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REA Spring Auction Results Show Vintage Market Still Booming

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Cobb W600 – Image courtesy REA

We speculated recently that the coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping our nation might lead to a weakness in the vintage card market.  

With many service-based businesses completely shut down and unemployment filings rising by the day, it was of my opinion that the economic stress could lead to a dip in card prices.

However, for now, if we only look at the recent results at the REA Spring 2020 Auction, the vintage card market is showing minimal signs of weakness. 

Past recessions have shown that collectors do tend to hold onto their beloved cards until things have really come off the wheels.  So far, it looks like that could be the case again, although not much is certain in regards to this coronavirus.

In this piece, we examine some of the auction results and provide a look into the health of the vintage card market. 

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Will The Coronavirus Lead To A Freefall in Vintage Card Prices?

coronavirusIt has been an ugly few months. A pandemic is sweeping our nation. The S&P 500 Index has plummeted by 40%. Every so often we get a black swan that catches everyone by surprise.

This surprise is invisible and unstoppable – a powerful and contagious virus called the coronavirus or COVID-19. We weren’t prepared for it despite warnings.

As I’m writing this, the United States is still in the early innings of what will likely be a devastating and heartbreaking outcome for our country. And while the number of deaths are still fairly small in quantity, the economic impact is already being felt far and wide.

Airlines are shut down, restaurants are closed, hotels and casinos are closed up. Employees are getting laid off in the hopes they can quickly collect unemployment. Schools are closed and people are forced to work from home.

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Is PSA Deliberately Undergrading Popular Cards?

In a perfect world the third party grading companies should be evaluating cards objectively, and not letting any sort of biases creep into their final decision for a card.  Yet, we all know that we've seen some questionable grading decisions in the past, based on the numerous trimmed cards that have ended up getting numerical grades.

A recent video posted by Vintage Card Curator on YouTube challenged this fact by taking a look at what they refer to as the "9:10 ratio"; a simple calculation that looks at the number of PSA 9 cards and divides the number by the number of PSA 10 grades.  A simple way to interpret the number quickly--if for example we see a card has a 9:10 ratio of 12:1 it means that a card gets a 10 grade for every 12 cards graded a 9 by PSA.  

The focus of the video which I've posted below is on mostly modern era cards (from 1978-1993), such as the ever-popular 1993 SP Derek Jeter card.

PWCC, Probstein and PSA Targets Of New Class Action Lawsuit

It was only a matter of time. Finally something is happening from a legality standpoint in regards to the latest card trimming scandal.

The class action lawsuit in question was filed this week in California and alleges that Collector's Universe (aka PSA) 'knowingly graded altered cards' and that PWCC and Probstein 'knowingly sold altered cards'.  

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The lawsuit claims that due to the widespread nature of available information, PSA "knew or should have known that it was grading altered cards".  This part of the argument is a bit light on substance.  

First, the lawsuit claims that given that PSA is an expert in the field of grading, they 'should be able to identify indicia of alterations such as removal of stains and smoothing out of creases'.

This part I agree with.

Trimmed Goudey Ruth at PWCC Auction Outed By Blowout Forums

I thought we might be taking a breather on some of the trimming nonsense, but alas there's been another major discovery in the vintage card world.  One of the trimming experts over at Blowout Cards (aka 'BODA) has discovered another trim job, this time with one of the more storied cards of the hobby--the 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#181) card.

And of course, it was a card being sold over at PWCC.  Can someone at eBay please tell me why PWCC is allowed to sell cards on their platform, after all that has happened

Here's what BODA has discovered.  The 1933 Goudey Ruth that was being auctioned off by PWCC was formerly graded by SGC (as a 5 or Excellent condition), cracked from the slab, trimmed and retouched, and then resubmitted to SGC.  In turn SGC re-graded the trimmed card at a higher grade, a 6.5 or Excellent-Near Mint.  

Here is the original 1933 Goudey Ruth that was sold at Heritage Auctions back in 2012 for nearly $6,000.

A Closer Look at Collector’s Universe (CLCT)

collectors-universeI discuss grading a lot on this blog, since it’s a big part and often controversial topic in the hobby.  I also discuss the concept of investing in vintage baseball cards.  Thus, I figured it might make sense to take a closer look at Collectors Universe, the company, which is traded under the symbol CLCT on the stock exchanges.  Of important note, Collectors Universe is the parent company of Professional Sports Authenticator (or PSA as many of us are most familiar).  

In this piece, I’ll examine the operations of the company, how they make money and how successful they’ve been in doing so, along with what the future prospects of the company look like.  This is by no means investment advice and I do not own any shares of CLCT nor am I being compensated by anyone to write this article.  This is all being done for my own enjoyment and to give collectors some future insight in the big business behind sports card grading.

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State Of The Hobby – Can We Trust The Card Graders?

trust-gradersI’m sure by now you’ve heard of the scandal that has rocked the sports card hobby. If not, the quick and dirty is that a notorious card doctor and trimmer was buying lower graded cards, trimming them, and then resubmitting to PSA.

All of this was done with the help of PWCC, the big eBay auction house, although to date, the company has denied any wrongdoing

Let’s face it; PSA, SGC and Beckett are just third party authenticators.  There is no guarantee, whether intentional or not, that the graders will get it right.  It’s now on us, to be a ‘fourth party grader’ of sorts to ensure that we are not getting scammed.  

Yet the graders provide a level of ‘certainty’ in what used to be a very uncertain marketplace.  But with the recent events, should we still trust the third party graders?  Is there any sort of indication that PSA or any other graders have knowingly graded altered cards?

In this piece I review the history of the grading companies, what has transpired in recent years, and whether we as collectors should continue to rely on the graders in providing this consistency to our beloved hobby.

I’ve also surveyed All Vintage Cards followers for their own feedback and will present the results at the conclusion of this article.

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