When a Gem Isn’t Actually Pristine

Earlier today, Blowout Buzz posted an article about a 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan / Jerry Koosman on eBay. However, this wasn’t any ol’ 1968 Topps rookie card that someone found at a yard sale and posted for sale. This one was listed at over $1 million and has been given the grade of 98 (on a 1-100 scale) by SGC. In other words, they graded it as gem mint and as a comparison, an SGC 98 would crossover to BGS as a 9.5 and to PSA as a 10.

This is indeed a rare card!

Based on what you can see in the picture above, the front of the card does indeed look like a card that could grade very high. The centering looks even. The corners seem sharp. It’s a very attractive card.

The issue I have is with the back of the card. It is clearly not a centered card. Being that it’s centered 30/70 at best on the back, why would SGC grade this card as a 98 gem mint? It’s anyone’s guess why it earned the grade it did but there has always been a rumor surrounding the grading of vintage cards by companies such as SGC, BGS (or BVG), and PSA. That rumor is that the fronts of vintage cards weigh more heavily in the overall grade especially if the front has substantial eye-catching appeal.

As is the case with the card pictured, the front is fantastic and while the back is somewhat off-centered, it supposedly doesn’t detract enough from the overall appeal of the card to lower the grade.

In my opinion, I’ve always hated when grading companies do this. A card graded as gem mint or pristine should be exactly that. It shouldn’t look “pretty good” and given a higher grade than it deserves because the card is desirable and eye-catching, especially if someone is going to list it at $1.2 million! Each grade should be treated equally and the back should count towards the grade as much as the front does.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or tag me @jasondeanmartin on Twitter.

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