Card Grading In It’s Current Form Is A @#!%$ Joke – Human Graders Must Go

Years and years ago I gave card grading a shot.  This took place well before Sports Card Info existed.  Because I didn’t do it very often I either went with BGS or SGC.  I had some modest success, but most of the time my cards came back 8’s or 8.5’s.  Those types of grades on the cards I was sending in actually diminished their value.  Two cards came back 9.5’s – 1991 Topps Stadium Club Brett Favre #94, and a Ryan Howard 2003 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Status Die-Cut #’ed/57.

To put it simply, card grading is a scam.  It always has been.  The first card PSA graded is the infamous Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206 which came back a NM-MT 8.  That card was altered and trimmed from day one.  PSA looked the other way because they knew the publicity they would receive.  Looking the other way for publicity and/or giving high grades based on a customer’s grading volume for more profit has been ingrained into grader’s skulls since the beginning.  Its a sickness that needs to be eradicated.

In 2019 we have seen card altering and trimming scandals exposed one after another.  Everywhere you look another one pops-up.  They’re like roaches.  Just check out some of the most recent articles from Sports Card Radio, and what the investigators on the Blowout Cards forums have dug up.  I think its safe to say that every card encapsulated in a grading holder should be questioned.  That’s if you get your cards back at all.  Wait times are atrocious, and PSA has been known to openly admit to throwing cards out.

Grading has a place in the hobby.  Just not in it’s current form.  Right now card grading is way too corruptible.  How do we eliminate this corruption?  Well, I don’t believe we can get rid of it completely.  Removing the human component would certainly help.  An A.I. and/or highly advanced computer system would most likely be the best way to go.  It would need to have a vast database filled with perfect examples of every card ever printed.  Scanning the card down to the very molecules its comprised of would result in an overall detailed grade unheard of today.  I want a grading system so unbiased/advanced when that Mickey Mantle rookie card is placed inside the machine it’ll tell you which part of the country it was pulled and what else the customer purchased that day.

But not even the most futuristic grading system will stop the skeptics.  Who’s to say the system’s designers won’t program it to be biased towards cards in their own collection?  What if someone hacks the system to improve their grades?  Nothing is full proof.  But as we sit today, the human graders need to go.  Humans are too tempted by greed.  Graders, trimmers, and cosigners are all in bed together.  The FBI is coming folks!  Until some drastic changes happen, I wouldn’t take card grading seriously.

We all had a feeling shady stuff was going on behind closed doors, but most simply looked away hoping the talking would stop.  With all of the garbage that’s been uncovered this year nobody is going to forget about it.  This topic and the players in it need to be dealt with.  More and more collectors should be on major alert.  If these graders did what they’re suppose to do, not a single altered/trimmed card should have made it passed them.  Money is more important to them than their integrity.  As long as people continue to turn a blind eye, pay top dollar for high-grade cards, this cycle will continue.  Lets break that cycle and inform as many people as possible about what’s going on.  With each scandal that breaks, more consumer confidence is lost.

With the National Sports Collectors Convention right around the corner, I’m sure companies like PSA, BGS, PWCC, Probstein123, and many more will have some explaining to do.  Some of these people shouldn’t even be allowed in the building.  Lots of great cards will be on display.  Just keep in mind that they might not have always looked so nice.  Promotional subpoenas for everyone!!!

It all started with this one.

PSA Look Alikes

There are a ton of low-end grading companies within the industry.  Rarely do they ever give a card less than a 10 grade.  This evening I came across this seller who has a bunch of these Gem Mint 10 rookie cards up for sale.  At first glance I thought they were graded by PSA, but looking closer the holders don’t mention PSA at all.  Most of the time cards graded by these low-end companies don’t sell well, but thats not the case with these holders.  The strip at the top looks very close to what PSA would use and collectors aren’t seeing this.  Take a look:

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PSA look alike

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Authentic PSA holder

I have a feeling you can report this seller all you want, but eBay won’t be closing them down.  They don’t mention PSA, but people think it is PSA because of the colors and layout of the holder.  This person has found a huge loophole and is try to make as much money as they can.

AlteredCards.com

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I think I have found the best website on the planet that deals with the doctoring of vintage cards.  Its called AlteredCards.com which is operated by Kevin Saucier.  Mr. Saucier has been collecting cards for many years, and has become a card doctor himself trying to warn collectors about doctored cards.  AlteredCards.com covers subjects such as card soaking, detecting bleached cards, card sanding, detecting a rebacked card, aging and toning, detecting colored cards, detecting rebuilt corners, reglossed cards, errors and other alterations.  Here is a piece he wrote on identifying trimmed cards.  Be sure to check out his website for more information.

“How many times a have you sent a card in to be graded only to have it returned as “evidence of trimming” or ever wondered if that certain card with an unbelievable price is actually to good to be true? Many hobbyist have, at one time or another, run into this situation or knows of somebody who has. As the values of cards become increasingly higher there is always a chance that fowl play and unscrupulous characters will have their hands in the mix. This can either be intentional or simply done to appease to the previous owner. Nonetheless a trimmed card has a lower resale value and is generally not held in high regard. With a little education and some basic knowledge, even the beginning collector can recognize a trimmed card quickly and with a large degree of accuracy.


