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.


Triple B Roundtable – Card Grading

This is our first “Triple B Roundtable,” where we chat with folks in the hobby and get their opinions on, well, whatever we choose.  This time Richard, Matt, Jason and Kin give their personal thoughts on card grading.  It’s all opinion so everyone has their own thoughts.

We welcome discussion and dialogue from other collectors.  Please let us know any of your thoughts in the comments section below.  The plan isn’t to have the same group for all topics going forward.  Good comments and dialogue from readers might have us ask you to join.  We’d also love ideas for future discussions.  What would you like to have discussed?

Hope you enjoy!

1955 Topps All American #27 Red Grange

Tell us just a little bit about yourself – how long you’ve collected, what you collect, do you work in the hobby, etc. 

Richard:  “Hey everyone, my name is Richard Hardy, aka BossHardy202. I have been collecting on and off since I was eight, but I started getting serious about it four and a half or five years ago. I collect the professional Pittsburgh teams, along with Daryl Richardson. I also have an extensive collection of star autographs. Currently, I am employed at a card shop. I feel this gives me slightly more insight about certain hobby-related matters.”

Matt:  “I’m almost 35 so I’ve been collecting for almost 35 years. I was lucky enough to grow up in a card shop. My father owned one in Austin and had been a dealer since 1961! He was also a collector so he made sure I knew as much as I could about the hobby.
I see myself as a second generation collector/dealer. I took about a decade off from the hobby and managed some restaurants and bars. Glad to be back. I currently set up at shows and run an online card business. I primarily deal in pre 1980 and oddball from all eras.”

Jason:  “I’m a 33 year old collector/dealer/blogger from West Virginia that started collecting somewhere around 1987-1988. My collection, at one time or another, has had just about every type of collectible in it, but I’ve always focused on baseball and wrestling. Currently my collection includes cards, comics, game used memorabilia, action figures and other toy playsets, Funko Pops, and so on. My tastes have changed through the years until lately when I have started focusing on what’s in my collection and not necessarily what it’s worth. If you’d like to see some pictures of my collection you can visit my website at www.jasondeanmartin.weebly.com.”

Kin:  “For Christmas 1986, my uncle have me a Topps set. My life hasn’t been the same since. My parents were very good about my hobby. After 30 years, I’ve had some “off” times, but I’ve collected for most of it. I’ve recently decided that I’m pretty much done with modern cards and going to vintage football. In the last week or so, I’ve started collecting vintage IndyCar cards. I don’t work in the hobby or anything. I’ve set up at card shows a handful of times in my life and sell some stuff online, but that’s about it. I am in the hobby to collect.”


How often do you get cards graded and/or buy graded cards?

Matt:  “I haven’t used grading services very much in the past. The orders I have sent in have been mostly for my PC. Most of my grading subs, to this point, have been for authentication purposes. Peace of mind, if you will. Right now I have an order in to the 3 majors; PSA, SGC and Beckett Grading.

I buy most of my cards raw. Exceptions being Cobbs, Ruths, Jordans, etc. I even buy a few of those raw. I don’t recommend it unless you are 100% sure. It’s a risky business.

When buying graded cards I try to look for things that set them apart from other cards of the same grade. For example, SGC is quite critical of paper loss on prewar cards. PSA? Not so much. So, the lesson to be learned is this: not all grading companies see the same thing. You can find some good deals by not sticking to just one company.

Jason:  “As far as getting cards graded myself, I usually have one or two multi-card submissions per year to either BGS or SGC. I never submit cards to PSA. I’ll buy graded cards whenever I find one I want to add to my collection. I would say 10 graded cards get added to my collection per year either by submitting them myself or purchasing them on the secondary market.”

Richard:  “When I buy vintage cards on eBay, I prefer them to be graded. I don’t, however, buy graded cards as often as I buy raw cards. I get cards graded a time or two in a year, but if it were more convenient (more show locations/local group submissions), I’d likely grade more cards.”

Kin:  “For awhile, Beckett was setting up at our local monthly show and a couple of times I submitted cards to them. I’d pay the grading fee, drop them off and they’d bring them back to the next show. I’ve never done any other kind of submission. Until I decided to get back into vintage, I didn’t care for graded cards. My plan is to submit maybe 5-10 cards to SGC in the next few months. I buy graded cards if they interest me, but I don’t search them out.”


What do you like and dislike about graded cards?

