Hobby Musings: Joe Orlando ready for new role at Collector’s Universe – The announcement that longtime President of PSA/DNA, Joe Orlando was elevated to CEO of the parent company, Collector’s Universe raised many questions on what that means for the highly popular grading and authentication company. I spoke with Joe via email to answer some questions.
KS: Perhaps an obvious question, but what was your reaction to being named the new CEO of Collector’s Universe?
JO: I was extremely excited about being appointed to the CEO position at Collectors Universe. I have been working here for over 18 years and, before I started in 1999, I was one of PSA’s first customers as a collector. To have this opportunity is a bit surreal for me, but it’s something I am looking forward to a great deal.
KS: How will this job differ from your role with PSA?
JO: This new role gives me the opportunity to take my experience, both as a hobbyist and a manager who has run a third-party authentication, grading and content service for 15 years, and apply what I’ve learned to our other services at Collectors Universe. The beauty of a company like ours is that we have been in business for over 30 years (PCGS launched in 1986) so there is absolutely no need to reinvent the wheel. All I am here to do is try to make an already great company a little better.
PSA is a microcosm of Collectors Universe. Each collectible field deals with different types of items, but the machine that we have here can be applied to any kind of collectible. It’s about understanding the way things like content, information, the set registry and marketing all complement each other and impact our hobbies. Most of our revenue is derived from authentication and grading, but so much more goes into our system than merely placing a card or coin in a plastic holder.
KS: Now that you’re officially in, what is your vision for the future of Collector’s Universe?
JO: My vision for Collectors Universe is to build upon the wonderful foundation that we already have. After three decades as the third-party leader, we know what works, what doesn’t and what could use a little more attention. One of my jobs is to make sure we stay focused. The core of our business is about collectors. It is imperative that we consider what collectors want, how they think and what offerings can enhance their overall hobby experience. Our company and the incredible staff has done a terrific job already, we just want to stay innovative and not rest on our laurels. This includes everything from increased capacity to website improvements to continued global expansion. The hobby expects a lot from us and we want to deliver.
KS: On that same note, how will things change at PSA going forward?
JO: No matter what my new title is, I will always be involved with PSA. Currently, I am working with and mentoring Steve Sloan who has been appointed VP of PSA. Steve is not only a bright, hard-working individual, but he also has the type of demeanor and personality that will endear him to customers. It will take some time, but the goal is to get Steve up to speed as soon as possible. That said, I am not only confident in Steve’s skillset, but also in his ability to ingratiate himself with the collecting community. Even after a new PSA president is named to handle the day-today operation and a full transition has taken place, I will continue to contribute directly to the division and in a variety of ways.
KS: Looking back on your time with PSA, how do you reflect on that part of your career?
JO: I know how cliché it sounds, but time really flies when you’re having fun. There are days where I can’t believe I have worked at PSA for nearly 20 years. At times, it doesn’t seem possible. I have learned a lot along the way from some of the foremost authorities in this industry. The bottom line for me is that I really love what I do. I really love what our company does to make the hobby a better place. That inspires me every day I come to work. Even when you have bad days at the office, having that kind of passion for the job keeps me driving forward. I know how fortunate I am to work in an industry that I feel that way about. Not many people get to do that. I will forever be grateful.
KS: What do you think was the biggest change in the hobby during that time?
JO: There have been many changes in our hobby during the past 20 years. Certainly, manufacturer attrition is one of the major differences between the 1990s and today as is the impact of auctions on the market. It has really become a preferred method of buying and selling versus retail for so many hobbyists. In the 1990s, auctions existed, but they were not nearly as prevalent as they are now. In addition, the concept of third-party authentication and grading itself finally caught on during the last two decades.
One of my favorite statistics to share with people is that PSA graded its one millionth card in 1998 after seven years in the business. From that point forward, PSA has graded over 1,000,000 cards per year, every year. There was a near perfect storm between the emergence of the Internet, third-party authentication/grading and the MLB home run chase of 1998 that helped energize the market at that time. If I had to pick the most significant change between that era and the current one it would be the overall effect of the Internet on our hobby. From access to essential information to the ease of acquiring collectibles from all over the world, the Internet has completely changed the game for collectors. Our options were so limited prior to the advent of the Internet. Now, our options are virtually limitless.
KS: Looking ahead, what do you think is the biggest challenge the hobby faces going forward?
JO: I love where the hobby is today, but there is so much more work to do. While I believe that many collectible fields have room to improve and potential, I think the potential found within the PSA realm is significant. With continued maturity, the area of sports, entertainment and historical collectibles has an advantage over so many other types. Perhaps it is based on an old-fashioned term, but I call it the watercooler effect. People love to talk about the game they saw last night, an episode of their favorite show or a recent movie they watched. There is an emotional or sentimental component to this field that other collectible fields simply don’t have. In other words, these collectibles have an ability to stay relevant as long as sports are played and movies are made. Our hobby has made great strides, but there’s so much more ahead.
KS: As we sit now, what do you think is the state of the hobby?
JO: In my opinion, the biggest challenge we have as an industry is keeping our endeavor appealing to future generations. The reality is that many kids growing up today are not having the same experience or the same level of exposure to collectibles that some of us did when we were growing up. So, it’s our job to find ways of staying relevant and to make sure we can connect with the younger crowd. People are born every day with what many people refer to as the collecting gene. We just need to find a way to tap into that in a more effective way as we move forward.
In the late-1990s, a new trading card game took the U.S. by storm. It was called Pokémon. The kids that were playing that game during that period are now around 30 years old today. Last year, PSA graded over 136,000 Pokémon cards alone. Pokémon cards are to a whole generation what baseball cards may have been to you and me. There’s always another generation of collectors. It’s up to all of us to find ways of introducing new people to what our hobby has to offer.
Hobby Musings: Joe Orlando ready for new role at Collector’s Universe
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