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#254887 - 11/06/03 03:24 PM Grading Companies & Price Guides
vayank
The Amazing Card-Man


Registered: 04/13/02
Posts: 948
Loc: Alexandria, Va

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This is a topic, which definitely doesn't get enough scrutiny.

Lo and behold, I was reading the interview section at the hobby insider web site, and this very question was posed to several grading company executives, including Sean Skeffington.

I found the responses very interesting. SCD gets hosed often for their grading operations, but their answer certainly places them head and shoulders above BGS. No surprise, BGS was in complete denial. They try to equate guides like SGC and PSA to their own. SGC only prices their own slabs, and not their competitors. Putting aside whether the SMR is accurate or not, it's PSA pricing their own. What PSA and SGC do is plainly not equiavalent to BGS's racket.

However for BGS, the Beckett guide predates by a long time their grading operations. During that period, Beckett only priced cards, and built a reputation as being impartial, or at least better than you would get from dealers. They achieved a position of public trust. BGS:

1) They price competitors' slabs, a clear conflict.
2) They present it as impartial
3) They traded off, sold out their position of public trust. By comparison SCD stopped pricing graded cards.

With so much energy spent discussing hobby outrages, this outrage ranks at or next to the top. Yet it passes with little mention. I guess Beckett is the tephlon grading company.

I have cut and pasted the q & a below.

Quote:

Sean Skeffington, SGC

Autobilia: How do you feel about the price guides starting grading services? Doesn't this affect the pricing of cards graded by other companies? Isn't this a conflict of interests?

Sean: I have said this many times, I believe grading and pricing should be completely separate. It is a blatant conflict of interest, but for some reason the people in our hobby are accepting of it. This practice would not be accepted in any other industry. There is no regulation and the hobby is predicated on greed. That is a bad combination. I am not saying greed or maximizing profits is a bad thing, but in order to keep it fair and legitimate you need some type of regulation. Currently the sportscard industry has none.

Steve Bloedow

Autobilia: How do you feel about the price guides starting grading services? Doesn't this affect the pricing of cards graded by other companies? Isn't this a conflict of interests?

Steven: SCD/Tuff Stuff used to price graded cards extensively before launching the grading service, but we actually pulled the Graded Card Price Guide when we launched the grading service to avoid the perceived conflict of interest. Pricing graded cards and owning a grading service can definitely be a conflict of interest because there's always a tendency to price your own cards higher than other graded cards.

Mark Anderson, BGS

Autobilia: How do you feel about the price guides starting grading services? Doesn't this affect the pricing of cards graded by other companies? Isn't this a conflict of interests?

Mark: This is certainly a common question, and to be fair, it can also be asked the other way (as other grading services have subsequently started price guides). Beckett has always sought to be involved in the hobby in a myriad of ways, offering a variety of services to hobbyists. Be it the online Beckett Marketplace as a means of connecting collectors and dealers, the price guides, an editorial/hobby news source, grading, or auctions, we have been instrumental as a third party in fostering hobby growth. In pricing cards, there was always an assumption of condition in that process. Long before BGS began, it was necessary to think in grading terms to accurately reflect card values. In building BGS, we simply brought more objectivity and integrity to carrying that process farther out. Long before any professional grading services existed, Jim Beckett helped objectify the grading scale (Mint, Near Mint, Excellent, Very Good, etc.) that all grading services later based their grades upon. Over the past quarter-century, Beckett has built a reputation of carrying out business with integrity. This same ethic was a key factor in starting the grading division. For Beckett to have acted questionably in any way in starting the grading business would have not only stunted BGS’ growth, but would have endangered all of Beckett’s business. Then, as now, we would have had everything to lose and nothing to gain by acting unethically. In looking over BGS’ history, it took very little time for our cards to begin commanding higher prices on the secondary market, due largely to the perception that we were slightly more stringent and thorough in our grading. Our price guides took note of this, but maintained a cautious approach to pricing BGS cards differently in the magazines. Eventually, it became so widespread in the hobby for BGS cards to garner higher premiums, that for our price guides to ignore it would have been irresponsible reporting. Critics who claim BGS cards sell for more because we price them higher are quite simply putting the cart before the horse. BGS cards achieved these premium prices before our price guides ever began reporting it. Our competitor’s publications have also reported the same results. Pricing and Grading are distinctly separate departments, and each will continue to abide by a high standard of integrity and truthfulness.





Complete Interviews
_________________________
---- Matthew T. Natale Alexandria, Virginia Completed 1977 Topps Baseball SGC Graded Set, Average Grade 92.89

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#254888 - 11/07/03 06:13 AM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: vayank]
srs1a
Old, dense-headed hammers are cool. Best nail pounders.


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

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Yank,

I agree that Becketts has a clear conflict of interest, but I don't loose any sleep over it.

