly lower the card's grade. As such I would grade this card no better than EX-MT; maybe EX-MT+ if the card is otherwise perfect.
Becketts, PSA and SGC would not give this card a "MINT" grade and would have probably given it anywhere from EX-MT to NM.
More on centering. Back before grading became more involved, centering was not considered that big of a deal. I remember in the 1970's going to card
shows and dealers claiming cards were "MINT" even though they were off-center. If the card looked like it came out of a pack they would call it NM or
MINT. Today with 3rd party graders, grading has become far more detailed. Cards are examined for picture quality, centering, surface, edges, corners,
etc. It is very rare for a vintage card to be in true "MINT" condition, while it is very common for today's modern cards to be in MINT condition. Quality
control has improved drastically among card manufacturers. However that is what is great about vintage cards, they weren't perfect. Most were handled
and loved and the cards have their own "personality" sort to speak. Today's cards are impersonal and are collected more for monetary value instead of
for the love of the game or player. Card manufacturers today know this and produce "rare" cards, which is a ploy to attract buyers to their product.
Good luck with that. I am happy to collect vintage cards only.
Now here is a dilemma. Here we have 3 different 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris cards, all professionally graded as being "NM-MT." So how much are these cards "worth???" For starters, the 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris card
is somewhat difficult to find in NM/MT or higher grades. It is a very popular card, features a great pic of HR slugger Roger Maris, and it is a number one card to boot. Because it is a key number one card featuring a popular
player, this is an expensive card. PSA's SMR (Sports Market Report) lists this card for two thousand dollars plus change ($2250) in a PSA 8 NM-MT holder. Now as noted earlier, there are numerous grading services out there that
are not reputable at all. Just because a slabbed card says "NM-MT" it doesn't neccessarily mean that it is. But in this case, we have 3 reputable grading services (though GAI is no longer around) saying that the encased cards are
autthentic and graded "NM-MT." I saw all three of these on eBay. The GAI example had an asking price of $1250 or "Best Offer." That is really a good price considering PSA says a PSA 8 NM-MT example is about $2250. The
PSA card above had a price of $3500 which is way over PSA's SMR. The SGC example? $2695. Now say you have extra dough to blow on baseball cards. You are looking for a 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris in high grade and
you see these examples. Which one would YOU choose? The PSA lovers out there of course, would want the PSA example but I would think the price tag is too high. If I wanted a PSA 8 example I would hold out until one came up
for auction; chances are you will get the card for closer to the SMR price (hopefully lower!). Now if you are an SGC fan, like me, you would trust their grade and their written guarantee, but I would still have a problem with the
asking price. Because PSA cards generally sell for more than other grading services, I would try to get this SGC example for LESS than SMR. You can always make a fair offer for a card. Nothing is set in stone. Now GAI was
once a reliable grading service so I really don't doubt their grade either. And the price is very fair ($1250 or "Best Offer") considering a PSA 8 is $2250. Which one would I choose? I'd make an offer on the GAI example. I know I
can get it for less because of the "Best Offer" and with the money I save I can buy MORE cards!!!
Some other considerations... We are still in a recession right now so a lot of collectors (myself included) don't have a whole lotta cash to blow on bubble gum cards. So just because the PSA SMR or any other price guide says
that a card is "worth" X amount, does not mean that the price is set in stone. It is only a GUIDE. The card may sell for more or less. I get asked a lot, "what is this card worth?" You know what? A card is "worth" whatever someone
is willing to pay for it at that particular time! Enough said.
Do these three cards look like they are all GEM MINT 10? This "Grading Service" TMA should have called itself "GEM MINT 10 Grading Service" as it appears ANY card
you send them they slab and assign a GEM MINT 10 label to it. Is this for real??? By the way "TMA" stands for "Tickle My Arsehole...." This is just a simple waste of money.
This is an example of a BCCG graded card; it is given an assigned number grade (6) which on any other grading service (including Becketts) would be the equivalent of "Excellent-Mint" or
"EX-MT." But this is a Becketts Collector's Club graded card. So note the fine print underneath the large "6." "Good or Better." And judging from the card itself (tape stains, crease in upper right
corner area) this IS a lower grade example. But this 1965 Topps #134 Mantle's Clutch HR is a terrific and affordable vintage Mickey Mantle card in any condition!
