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Not All Grading Companies Are Created Equal

Beware of Second Rate and Off-Brand Services

  • July 19, 2019

Miscellaneous graded cardsBut It Is Graded

We receive dozens of inquiries for evaluating collections every week and many of them include collections with cards that are not graded by the "Big-3."  By the "Big-3," we mean Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) and Beckett Grading Service (BGS and BVG).  There are dozens of "other" grading companies and some of them are better than others.  Some should be embarrassed to even suggest that they are "grading" cards.

One of the most common things we get requests for are the values of cards graded by off-market grading companies. When asked to value these cards, there is invariably a caveat. The card will be evaluated by our vintage card specialist based upon the condition visible through the holder. There is no assurance that the card will grade the same or even be authentic.  But more on that later.

Aren't All Grading Companies the Same?

The simple answer is, "No, they're not."

The difference is that there is little that is known about many of these "other" companies. While a few have had solid reputations in the past, most have compromised their legitimacy from either changing ownership or changing their market approach.  Several are little more than Internet services that will encapsulate cards based upon the customer's grade request. These services offer no grading guarantees and no assurances. The 3 primary grading services have a set of standards that are both generally market acceptable and they have a proven track record.

We're not going to list the other services.  It is much easier to just identify the Big-3.  Additionally, always be cautious when buying ungraded cards.  Just because someone says a card is a certain grade or is authentic, make sure that you have recourse and that the seller is reliable should there be an issue.


Why Isn't it the Same?

Simply put, GREED!  Some of the off-brand grading services are self-serving ventures that are intended to solely benefit the "company" grading the cards and/or the person that is encapsulating the cards as they have little or no concern and regard to the end user.  We've seen cards in MINT and GEM MINT holders that aren't even real cards!  We've seen cards with tears and creases that have been in NM/MT and MINT holders.  The purpose of these graded cards are to deceive and prey upon the uninformed collector and to use the good name and good will of legitimate grading services.

It is a shame when we have to inform a collector that many of the "graded" cards in their collection are not worth nearly as much as they though they were.  Not all grading services are created equal and it shows in the real world prices that they generate.


In this example, we have a 1980 Topps Larry Bird/Julius Erving/Magic Johnson card that was "professionally graded" by FGS (Finest Grading Service). The card is "graded" MINT 9. A cursory examination, when applying the basic grading standards, would suggest the card would be graded no higher than NEAR MINT with a PD qualifier, not a MINT 9. BUT WAIT!!! This card is actually parts of two cards! Yes, a panel featuring Larry Bird (Panel #34) has been affixed to the panels featuring Julius Erving and Magic Johnson.

1980 Topps Larry Bird Magic Johnson Rookie Card

Up Close and Laughable

As you can see in the image of this example below, the Larry Bird panel has a print defect (see within the yellow outline) that stops immediately at the edge of the panel. The perforation is missing as can be seen in the red outline and should resemble the perforation highlighted within the blue outline.  Even the panel is shifted slightly and doesn't match up with the other 2/3 of the "card."

1980 Topps Larry Bird Magic Johnson Rookie CardWould you be happy paying a premium for a card that was built from two cards? How about a card that had color added? How about a card that was trimmed? While these alterations may occasionally elude an experienced grader, they seem to find their way into holders of off-brand grading services at a far greater frequency.

So the next time that you see an offering of an off-brand card, ask yourself, "Why is that card in that holder?"  There's usually a pretty good reason that one of the Big-3 hasn't been chosen.  Or maybe they've already rejected it or gave it a far lesser grade.

Grading - Science or Art

Grading isn't a science.  It is an applied art and the more that you engage in it, the better you will become.  Understanding cards, characteristics and nuances from issue to issue goes a long way to reducing your chance of being taken.  Just Collect has prepared a guide to help you understand about grading your cards. This is intended to be a cursory guide and reviewing it won't make you an expert, but should help you better understand the process.

Schedule an Appointment to Meet Just Collect at a Show Near You

Just Collect travels to several shows on a regular basis. In the New York area, we often attend the White Plains Show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. If you're in the New England area, you can make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists when we're in the area for the Shriner's Show at the Aleppo Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. We also visit the Metro-DC area when we attend the CSA Show in Chantilly, VA. If you're in the South Jersey or Delaware area, you can also schedule appointments while we're in the Philadelphia area when we do The Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA.

We set up at The National Sports Collectors Convention every year and this year.  This year, 2019, The National (visit us at Booth 516/518) will be at the Stephens Convention Center in the Rosemont section of Chicago, IL.  It has also been in Cleveland, Atlantic City and Baltimore in recent years. Additionally, we travel to the Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga, Ontario for those of you in the Toronto area that want to meet with us in Canada.

We would love to meet with you and schedule a private appointment to assess and value your collection while we are in your area, so please check out our show and travel schedule to see when Just Collect will be in your area!

Our Buying Philosophy

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Although we are known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage basketball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, also!

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and soul into building their collection. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

Won't They Be Worth More if I Grade Them Myself

We discuss all of the selling options with everyone that we meet with. In most cases, selling the collection on their own will put the most money on the bottom line, but it will also take an large commitment of time and energy and one that most are not ready or able to undertake. Another misconception is that grading the collection will return more money. When I hear people say, "You're just going to grade them and get ten times the money," I almost cringe. Grading a collection can be a money losing proposition, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And most times, we grade very few, if any cards, from average collections that we buy.

We value a collection based upon the condition and the value. If a card is worth $100 in a PSA 7 NM, we're going to value it at $100 whether it is ungraded or graded. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars grading your cards, but we're still valuing them the same and paying the same regardless of how much you've invested in grading them.

We Are Always Buying

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss your collection and get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.

Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.

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