My experience is that BVG graded vintage cards sell for LESS than either a PSA, SGC or GAI slabbed example. I do not believe that the masses trust their abilities on vintage issues. Add to that the suspicions that they are slabbing sheet cut cards, and most people prefer to stick with PSA, SGC or GAI.

I think that the situation is reversed for BGS graded modern cards. Modern collectors seem to really like the subgrades and, for whatever reason, BGS cards do appear to sell for a premium -vs- PSA/SGC/GAI. Now, exactly why is this -- is the Becketts guide merely reporting the market -- or are they actually determining the market. I, for one, just don't care since I don't collect these issues.

Scott

P.S. just call me fossil!

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#254889 - 11/07/03 07:02 AM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: vayank]
the1nderer
Learning the Ropes


Registered: 10/03/03
Posts: 18

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Vayank,

How long have you been collecting, to understand Mark Anderson's reply? We need to establish two things:

1) Beckett primarily prices only modern graded cards, I think I've seen 1974-up but mostly 1982-up. The vintage prices they list for graded cards are, to the best of my knowledge, NOT broken up by grading company.

2) BGS started grading cards in 1999. Shortly after they began, their cards WERE selling for a premium over PSA, and ALWAYS sold for a premium over SGC in any grade, but particularly in 9 and 9.5 condition. This was before Beckett even began pricing graded cards, and well before they began breaking down pricing by company. SGC cards have always trailed PSA and later BGS prices by significant margins. It was only after Beckett began seperate price differentiation that we began to hear the screams of conflict of interest and lack of impartiality.

Now, if you want to argue WHY Beckett has sold for a premium since day 1, I think it's clearly because of their marketing advantages (both in HAVING a marketing plan, unlike what I've seen from SGC, as well as being able to advertise essentially "for free") as well as a huge brand name awareness before they opened their doors. SGC is a quality company, and if you're "buying the card..." I think SGC is one of the best buys on the market. But ONLY because they trade for a discount, and provide similar quality.

Would I stay at a Hilton for $250/night, or a Holiday Inn for $75/night? For myself, I'd choose the Holiday Inn. If they were both $100? Hilton it is!

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#254890 - 11/07/03 07:51 AM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: the1nderer]
happychipmunk
Just got here


Registered: 11/07/03
Posts: 1

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Hey folks! First time poster so be gentle, will ya?

the1derer,

Mmmmmmmm....I like that analogy with the hotels and stuff. What do you say we throw a 3rd hotel into the mix....say, something like the Flea Bag Inn. And then, why don't we equate that hotel with a grading company that fits that type of rat infested profile...a company like FGA. that's right! the company that eBay banned because one of the owners was grading reprinted cards....you know, the fat guy with the high squeakie voice who use to be on Shop At Home.

Now then, what do you think the odds are that you (the1derer) would stay at the Flea Bag Inn for....oh....i dunno....maybe $5/night? Can there be any doubt? The Flea Bag it is!


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#254891 - 11/07/03 10:27 AM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: the1nderer]
Fabfrank
(S)uper Collector


Registered: 06/11/02
Posts: 293

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When I started buying graded cards I found that many of the cards I collected (70's to modern star baseball and football cards), the SGC cards had tighter grading than PSA and went for the same price if not a slight premium. Than along came Beckett. Beckett grading was VERY strict at first (overly strict is more the truth), but the product was innovative and gaining popularity.
The master stroke by Beckett was when they started posting graded card prices in their price guides. Beckett broke out the pricing to reflect that their cards were worth more than PSA and that BGS and PSA cards were worth more than SGC. At this time, nothing was farther from the truth. The irony was that by printing the pricing in this manner, Beckett manipulated the market till it became true! Prices started to drop on PSA and SGC cards (8's and 88's in the 70's, 9's and 96's in modern) in comparison to BGS all because Beckett said so.
That's where the major conflict of interest came from. A price guide should be used to report pricing, not try to set the market on pricing. So many collectors are/were misled because "if it's printed in Beckett, it must be true". Personally this worked for me because I was now buying great SGC cards at bargain prices, but it still doesn't make what Beckett did right.

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#254892 - 11/07/03 03:46 PM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: happychipmunk]
Jessica
Learning the Ropes


Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 14
Loc: Boston, Massachusetts

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Quote:

a company like FGA. that's right! the company that eBay banned because one of the owners was grading reprinted cards....you know, the fat guy with the high squeakie voice who use to be on Shop At Home.





ARE YOU REFERRING TO DAN MARKEL? I GET SO CONFUSED SOMETIMES.

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#254893 - 11/07/03 04:25 PM Re: Grading Companies & Price Guides [Re: Jessica]
botn
I am gonna miss that car.


Registered: 06/18/03
Posts: 215
Loc: Santa Monica, CA

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Beckett should be half as good at grading as they are in their self promotion. They are the consummate PR machine of the hobby. They even put the PSA Minister of Misinformation to shame.
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