Graded card collectors were left with a lot to chew on Wednesday when it was announced that Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), the hobby’s largest card-grading company, was changing its grading scale to include half grades.
In a move that would, either intentionally or coincidentally, bring them in line with grading competitors Beckett, SGC and GAI — who also offer half grades — PSA officials decided the time was right to expand their grading scale. The move, in effect, adds eight grades to the existing 1-to-10 scale. There will be no 9.5 grade added.
The change had many former and current PSA customers discussing the effects on the values of their collections, speculating about the motives of the change, and pondering their next collecting moves.
The prevailing buzz seemed to center on how the new scale would affect the higher-graded vintage cards, where the market values between an 8 and 9 can be substantial, and the prospect of many collectors resubmitting their vintage cards in the hopes of bumping them up a half point. Clearly, the change will be felt far more by vintage card buffs than by modern card collectors who don’t rely as heavily on third-party graders.
“If I’m sitting there with a bunch of ‘52 vintage Topps cards graded 7 or 8, and I think they could be graded better, yeah, I’d probably resubmit them,” said Tuff Stuff magazine card analyst Joe Clemens. “But for modern cards — most modern cards — I wouldn’t even bother.”
Renowned card and memorabilia Alan Rosen struggles with the pros and cons of graded cards on a daily basis. He clearly wasn’t one of those lobbying in favor of the switch.
“I think that most collectors that I’ve been in contact with since grading has become ‘en vogue,’ if it says 7, it’s a 7, and a half a grade to me won’t mean a thing,” Rosen said. “Everything is based on a high number, and it’s not an 8, 9 or 10, I don’t think anyone cares … And, I don’t understand how you give a half grade. I don’t understand how you can be so precise. Pretty soon we’ll have 1/4, or 1/8 grades.”
Brian Marren, vice president of acquisitions at Mastro Auctions, said he was in favor of any change that would help clear up gray areas when it comes to card grading. He’s hoping the half-points will give collectors an even better understanding of how their cards rank in the grand scheme of things.
“It should lead to more exact grading,” Marren said. “If anything, I think it will tighten up the grading. I think it helps the marketplace. It should be a positive.
“Maybe some collectors will feel like they have to get their stuff regraded, but that should only help somebody. You’ll probably be able to get a half-grade higher. Overall, it should be a positive for them.”
Clearly, there will be potential benefits for collectors who have cards they feel are currently “strong” for their grade. A bump up a half grade for a $5,000 or $10,000 card could, theoretically, produce a windfall for such collectors, provided the market doesn’t undergo some sort of tidal shift following the arrival of the new PSA scale.
The more pessimistic collectors, however, appear more worried about their “whole number” cards being devalued if a new wave of half-grades enter the market. While plenty of card buffs will be considering sending their PSA 8’s in with the hopes of getting them morphed into 8.5’s, there might be an equal number of collectors who will be fretting that their existing 9’s will be less attractive with 8.5’s available for considerably less money.
“As a collector, I am not happy with the decision,” said one member of the PSA Set Registry. “It forces me to resubmit my high-end cards at a premium rate due to their value, just to see if a new maximized value can be obtained. It would have been nice if they would have done this when SGC and Beckett started awarding half-grades.
“ If PSA would offer cross-overs at a highly reduced rate, I may have a different opinion. I have already paid once for my collection to be graded, and now I have to do it again to maximize its value.”
There were no shortage of chat room regulars batting the subject around on PSA’s own PSA.com Collector’s Universe forum. Opinions of the change, not surprisingly, were all over the board.
“Can you imagine the dough that they will make now, with everyone trying to upgrade previously holdered cards?” said one collector with the handle “Big Daddy Bowman. “Genius business move.”
“I think it was a good move on PSA’s part to get more money from people,” said Leon Luckey, owner of the popular Network 54 Vintage Baseball Card Forum and a collector himself. “I think they probably feel competition from the other company’s who use half grades.
“I know half grades are a big deal to some, especially Registry folks. I would think they’re going to be livid. Now, they’re gonna get all messed up.
“It’s crazy. Now, if PSA said they were really doing this for the good of the hobby, well then fine, do the resubmissions for at $3 a piece.”
Many collectors agreed that there would be plenty of motivation to have cards graded a second time.
“There is no question that the half-point grade will impact the ratings, thus the rankings, in a major way,” opined a chat room visitor by the name of “MattyC.” “Just imagine…if a collector has been very picky about the quality of their cards and owns a substantial percentage of cards that will achieve the half-point increase, that set could make a serious climb in the rankings.
“I do understand that if I was a vintage collector I now may feel the desire to send in the better 7’s in my collection and try to get 7.5’s,” noted another forum poster. “Likewise, someone else might get that push, but I don’t see why this would change my collecting desires … If it bugs me I have a 7 instead of a 7.5 now, why didn’t it bother me yesterday I did not have an 8?”
A collector with the handle “11235813” probably had the best perspective on the whole affair: “There’s a lot more to this hobby than just graded cards. You should collect cards that you enjoy because you enjoy them, not because you think they might go up in value (that’s investing). If you were collecting for the right reasons (i.e. personal enjoyment), this move by PSA should not bother you in the least.”
He also noted, however, that “having 10 grade levels is bad enough....having 19 will be ridiculous! There isn’t a human being alive who can accurately and consistently grade that precisely!”