Kin:  “I dislike a lot of what it’s done to the hobby. There have always been people in it to make a quick buck, but I think that it’s gotten worse with grading, especially modern cards. As someone who now is shifting to vintage, I dislike how grading has made the cost of raw cards go well beyond “book” value. People are asking ridiculous prices for raw cards just because it looks good. What I do like is that I feel much more secure in buying vintage if it’s already been graded.”

Jason:  “In general, I like the proposed finality a graded card can offer assuming it stays encapsulated. I dislike that there are so many differences between the “big 3” grading companies. It makes it hard to decide which grader to use.

Richard:  “I like the protection involved with graded cards. When I get a card graded with the purpose of resale, I enjoy the increase in value for the card. However, this is a frustrating occurrence when I am the buyer, at least for modern cards. You would hope that ninety percent of modern cards grade a 9.5 or 10, but this is not the case. Unless it is an extremely suitable deal, I avoid buying modern cards that are graded.”


Is there a company you trust, use or prefer more than the others? Is there a particular reason why?

Jason:  “This is a complicated question for me as I prefer different graders depending on the type of card I’m grading. For example, if I’m getting an autograph card graded I prefer BGS because I like the layout of their labels and how visible the autograph grade is. But, if I’m getting a mini card graded I prefer SGC and PSA over BGS.

As far as trust is concerned, I trust SGC the most, then BGS, then PSA. If you want to know why, just do a Google search for “PSA mistakes” and you’ll have plenty of reading material on the topic. But, one thing I’ve never been able to find is a complaint or accusation of wrongdoing about SGC.”

Kin:  “I had used Beckett out of convenience before, but will probably move to SCG. I’ve learned that most vintage collectors prefer them and there must be a reason. I looked a couple of weeks ago and the fees are better.  Maybe it’s even the trust factor like Jason mentioned.”

Richard:  “I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of trust for me, as all the companies make mistakes, but I prefer Beckett over PSA. It is much easier to submit to Beckett, as there is no membership needed. Also, PSA has some rates that are difficult to rationalize paying at times (card worth $10,000 or more costs $700 to grade). Finally, I prefer the Beckett slabs. This is due to the amazing protection they offer, along with a nice, albeit bulky, design.”

Matt:  “I use PSA above the others. I’m branching out. From what I have garnered, this seems to be the best way to do it.  Prewar: SGC. There seems to be something about their grading criteria and the look of those cards in the black holders.  Postwar: PSA. Just look at prices realized. Collectors have always trusted their judgement in this era.  Basketball and Modern cards (1980-present): Beckett is what seems to be the driving force behind the modern grading. Those pristine holders with the shiny stuff inside seem to really appeal to the younger generation of collectors.”


How many graded cards do you own?

Matt:  “Not really sure. In my PC? A few hundred.”

Richard:  “I own around twenty graded cards, including both PSA and BGS. A few are vintage, but the majority of them are modern cards that I had graded.”

Jason:  “This number fluctuates often as I buy and sell them on a whim, but I would estimate that I have 50-60 in my collection currently.”

Kin:  “I’d say probably 25 or so. I anticipate that number getting much larger both through buying more graded cards and my own SGC submissions.”

$_12 (6)

Do you prefer grading vintage or modern, or is it all the same to you?

Matt:  “As a dealer grading, of whatever era, helps me realize a higher profit. Exact same card before grading could be sold for a hundred times what it would have realized raw. Do I think that this is right? No. However, if there wasn’t a market for it……

As a collector I have mixed feelings about grading. On one hand it helps me know that I am buying a genuine item. On the other hand, they are more expensive.”

Jason:  “I have no preference. For me, it only depends on the card. I have submitted cards for grading that are worth less than the grading fee just to have them encapsulated since they are a part of my permanent collection.”

Richard:  “I myself get modern graded more often than vintage, as I will only get a card graded if I think it’ll do well. I won’t grade modern unless I think it will get a 9 or better, and I won’t submit vintage unless I think it will get a 7 or higher. As previously stated, I prefer buying graded vintage rather than modern.”

Kin:  “Vintage is all I care about. I know that graders can make mistakes, but I feel more secure with cards graded. If I see another friggin’ “KRIS BRYANT 9.5!!!!” I may lose it.”


Finally, how do you think grading has changed the hobby, for better or worse?

Matt:  “It has changed it. Not anymore than the invention of the price guide did. Grading has probably made a few leave the hobby, but it has also brought some in. I think all things ebb and flow. We can’t say that the TPG’s have hurt or helped the hobby out. There will always be people in both camps.”

