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#244548 - 10/24/03 06:44 PM The dynamics of baseball card grading
MW1
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Registered: 07/30/02
Posts: 1358

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Several recent discussions have focused on the specifics of baseball card grading. What I find most interesting and of greatest concern to collectors is the amount of time spent grading each baseball card. How long does it take to grade a modern card compared to a vintage card...do some cards take longer to examine than others?

My many years of hobby experience at major conventions across the country and time spent meticulously examining many of the hobby's largest accumulations of cards has led me to believe that some issues DO indeed take longer than others to properly grade. Examples would be years that have inconsistent cutting patterns (multi-directional striations) and greater size variation. Of course, seasoned collectors know that many types of cards would be included in this group -- everything from T206s to 1933 Goudeys to 1955 Bowman baseball. My belief is that many pre-war issues also involve greater time and care in examination due to the type of cardstock as well as more narrowed cross-sections.

Professional card doctors (and amateurs) have been active in this hobby for well over a decade. Some of the earliest alterations consisted of power-erasing the inner images on some chronically off-centered cards (e.g., 1957-58 basketball, 1958 & 1959 baseball) in order to make them appear better centered. Other alterations included experimentation with re-glossing, flattening and re-cutting cards, and bleaching. In the early grading years (1991 to 1995) many of these alterations were missed simply because graders didn't know what to look for and had not yet developed the proper expertise to carefully examine all aspects of a card. Later, however, the technical and educational capacity to detect alterations improved to the point where card doctoring was no longer viable on a widespread basis. Astute graders were able to distinguish amongst such things as Topps Presentation issues, cards from vending, and mere chop jobs. And the introduction of UV analysis made foreign fibers and substances readily apparent to the trained eye.

In the last year, this hobby has again seen a rather abrupt increase in sports card alterations. My firm belief is that the card doctors know that grading has become a highly competitive endeavor and that some companies no longer have the expertise or spend the proper amount of time grading. Grading companies that were once focused on liberating the collector now seem to be most concerned with liberating the collector from his wallet in an all-out, cost-cutting effort to increase profits.

A good example of this phenomenon would be an article in the January 2003 VCBC where the claim is made that one company graded "over 158,000 cards" in September of 2002. Doing the math and assuming that each of this company's 12 current graders only looks at each card once, that works out to 43.7 seconds per card (given a standard 40 hour work week). Now, if the claim is true that at least 2 graders look at every card and in some cases 3, then we're down to even less than 43.7 seconds (36.5 seconds/card in the case of 3 graders). I don't know about everyone else, but I'm not real comfortable with those numbers, especially considering that they assume full employee attendance and 100% efficiency rates.

Davalillo is exactly right. Collectors need to start asking the difficult (and for some, uncomfortable) questions. Let's improve our hobby and eliminate the doubt and deceit that is introduced every time card doctors gain a firm foothold. Let's hold grading companies to a higher standard where efficiency rates and profit margins are SECONDARY to accurate and consistent grading. And if some companies can't or simply refuse to meet those standards, then I urge collectors to take their business elsewhere. Trust should be consistently earned, not something that is negligently given away due to apathy or inconvenience. Let's look past the empty and often meaningless rhetoric by some company executives and explore the REAL issues that will once again make the COLLECTORS the central focus of our great hobby, not the grading companies.

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#244549 - 10/24/03 08:44 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: MW1]
jackstraw
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Registered: 02/23/03
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Loc: @ a Baseball Card Show

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mw,
i would also add lighter fluid to that list of doctor tricks. if you put lighter fluid on a rag and wipe across the front it gives a super glossy look. the lighter fluid actually soaks into the cardboard. i wouldn't believe if i hadn't seen it myself.
my next question would you or anybody else that wants to contribute think this would be a doctoring of a card or not?

john
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#244550 - 10/24/03 08:54 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: MW1]
Tiger
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Registered: 10/04/03
Posts: 19

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MW1,

Thanks for the excellent post. Well thought out.

Nowadays everything from super fine blades to laser cutters are being used to trim cards. I remember when it was just scissors in the "old" days.

If we can't entrust a grading company to detect these modern trimming techniques, then they are of no value to the collector.

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#244551 - 10/25/03 01:52 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: Tiger]
gemint
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Registered: 03/11/03
Posts: 25

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I'd like to see a "collector's watchdog" group form. They would be responsible for using the latest technology being used to doctor cards to test the grading companies to see how good they are at catching alterations. I got the idea from an experiment Bruce Moreland conducted awhile back where he showed some cards he had altered and submitted to PRO and then he showed the same cards after they were returned graded in PRO holders. The altered cards could be seeded within bulk submissions to ensure they get the same treatment every other card gets. I guess the group would have to rely on donations to cover the grading fees. A significant enough sample size would have to be submitted to each grading company and the submissions to each company should ideally be split up to test more than one set of graders. The results could then be published in the form of a grading report.

Does this sound like something that would fly? I guess the biggest challenge would be to find someone who does professional alterations and is willing to contribute to the project.

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#244552 - 10/25/03 05:50 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: gemint]
aconte
Bid more or post more... tough one...


Registered: 02/22/02
Posts: 1896
Loc: On The Beach....where else!

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MW1,

An incredibly awesome post!

Gemint,

I don't know if this would fly. It sounds interesting but I wonder what the
grading companies would think of this. I think of the kids that just tried
to test airport security with the packages of box cutters and stuff
being shipped to various terminals. It just seems that a better idea
would be to make sure companies are trained and have the latest
equipment to safeguard against the grading of trimmed or altered
cards. I could see a host of other problems doing it this way.

A "collectors watchdog" group is a good idea though.

aconte
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#244553 - 10/26/03 03:57 AM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: aconte]
Davalillo1
Collector is an understatement.


Registered: 09/10/03
Posts: 119

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Well, you would never see anything like this on the psa boards--and if you did you would likely see Acowa and Toppsgun and their trolls try to shoot it down.

Gemint,

I had never noticed you posting here before. My oversight. Nice to see yet another serious collector over here.

Davalillo

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#244554 - 10/26/03 02:17 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: Davalillo1]
srs1a
Old, dense-headed hammers are cool. Best nail pounders.


Registered: 08/15/02
Posts: 987
Loc: NY

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gemint,

I am a great fan of brucemo's experiments and think that the idea you propose would be extremely interesting...but probably not very popular. I would be very happy to work with you and see if we could come up with a reasonable experiment with various odds and ends that we both may have collecting dust. PM me if interested.

Scott

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#244555 - 10/26/03 09:51 PM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: Davalillo1]
gemint
Learning the Ropes


Registered: 03/11/03
Posts: 25

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aconte - I wouldn't necessarily equate this example with the airport screening issue. They clearly broke the law. Altering a card should not be illegal as long as it is not sold as "unaltered". I would expect cards that were altered for the experiment to be destroyed after being returned, holdered or not.

Davalillo, I don't post much over here but I always enjoy engaging in interesting topics. Afterall, we are all collectors aren't we?

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#244556 - 10/27/03 04:21 AM Re: The dynamics of baseball card grading [Re: gemint]
Davalillo1
Collector is an understatement.


Registered: 09/10/03
Posts: 119

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Gemint,

Over here it is serious collectors and dealers.

PSA boards no....at least at the current time.

Dav

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