Card Grading...for HUMANS!
This Blog post will serve as the content for our new website section titles, "How we Grade Cards", just in case that content seems familiar when you hit that section! More inventory is being prepared daily, and will soon be added to the site, so please keep an eye on the For Sale sections.
Card Grading...for Humans
You will notice a theme here, which is how strongly we feel against 3rd parties causing ripple effects in markets. Our industry is no different. There are some companies that come in and want to exert their dominance, and their demeanor is as welcoming as an angry viper, a rabid pit bull, or their offspring.
At Cardboard & Coins (C&C), we believe that cards and coins are here to be enjoyed by humans, not super-humans. Therefore, we don't use 80 billion magnification in order to find anything to pick at just to lower the grade (which, by the way, creates repeat customers in the most devious of ways!).
In addition, we are actually humans grading the cards. You won't grade a card here and wonder why it wound up with a ridiculously low score without even receiving a score breakdown. Shamelessly, one of the largest card graders simply states that they just "expect you" to know their rules. Come on! Drop the light-year telescopes and have the no-name and no-face chimps in your secret grading rooms give it a rest! Is this your little hold on the market? It's in how you put a spell on people to get them fearful and worried if they don't hear those 3-little letters in the card grade?
I get it, I was one of those people. But when a card that we unanimously graded as a 9 came back to me as a 5, I had enough. I cracked open the magically secret slab-box from, let's call them "XYZ", which I sent to Beckett that same day and had a 9 a few days later. For good measure and for solid measure, I cracked the Beckett case and sent it back to XYZ. This time, XYZ gave me a "7". Huh?? I call the XYZ customer service reps and they give me some BS that there are no notes from the graders and maybe it had shipping damage. Yeah, right, so explain to me why when it came back to me a few days later that second time, I cracked their case again and sent it to Beckett, and once again, they gave it a "9".
Wait, this one will give you a chuckle. Earlier this year, I picked up a 1975 Topps Baseball Mini Wax Pack from Steve over at BBCExchange. I do the pack break video, pull some great cards including a #7 Highlights with Nolan Ryan on it and a pricey Ed Goodson. I submit both to XYZ among other regular cards in the same order. The Ryan HL gets an 8, but Goodson, from the same sealed pack as the Nolan, a pack that came from one of the most reputable unopened pack vendors in the business, gets an "N6: MINIMUM SIZE REQUIREMENT". How can it be an N6? I know you respect BBCExchange, so would it have been different if I told you it was from them in the beginning? My guess is you would have gone that extra mile. Apparently, the high and mighty facade does not make you clairvoyant!
Another recent case: I bought 15 packs of 1983 Topps Baseball cards from a very reputable source, and I pulled a Gwynn, Sandberg, and a Boggs, the "Triple Crown", from these 15 amazing packs. I send them into XYZ, with the grades coming back as a "9" for Sandberg, a "9" for Gwynn, and for Boggs, another N6? Guess what, XYZ?; They all came from packs from the same box! I fooled you, XYZ. N6? Have you compared that next to other cards from the same year? I cracked open the Sandberg and used a precision measurement system used by High-tech oil drilling companies which measures down to a fraction of a millimeter, and the cards were the same size. Precisely. What the heck is going on over there? Laziness or short-staffed, or too busy with those Honus Wagner and Charlton Heston autographs we are reading about all over the Web.
Honestly, If you would be more human, things would be different for all of us. I have friends at your headquarters, and I know you are hearing the chants, thus, the reason for your road show visits to the major cities to bridge the widening gap.
OK, obviously, I find XYZ arrogant, inconsistent, and after being in the industry over 25 years, I hear plenty of buzz and disillusionment with them, so I see them as a few years short of end of their life-cycle. Now, don't get me wrong, but I do agree with how strict they are with their published standards, which is key, in grading. But once they get your card, there are different standards at play, so you also need to be fair and human-oriented. I mean, we're humans, not from Krypton, like Superman, so what's up with the 1000x magnification? People are blindly sending money to some "secret society" who expects us to know their system. It has to stop!
Deeply irritated and obviously bitter over this fiasco, I knew I was not alone feeling like this. I do like Beckett's break-down of scores, and I use them along with GMA Grading (the oldest grading company here on the East Coast). But I also continued grading my own cards, which I now do with 2 other folks for our C&C inventory. I figured with 25+ years in the industry and with millions of cards that have passed through these fingers, I could also appoint my own self as an "expert", and assemble a team of skilled eyes. As you can tell from the above, we are pretty spot-on with our scores.