The first test is to see if a card measures-up properly. To find this out you will first need to know the textbook measurement of the particular card you are examining. Most modern era cards vary little to none from the exact manufactures specifications. You can although, have a card that is not trimmed but was just naturally cut a little short. In most cases, this card will not be graded based on the fact it does not meet the correct measurement.

Vintage cards with an emphasis on tobacco era cards can be a little more difficult to ascertain. Since the cutting of cards in the early years of production was not an exact science, many tobacco era cards were cut with little regard to accuracy or consistency; this can be often seen in the very popular T206 series. These were cut with various widths and lengths. A card may be shy of the proper size but still be within the limits of authentication and grading standards. A card could also have been cut larger and be “doctored” to precise measurements. This is where knowing how to identify a trimmed card may come to use. 

There are some key indicators to tell if a card is trimmed:

To truly tell if a card has been trimmed, it must be removed from any holder it is in so the edges can be clearly seen and studied. For most vintage cards the border-edge on a normal card will be slightly rounded and have a light porous appearance. A trimmed or sanded card will be flat and/or very smooth in one or more spots, this is the most common indicator. Usually this can only be seen under slight magnification and desk light. Look at all the edges and corners of the card under a 50+ watt halogen light and a 10x jewelers loupe. A vintage card should be slightly toned (light gray-brown), a trimmed card will magically reveal a very white appearance compared to a naturally toned edge when held under a halogen light. It will be surprisingly evident. Modern cards may have less wear and no toning at all. 

Since most cuts are made with scissors, scalpels or razor blades, a cut card will almost always show signs of tampering. Often times a card that has been cut can reform the original shape in the middle over time…but the corners usually show the initial pinch point, so look for crimped edges and pay close attention to the corners.

Other things to look for include wavy uneven edges, obvious (missed) cut marks when magnified or stray paper strands left over from the cutting utensil. With the card lying on a flat surface, look at both sides from a distance. Some trimmed cards may have a slant cut or flared (bat-eared) corners that are slightly higher than the middle edge. This derives from the person cutting the card trying to avoid the easily identified crimped corners. When scissors are used, the hand has an involuntary tendency to start high and go low for the initial and/or end cut, if ever so slight. 

The best way to learn about card trimming is to do it yourself. Take an inexpensive card, which you suspect has not been tampered with, and study the edges and corners under a light and 10x loupe. This will serve as an example of what a normal card looks like. Next, choose your cutting devise and cut about 1/32 off of any edge. Now study the cut area again under a halogen bulb and magnification, note the differences. Also take a look at the card from a distance, you may see that the cut is crooked, uneven, wavy or shows flared corners. To get a firm understanding of what to look for, it is best to do this with both a modern and vintage card if possible. 

Card doctoring and manipulation has become very sophisticated over the years and you may have a difficult time, at best, in discovering their hidden tricks. Hopefully with the information above you should be able identify the most common forms trimming and be able to make informed purchases on cards you may have previously questioned.”

National Sportscard Authenticators (NSA)

National Sportscard Authenticators (NSA) is a card manufacturer and grading company.  They sell game used cards slabbed in their protective holders of players from all different sports.  On their website they claim that if they grade a card that has been trimmed or is counterfeit they will pay the cardholder $1,500.00.  I wonder how that really works?  If someone sends in a card for grading that they know it is counterfeit or trimmed and it comes back graded what is the person going to do?  Are they going to admit the card was doctored?  Probably not.  Even if you sent the card in and didn’t know it was doctored and it comes back graded, how does that help?  If you sent in a card in which NSA graded it you would have to remove it from the holder and submit it to another grading company like PSA or BGS just to get a second opinion.  The whole thing seems a bit confusing to me.  The serial numbering on the cards for example says “1 of 25”.  Why couldn’t they just stick with “1/25” for a serial number?  The way they have the cards numbered makes you think they are part of a set and not serial numbered.  Browsing eBay you can see that NSA cards don’t really sell that well.  Most of them don’t even sell at all.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy them, but thats just me.  Has anyone else had any experience with them?

Sports Card Info made the Beckett Blogroll

Late Friday night I was informed by Eric who runs the Behind the Scenes Beckett blog that Sports Card Info was approved and allowed to be on Beckett’s blogroll.  I would like to thank Eric and the rest of the people at Beckett for allowing this blog to be on their list.  Being part of Beckett’s blog should really help inform more collectors about fake cards and other various information.  Thanks.

Choose your grader wisely

If you are new to collecting it can be very confusing when you see all the different grading companies.  Personally, I only trust a few of them: PSA, SGC, and BGS.  You will see other companies such as GEM, Pro, WCG, etc……  Companies such as those are not very reliable and have been known to have a hand in taking part in the largest counterfeiting ring of all time.  GEM grading will give almost any card that comes through the front door a 10.  If you took that card to BGS it would proabably get a 7 or 8.  Many of these second rate graders have even accepted money for giving cards higher grades.  PSA, SGC, and BGS are the best grading companies in the world.  It is very hard for a counterfeit card to get slabbed by them.  Just because a grading company is cheaper doesn’t make it better.