Some Thoughts on Grading Services

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I recently appeared on as part of a hobby discussion with site owner Patrick Greenough.  While we examined several aspects of the hobby, our discussion of grading services in particular continues to stimulate my mind.  Please take a moment to check out the discussion.  I provide some follow-up comments below:

Regarding card grading companies such as PSA, BGS, and SGC, I’m not so sure the problem is bias as much as it is inconsistency.  In my mind, bias means that the grading companies are intentionally bumping the grade of resubmitted cards up or down with some ulterior motive in mind.  While it is possible that this type of bias exists (at what level I do not know), it seems more likely that different graders (with good intentions in mind) simply view card conditions differently.  No matter how scientific and objective the card companies try to make grading, there is some inherent subjectivity involved.  I wouldn’t expect it any other way.

So at the end of the day, yes, a single card might move up or down a grade if resubmitted.  But I believe that, for example, the overall condition of 100 random PSA 10 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.’s is higher than the overall condition of 100 random PSA 9 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.’s.  Over the long run, higher graded cards are associated with higher conditioned cards.  So in this sense, I believe card grading has been a valuable addition to the hobby.  Not perfect by any means, but an improvement.  Graded cards give me much more certainty regarding the condition of a card, especially when purchasing online.

As an aside, one thing that I didn’t mention during my conversation with Patrick is that I sometimes wonder if BGS in particular would ever go to six sub grades:  Corners, Edges, Front Centering, Back Centering, Front Surface, and Back Surface.  This may seem like overkill to have six sub grades…but I’ve seen many cards where the condition of the front of the card is drastically different from the condition of the back.  It might be interesting to see this extra layer of detail.  Of course, such a system would also impact how the overall grade of a given card is computed.  That might be too much for some collectors.

Word of the Day

vituperate – harsh and angry criticism; their vituperation against/of the president; voters are tired of all the vituperation in this campaign

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