Our theory on card-grading: As humans, we are guided by our senses, and what we can see, touch, feel, etc shapes our world, so our grading system mimics that same system.
We created a 7-step process, starting with the 4-C's
First, we start out with Centering in the Front. Each section, top/bottom and right/left are worth 1.0, for a total of two full points, if you have perfect (50/50 centering), you get the full point. If not, your value starts at two and decreases.
The same with the Centering on the Back. We are just as stringent as the front, and harder than most others on this, as 50/50 centering must also be present on the back in order to achieve those two points as well. It's all about what our human eyes perceive as eye candy, and symmetry is something our brains love.
Corners are very important, and they are valued at 3 points, or .75 per corner. We use a simple every-day magnifying glass to examine the corners, and each corner is graded separately for a sum total. If your corner looks like a bomb went off on it, that's a zero corner. If there is a little wear but it looks visually pleasing and strong, it's between a .4 and a .5 corner. Very simple.
Creases can make a card look ugly. Here is where we factor in any creases longer than 1/8". The overall surface is reviewed for creasing. No sliding scale here: it is either 0 points or 1 point. Any crease of 1/8" or longer....ANY crease....results in a zero, that is 0 points. Crease free gets the full 1 point.
Next, we look at Color/Gloss/Surface/Focus, which is where we look over the entire card, from corridor to corridor, for paint chipping, out-of-focus pictures, loss of gloss, bumps, clipping, doctoring, etc. This runs along a sliding scale from 0 points to 1 full point.
The 5 C's are done and we are in the home stretch. These last two steps may seem redundant, but necessary in order to be accurate.
The 6th step is Visual Appeal, which makes us take a step back and look at the entire card. How is the gloss? Are there wax or gum stains? Are any off-centering traits or paint chips or creases or worn corners taking away from my visual enjoyment of the card? With the year of the card in mind and the nuances of that specific year taken into account, with all factors considered, the sliding scale goes from 0 to 0.5, or half a point.
The last step might take you by surprise; Texture Front. Remember, we "Feel". We are humans! The feel of the entire card is key here; hold the card with your hands and feel it. Is it smooth? How thick was that gum or wax stain? Is it smooth or gritty? Are there bumps and valleys you couldn't see? This is the human factor. Again, the sliding scale ranges from 0 to 0.5, or one half of a point.
Add it all up, and take a step back.
The card must be checked for a Diamond Cut. Basically, this happens when the card is cut slightly diagonally with more border the higher (or lower) you go. It's ugly, and it will chop 1.5 points off your final score.
Next, did you see any evidence of doctoring, for example, black magic marker on those 1971 borders, or trimming of corners or corridors to make them look neater. This is 2 points off per "perceived" violation, and I say perceived as we would subtract more, but we are not in the finger-pointing business, and these counter-balances are in place to level the playing field against scammers.
When the final score is derived by all 3 of the graders separately, we look at the 3 scores and drop the top and bottom and use the middle one. I can tell you that most often, all 3 of us come up with close to the same grade. The system works!
Since we're not in the grading business, no fancy "slab" is needed. This is the purchase of a card you are making from us, and you are free to do whatever you want to with it once you receive it, just as long as you know we sent it to you graded, as promised.
The Grading System will most always display the standard numeric score, but might have a corresponding ABC Grade, as well.
Remember, you will see cards on our site with grades from Beckett, GMA, as well as cards graded on the above criteria by C&C. You might be shocked to find some by PSA, since we have a lot of inventory to blow out. However, you will see more and more graded by C&C, along with a mix of GMA & Becketts over the longer term.
Will we grade your own personal cards?
Eventually, we plan on doing some grading, but as long as our main focus is on tearing down the boundaries to a free and liquid market.
Always remember our mission:
To Create an open, honest, objective environment that fosters mutual trust and instills mutual confidence, allowing us to step away from the "slab trap" that has been created by handing over our power to "self-appointed experts" as part of a 3rd party dependency, and with the termination of this dependency, the natural forces of the market will prevail again, fostering the re-emergence of a true "Liquid Marketplace" for Dealers and Collectors of Cards and Coins.
Thanks and Happy Collecting !!
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