Richard:  “Grading has changed the hobby in positive and negative ways. Grading has brought forth an age of shunning for ungraded cards, to a degree. The difference in value on a modern card graded 9.5 or better compared to raw is crazy at times. Even though, in theory, modern cards should all be near mint-mint. However, grading has also helped collectors buy cards in a safer manner. Plenty of people try to sell fake cards. The good news is, you can opt to buy a card that is graded and authenticated by one of the companies with decades of knowledge! Graders have an extensive familiarity with cards that the average collector does not. So, they are more likely to spot a fake than the majority of people.

Grading is a money grab, no doubt, but it benefits collectors more than most realize. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but I feel that it has bettered the hobby. Hopefully, it will continue to improve the hobby for everyone involved for years to come!”

Jason:  “I think grading was a natural fit for our hobby as it has become more about flipping and making money than collecting, in most cases. But, I still feel that it has helped the hobby especially since we have moved away from local card shops and more into selling online. Grading has guaranteed the buyer a sense of security when making their purchase since they no longer have to worry about the true condition of the card and whether or not the seller can be trusted in accurately describing their item for sale.

Plus, for a collector like myself, I absolutely love the feeling of a graded card in my collection. That sense of permanency really resonates with me and I feel that I can house those cards for several years and they will still have the same eye-catching appeal they do today.”

Kin:  “Just like with the internet and eBay, I think it’s a zero-sum game. I has it’s good and it has it’s bad. It just depends on your own personal frame of reference on “how” you collect.”


This was certainly one of our longest posts.  I hope that you enjoyed the read.  If you have any interest in contributing, just let me know.  If you like what we’re doing and want updates when we post new pieces, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please take the time and also look through some other pieces on the site.  I’m still looking for more folks that would like to contribute, so let me know if you are!  You can follow me on my other Twitter handles at @kin_kinsley and @DFW_Card_Shows.














Big Pickup at a Small Price for the 1955 All-American Set

One evening, the wifey and I were watching a little TV after dinner.  I was looking at some things on my tablet and decided to check eBay for some 1955 All-American cards.  I found an SGC (low) graded Red Grange.  It was one that I needed for my set.  It has the third highest “book” value in the set.

I watched the card and as it got closer to the end, I decided to just go ahead and throw out a bid.  I didn’t think it would win, but it was all I wanted to go at the time.  I do love vintage cards graded by SGC and the Grange is one I have really been wanting to pick up.  I didn’t just want it for the set, I wanted it for ME.

While I’m not much interested in the current NFL, I do love college and NFL history.  I’ve read my fair share of books and have about 20 more in hand that I need to read.

I was shocked to win it, but was glad I did.  I am fully aware that it’s extremely low grade.  I do know that there is paper loss on the front and back.  However, I picked it up for less than 10% of the “book” value, so I was thrilled.  I will eventually pick up an upgrade for the set.  However, this one will likely always be in my personal collection.

1955 Topps All American #27 Red Grange

If you like what we’re doing and want updates when we post new pieces, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please take the time and also look through some other pieces on the site.  I’m still looking for more folks that would like to contribute, so let me know if you are!  You can follow me on my other Twitter handles at @kin_kinsley and @DFW_Card_Shows.

Vintage Football Card of the Day – 1955 Topps All American #27 Red Grange

This Red Grange card is one that I picked up a few days ago and will have in hand shortly!  Can’t wait to “officially” add it to my 1955 Topps All American set!

grange AA

Another of the big cards marked off of my checklist.  It’s low grade, but my goal is to first complete the set, and then I will work to upgrade cards.  “Book” on the Grange is $300 and I picked this up for less than 10% of that.  To say that I’m excited is an understatement.

If you like what we’re doing and want updates when we post new pieces, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please take the time and also look through some other pieces on the site.  I’m still looking for more folks that would like to contribute, so let me know if you are!  You can follow me on my other Twitter handles at @kin_kinsley and @DFW_Card_Shows.

Vintage Football Card of the Day – 1950 Bowman #63 William Wightkin SGC 88

This actual copy of the card is up for auction right now and ends tonight.  It’s very rare to find a 65 year old card in condition to receive and SGC 88 grade.

I love this card for a couple of other reasons as well.  The early Bowman card just are very aesthetically pleasing, just as their baseball counterparts are.  Also, I just love the U.S. flag in the background.


If you end up bidding on this and are lucky enough to place the winning bid, please let us know!

I hope that you enjoyed the look.  Please check back tomorrow for another!

If you like what we’re doing and want updates when we post new pieces, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please take the time and also look through some other pieces on the site.  I’m still looking for more folks that would like to contribute, so let me know if you are!  You can follow me on my other Twitter handles at @kin_kinsley and @DFW_Card_Shows.