Hobby Musings: Card grading booming in the hobby – At this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention, some of the most popular and most –trafficked booths were the autograph authenticators and card graders. The scores of people looking to get cards graded, including at the Beckett Grading booth, served to show just how big a part of the hobby card grading is. Speaking with Beckett Grading Senior Vintage Grader Andy Broome, I realized that card grading has a longer history than I originally thought. I also got a sobering lesson on the perils of card forgeries. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: I’ll ask the blunt question first. How big a problem are forgeries in the trading card market right now?
AB: It is a big problem. But in reality, it has been a big problem for 30 years. I remember battling fakes in the late 80’s buying at shows. The difference now is the technology and sophistication of forgers has increased significantly in just the last 5 years. The quality of modern counterfeits coming from overseas is astounding. And the card doctors are getting savvier, too. Or, I should say more educated. There are some issues of alterations I can’t talk about right now but will as soon as I can.
KS: We talked about this a little bit at the National. Which cards are you most commonly being seen forged right now?
AB: I think the Jordan RC is at the top of the list. The Curry RC is another we see. 90’s Jordan inserts are another problem. As far as vintage, all the key cards like ’52 Topps Mantle, ’33 Goudey Ruths are seen frequently. I have also noticed in the last year a resurgence of old known counterfeits starting to circulate more. Known counterfeit cards from the 80’s and 90’s that seem to have disappeared for 20+ years are now circulating again.
KS: Is it easier for people to fake older vintage cards or newer cardboard?
AB: I think that depends on who we are talking about. If we are talking about the person making fakes at home, the one-off forger, they are limited in what they can try to replicate. They will focus on more obscure cards that younger collectors are not familiar with. If you are not used to handling pre-war cards, then you are more likely to miss certain aspects of the fake that should be quick red flags.
KS: It’s not just the high-end stuff being faked. I noticed a card on your Twitter that wasn’t anything particularly special. Have you had any cards come in lately that you were stunned someone would take the time to be faked?
AB: Not really. I mean, I may be jaded after 20 years of grading cards professionally but as far as what is being faked, nothing really surprises me anymore. It’s all about a quick dollar by fooling someone. If that means faking a $20 card quickly and for a profit, they will fake it. There is an inexpensive fountain pen made in China that is geared towards students. They are about $5.00 retail. They have become very popular and there are known fakes also made in China that sell for $2.00. So, here we have a $5.00 pen being counterfeited. But the fake can be made cheaply enough that there is room for profit.
KS: For collectors out there who may not know, what are some of the telltale signs of a card being a fake?
AB: Poor print quality is a common red flag. Knowing that devices in the printed area such as black borders, printed facsimile signatures, etc are printed in solid ink. When most fakes are made, they are made using the image of a real card, not created from scratch. So by “taking a picture of a picture,” you’re losing quality and solid areas can appear as print dots.
KS: If someone is at a show or otherwise getting a card in person, what are some basic tips you can offer in terms of trying to tell a fake from the genuine article?
AB: 100% become familiar with the cards you want to buy. If you have never handled, say a T206 card, then you don’t need to be taking a chance on buying one unless it is from a well-known reputable dealer. Handle as many cards as you can to become familiar with the look and the feel of that particular card issue. Carry your tools with you. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to use a proper loupe to look at a card at a show.
KS: Getting on to card grading a little more, how much have has Beckett seen its business grow in the past few years?
AB: The past 4 years have been a whirlwind. I have been here for 13 years now and to say the last 4 years have been record-breaking years would be an understatement. The market has exploded and along with that, so has our business. We recently made a change after nearly 18 years on how we do our turnarounds. We still have guaranteed turnaround service just like always but we now have an un-guaranteed turnaround service. I have heard some say online that we must have fired a bunch of graders and can’t keep up with volume but that is not the case. In fact, we are actively looking to hire more graders. We still have most of our original grading team from our start-up in 1999 plus continue to add to the staff. Business has just exploded over the last few years and we are expanding in order to keep serving our customers and the hobby we love!
KS: Which cards are you most commonly getting in for submissions for Beckett?
AB: That would be hard to say as the market moves from sport to sport and season to season.
Right now, football is hot since the NFL just started up. We are seeing a lot of rookie cards from those NFL guys that have started off strong. Mix football in with Aaron Judge’s record breaking year, the success of the Dodgers/Astros, etc and you get a hodge- podge of whose hot now type submissions. It really is crazy to see items pour in as a player or a team gets hot or as a season starts up.
KS: Do you think we’ve seen the peak of grading’s importance to the hobby, or do you think the fervor so far is simply the beginning?
AB: I think there will always be an importance of getting your cards graded and/or authenticated. We didn’t think the market could get any stronger then 2016 but we were wrong! There are simply too many people out there trying to deceive others so you will need a respected, third party service to grade your cards. Mix that in with growing international markets and having the third party looking at items makes it easier to sell to someone on the other side of the world.
KS: Something that does cause me a bit of a pause is the ability of people to take a card out of a holder after it has been graded. What measures are in place to prevent someone from taking that same holder and label and pass off another card in its place?
AB: It should give you more than a pause. It is a serious problem and we see those tampered holders being submitted here for crossover. Fortunately, our holder was designed right back in 1999 and has stood the test of time. Several years ago, a known card doctor that would remove cards from holders and re-make labels decided to go public with his test of each grading company at the time. He posted the detailed results on a website. I am proud to say we were the only holder that he could not tamper with or open without destroying the holder.
KS: Looking to the future, what is coming up for Beckett grading?
AB: I would love to tell you what we have planned but can’t ……just yet! I can tell you that our growth this year has been really exciting and we have some things coming out that will be significant, both on the card grading side and the autograph authentication side (BAS). Hang tight because Beckett Grading and Authentication are always thinking of ways to improve, grow, and provide the top services in the industry!
Hobby Musings: Card grading booming in the hobby
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