It's amazing that these FGA ("Foremost Grading Authority") slabbed cards are still out there. Several years ago, this so-called grading service "graded" and slabbed numerous counterfeit cards,
prominently 1947 Bond Bread, 1952 Wheaties, and 1963 Bazooka "hand cut" singles. There was a serious investigation into the matter when one of the so called "reputable" grading services,
Global Authentic Incorporated (GAI; see above) actually graded and slabbed a counterfeit 1963 Bazooka card. Personally several years ago I purchased a FGA "graded" 1963 Bazooka Don
Drysdale and Roberto Clemente on Yahoo Auctions (are they still around?) and I immediately recognized them as fakes. Around the same time, Sports Collector's Digest (a monthly hobby periodical)
did a pretty good job of getting the news of FGA, it's shady owner, and counterfeit cards out to collectors. To the seller's credit I did get my money back (remember, if it is too good to be true, it
probably is...) but even after that he continued to sell them with no mention of them being counterfeit. Anyway FGA lasted all of a minute but for some damn reason you still see these cards on eBay
and they are all fakes, yet they are being sold as "originals." The above "1947 Homogenized Bond Bread Ted Williams" is a definite fake and I saw it on eBay recently (March 2010) for the asking
price of $200. I am sure there are plenty more FGA examples out there in cyberspace. Avoid them at all costs! They are worthless fakes good for maybe display but with no collector value
This is the sort of thing you have to look out for. A seller on eBay is selling reprint cards, which look pretty convincing from the scan (see above Leaf Babe Ruth reprint). To make these reprints even
more convincing, he has slabbed the cards himself and attached labels (with no mention that the card is a reprint). To top it off, the seller added red tape around the label to make it look like a PSA
graded card. But it's not. The seller does mention in the auction title that the card is a "1948 Leaf #3 Babe Ruth NM 7 rp," with the key word being "RP" (the abbreviation for REPRINT). But if you
are not savvy on vintage baseball cards you may think the Ruth is genuine and have no problem buying the card for $29.95. A real 1948-49 Leaf #3 Babe Ruth card graded PSA 7 would
certainly fetch at least $2000. Regardless, thirty bucks is still a rip off for a "reprint" card made out to appear genuine. Remember these words of wisdom: "If it is too good to be true, it probably
1967 Bazooka 3-card panel #7-9 (Mickey Mantle, Leon Wagner, Gary Peters) PSA AUTHENTIC (*note no assigned grade)
Now a bit on "Authentic." Authentic is a good word. It means something is genuine, it has been deemed "worthy." However in the world of professional 3rd party grading, "Authentic" is not nearly as good as a technical
assigned "grade." What in the world am I talking about? OK. When a reputable grading service checks out a card for grading the first thing they do is determine whether the card is authentic. The real deal. There are
numerous counterfeits out there, including reprint cards that are made to look like a vintage card, altered cards, trimmed cards, you name it. Big dollar cards like the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle, 1963 Topps Pete Rose
rookie, 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan, 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie, etc. have all been extensively counterfeited. So when you are shelling out big bucks for such cards it would be prudent to make sure you
are getting an AUTHENTIC card. Follow? Good.
Next the grading services (the reputable ones that is) will assign a technical grade to the card. We won't get into grading here but if the card is deemed authentic and measures full-size as issued, the card will get an assigned
number grade. Now just because a card is AUTHENTIC, does not mean it can get a technical grade. For instance look at the above 1967 Bazooka 3-card panel, which is assigned an "Authentic" label with no technical
grade. Why no grade? The card does not measure full size as intended. Most of the cards you see that are simply assigned an "AUTHENTIC" label are either hand-cut cards that don't measure up to the size intended (in other
words, cut too short), abused cards, or cards that have been "doctored" and altered to make the card look better than it really was. This is the worst thing you can do to a card besides throw it away. Why would you want
to take a vintage Babe Ruth card in lower grade, which still might get you a thousand dollars or more, trim it or color it to make it appear as if it is nicer? You could do that and try to sell it to some unwary collector. That is
just wrong. So that collector sends the card to PSA or SGC and guess what- the card comes back as "AUTHENTIC." Now you can kiss that $1000 out the window. Because that card "doctor" has committed a felony on that
card and on you. The card is now "worth" whatever someone is willing to pay for an authentic but altered and trimmed Babe Ruth card. This is a bad practice in our hobby. Luckily the grading services (reputable ones, I can't
stress this enough) provide this service so that you KNOW what you actually are getting.
Now back to this 1967 Bazooka 3-card panel (PSA AUTHENTIC). I used this example because it shows why PSA did not assign a technical grade. The Bazooka, Jell-O, Post Cereal, Hostess, early strip - cards, etc. were all
meant to be carefully cut out along the lines or borders. For instance, these Bazooka cards were issued 3 per box and were printed on the bottom of the bubble gum box. Bazooka even printed dashed lines with instructions
to cut along black lines or something to that effect (you can barely make this out on the extreme right edge of the above example). Whoever cut this out however, cut INSIDE the black lines making the cards shorter than
intended. Because the cards do not now measure full size they cannot be assigned a technical grade. All PSA (or SGC) can do is assign an "Authentic" label and slab the card. There is a big, no, HUGE price difference
between an "AUTHENTIC" card and the same card with a grade. Because "Authentic" cards have no grade you cannot determine a price for it's condition. As such, an AUTHENTIC card is only "worth" whatever someone is
willing to pay for it. Now if it is a desirable card, like say a T206 Honus Wagner, you can get big bucks for even an "AUTHENTIC" example. But nowhere near as much as and authentic AND graded example. Check out
the examples below:
Now here are two of the most recognized and desired baseball cards in the hobby, both from the famed T206 set. The Eddie Plank is one of rarest cards from the set and is extremely expensive; in fact most collectors
can only dream of having enough money to actually buy one. Same with the Honus Wagner, easily the most desired baseball card on planet earth (for the rich & famous that is; I think most collectors would rather have
a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle but you have to remember most remember & love Mantle, while very few (if any) are still left who saw Honus Wagner play). Regardless you can buy a house for less than what these
two cards will cost you. However what REALLY hurts the value on these is the "AUTHENTIC" label. Both cards gave been deemed "Altered" by PSA. Even if they were assigned a "Poor" grade, they would bring much more
than one with just an "Authentic" label. This is an extreme case however, because both cards are so rare and desired that even with the Authentic label they will bring a good sum of money. As a matter of fact the seller is
listing both of these cards on eBay (as of September 20, 2011) for a Buy It Now price of $350,000.00 or "Best Offer." Way outta my price range either way. By the way, the Wagner has sold for as much as 3 million
dollars (PSA 8 NM-MT, highest graded example).
