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.


Can Inserts Legitimately Be Considered Rookie Cards?

I ask this question because I feel that the case I’m bringing to your attention is indeed special and unique. And if you’ve been around this hobby for any length of time, it’s rare to find a truly unique topic of conversation that hasn’t been rehashed over and over. 

Before I really dive into this topic, I’d like to provide you with a little background on my history with the player involved. 

His name? Pat McAfee, punter/kicker/comedian for the Indianapolis Colts. 

If you follow the NFL at all outside of just the games being played, you may have already heard that McAfee is one of the most entertaining personalities on and off the field. 

Pat McAfee Uncaged (NSFW)
My “following” of McAfee goes back to his college days at West Virginia University when I worked for Hat World/Lids in Morgantown, WV and some of my regular customers were WVU athletes, not to mention one of the other employees was a student and friends with half of them, including Pat. Ever since then I’ve kind of kept my eye on McAfee’s place in the hobby. 

But, that was a problem in itself. Even though he was drafted in 2009, his first trading card was not released until 2014 by Topps. That means no Press Pass cards, no SA-GE, no Upper Deck. Nothing for five years!

Then in 2014, Topps produced the first ever Pat McAfee trading card. 

It’s a 2014 Topps All-Pro Team Commemorative Helmet card /99. 

Upon learning of his first card, I was ecstatic. I remember waiting for one to pop up on each Bay so I could buy it. Much to my surprise, the prices on these things went insane! I know the print run was limited to 99 but this card was selling and continues to sell for $100 or more. 

His next card produced was in the basic Topps 2015 set and is consistently sold for $1 with parallels pulling in strong sales on a consistent basis. 

According to Beckett, at the time of this writing, neither card is listed as his rookie card. Although, during my research (thank you @pisano64) of the situation, I was contacted by Ryan Cracknell, Editor at Beckett, about the issue and he’s looking into it. Let’s not forget that Topps also didn’t tag either card with the NFL rookie card logo either. 

All of that has led me to this question: which card should be considered McAfee’s rookie card?

In my opinion, it’s the 2015 Topps because it wasn’t produced on a limited basis like the 2014 card was. But, I can also agree with anyone that would argue that the 2014 card should be considered his rookie card because it was his first card. 

For now, I want to know what collectors think. Send me a Twitter reply or you can comment below. 

Happy collecting!