So in summary, what I am saying is this: "Authentic" is good, but grades are even better. If you can get a graded example for a good price then Hallelujah! But if you buy an "AUTHENTIC" only card and pay the same
price as a graded example, all I can say is "Good luck my friend." This endeth the lesson.
PROs: Sports Collector's Digest is actually still around. They publish a monthly hobby periodical under the same name and have been
around the hobby quite a long time (+). SCD also published the yearly Sports Collector's Digest Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards,
which is the hobbies premier catalog of all (known) baseball cards from the 1800's to the present day. It is HUGE! Anyway, SCD decided
to get into professional grading a bit late. But they did offer a great service, Sports Collector's Digest Authentic (SCDA) and they combined
great looking holders with other ideas borrowed from SGC and GAI. First of all the holders are the best looking (in my opinion); they have
a "metallic" label (ala GAI), plus the custom black insert and sub-grades on the reverse (very much like SGC). Ideally, these were the best in
the hobby (+). As far as grading, they must have had some credibility as long time hobby pioneer Larry Fritsch (who started "Fritsch
Cards" one of the first mail-order full time baseball card business) signed up with them and put a good portion of his collection up for
SCDA's grading (note that SCDA made some special considerations for Fritsch, on the label it says "The Fritsch Collection" and SCDA
also used a special "UT" designation which stood for "untouched." These cards came straight from sealed packs of vintage cards and
were handled with white gloves. No kidding. The sub-grades are not quite as detailed as Becketts (BGS, BVG); they had sub-grades for
"Centering, Corners, but combined the other two categories into one: Edges/Surface. Overall these are still my favorite holders. I mean, just
look at how well presented this 1971 Topps Reggie Jackson card is! I don't know why SCDA pulled out of the grading/authenticating
business but I imagine it was because they entered late, well after PSA, Becketts, and SGC had already been established. It should be noted
that I do remember having a 1968 Topps #280 Mickey Mantle SCDA graded 5 EX and on close inspection I found a light (but significant)
crease on the reverse that should have been caught. But I guess everyone makes mistakes. It should be noted that most cards are not
magnified or examined thoroughly. High end cards, yes. And most cards I think are accurately graded by the above companies and
SCDA. But sometimes things are missed. Still I would not hesitate to purchase a card graded by SCDA, and chances are you can pick one
up for a bargain price compared to PSA, BGS, or SGC slabbed cards. That gets another plus from us (+)!
CONs: Well SCDA is no longer around, which is a shame but I really can't give this company a negative as far as their service (0).
Sports Collector's Digest Authentic (SCDA)
HOW WE SCORE 'EM
Pluses (+) 3: Attractive Holders, Half Point Grading Scale, still considered "Reputable" by most in the hobby
Negatives (-): NONE!
OUR FINAL ASSIGNED GRADE: SCDA 6.5 EX/NM+
CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION! CAUTION!
The following "grading" services (below) are NOT reputable and actually do a "dis-service" to the hobby in general. Attempting to "cash" in on the graded card frenzy, several (in fact too many to
mention) of these 3rd rate services sprang out online (notably eBay where these images were "lifted") and caught many unsuspecting collectors by surprise. Yes, the surprise of finding out that their
"GEM MINT" 1948 Tip Top Bread Ted Williams was, in fact a counterfeit. Or that some cool Sandy Koufax card that you thought was a steal (WOW! A 1955 Topps graded NM!) turns out to
actually graded EX. Or worse, how about getting an expensive 1952 Topps 311 Mickey Mantle thinking it was legit (and coughing up thousands for it) and it turns out a fake. Or altered. So below
we are going to feature some selected "3rd rate" or worse "grading services." I cannot stress enough to avoid these unless you get them dirt cheap. Remember: "If it looks to good to be true, it
probably is..." The grading "companies" below I am not even going to grade because they all SUCK.