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New Grading Companies

smapdi

Well-known member
Aug 7, 2008
4,308
106
I'm curious what people think about the new grading companies that have popped up in the last year or so. Has anyone dealt with CSG (aka the comics grading company CGC), ECG, RCG, etc.? What do you think of their grading standards? As I've been accumulating my 2021 Heritage uber set, I've gotten one and nearly won a couple others. I'm not a slab collector except for my PSA Registry sets, and generally avoid them because storing a few separate from a set is irritating, but I won't turn down a deal on one at the right price, if the grade seems correct.

The one I got was this Black Refractor Altuve, a "Pristine Elite 10" from Elitecardgrading.com. It is a nice card, but it is not as flawless as I'd expect something with such a grand attribution would be. On the back there is paper flake on one corner and a tiny touch of white on 2 others. Back flaws are typically less impactful on grades from all graders but this seems quite obvious, and should prevent it from getting a 10. Back when I was grading a lot with BGS in the mid-00s, I think this would have come out as a borderline 8.5/9. And that's not even the best grade they offer. It's akin to a BGS 10 while "Diamond Elite 10" is their "black label" 10. Oddly, their scale describes it as "quad 10" but they don't list the subgrades automatically; subs appear to be optional and probably an additional cost.

On the plus side, the slab feels light and tight, very similar to PSA, and they do list the card's serial number on the flip. I don't know what they do with hand-numbering and what they'd do if they ever got a duplicate number (I remember the large number of 5/500 Pujols BC rookies floating around). They etch the grading serial number on both halves of the shell as well as on the back of the flip, which is convenient, I suppose, but doesn't really add anything. And the number covers quite a bit of space on the back, so I think that's actually a negative. Also, I'm not sure if this was ECG or the seller but it came in a plastic bag that is so tight that you would have to cut the bag to get it off. This is nice in that it gives the slab's surface a little protection, but it's also got a haze on it that prevents seeing the card as clearly as possible. So that's a little weird.

ECG claims to use "artificial intelligence" in grading, though I don't think there's any intelligence, just automated metrics. And given that so many crucial flaws are in the details of a card and only visible by turning the card at different angles under light, it makes me unsure of the quality of their grades, my card being exhibit A.

I paid no premium for this slab, $35 being about the price I'd expect. I see others with high grades on these fancy new slabs and some sellers seem to expect the same premium PSA and BGS 10s would bring, but I don't think the market has absorbed them and placed them on the same level yet based on actual sales. Prettier graphic design for the flips seems to be a new feature, although CSG seems to be going with the CGC model with one of the uglier flips of plain white paper with lots of room for info. The holographic foil the flips are printed on I'd suppose are a security measure compared to the classic fakeable PSA flip. RCG even goes into the plastic shell with some patterns, though I can't say that really adds anything and a lot of people would probably rather go with a plain clear or at least solid color.

Thoughts and opinions?
 

Dilferules

Well-known member
Aug 10, 2012
1,392
699
Auburn, WA
Personally until a grading company has built a solid reputation over the course of years I don't trust them. There have just been so many companies that make grand claims and are either gone quickly or are clearly overgrading/slabbing fake stuff. I'll avoid these companies for anything that I would actually want to buy graded or is often faked. I'm fine buying cards graded by these companies that I want raw and cracking the slabs, but that kind of defeats the purpose of getting them graded - to add value.
 

jmc855

Member
Jan 11, 2013
76
42
RI
I personally do not have any use for grading companies or graded cards other than to crack them out, including PSA (especially after they are clearly complicit in the PWCC altered card Fraud-fest proven by all the folks at Blowout forums, and the fact that the first Honus Wagner they were famous for grading was admittedly trimmed by the Mastro guy who owned it and they did NOT catch it). i think its good to know that some companies are/were clearly regular fraudsters, like Pro, GEM, etc.

I crack out every graded card I've ever bought. I respect that many others like grading, the graded slabs, or the idea of TPGs, or all 3. Too all of us as individuals, our own!

I do not pay premiums for "GM 10", I am a raw card guy. I try my best to evaluate the card itself. So far I have never bought an altered card by accident. I like the 1 screw Pro Mold holder with 4 corner savers look, none of the graded holders appeal to me.

That said, after a long discussion with some friends one night a couple years agowhen we saw GMA getting crapped on continually, we decided, lets try them out and see and make a video of what happens. Mostly because they were cheap ($4 each at the time) so we pooled to gether $100 bux and had some fun experimenting with a submission. I posted a youtube video (Its gotten alomost 2000 views and several complimentary statements for its transparency) on it here:


Full disclouse, I sold many of them after the video, and have a few left in a drawer in the GMA holders because they arent displaying for my PC. Several others I've cracked back out and returned to my bartop display.
 
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mrmopar

Member
Jan 19, 2010
4,519
847
It is an interesting situation. We look to experts when we are not ourselves, yet what makes any of these companies an expert? Was there a certification that one had to earn to grade cards? Is there a school or class or even a test that one takes to become more knowledgable and competent? Are they regulated by anyone? I think the answer is clearly no for all of those questions, so it comes down to someone professing their expertise and the consumer buying into that and building the trust over time.

The other problem is that grading has opened a large gap in the perceived value of cards. It has become big business and the grades have large ramifications. There has always been hushed talk of favoritism towards early and/or larger customers. It seems it would be even harder to keep that pure, as values rise exponentially with higher grades. How easy would it be for a grading company with established credibility to lean ever so slightly in favor of a good customer, when the difference in a grade or even 1/2 grade could mean tens of thousands of dollars or more! I am not talking about clear "gimme" grades, but maybe a card that would have been a 9 is now a 10 for that special customer only...9 for anyone else. Who is watching out for the little guys or that this is a fair playing field. Even the pros make mistakes and we quickly forgive thee. Did someone say kickback?

It seems like it would be extremely hard for someone to break into the game and seriously contend with the couple major, well know and mostly respected companies that do this work. The herd has spoken and that herd says don't trust anyone but PSA, SGC, etc. Even if someone were to come up with a solid business, have the equipment and skills and somehow convince people to use them, how long would it take, if ever, for them to catch on? I would think at least a decade or more and that would probably be a huge struggle just to stay afloat.

It's a catch 22. Few people trust any no name grading companies or are willing to spend money with them and since nobody is spending money or using them, they can't grow and become most trusted.

I don't collect graded cards, have never sent one in to be graded and frankly don't really even care for the concept. It irritates me that people online, and I see it more in facebook groups, automatically think every that just about every raw card ever shown is fake and that the first piece of advice anyone ever doles out when a scarce "real" raw card is magically deemed authentic (regardless of what the owner may want to do) is for that person to rush out a grade it! "It's worth more that way"! Sadly, now days it is worth more, but that is learned behavior. I have, however, bought at least 1 card that was graded specifically because it was graded, simply because I wanted extra assurance, or better yet I wanted the next person who might own the card when I am done with it to have extra assurances, so that it would be easier to move if I had to move it. I may never do that again, not that I don't think it is a good idea, but because I doubt I'll be in the market for any more cards that justify that action.
 

finestkind

Well-known member
Aug 17, 2008
3,220
345
Boston
If you check the Net54 vintage card forum, or better yet. Blow Out Cards forum. You'll see a lot being said about grading companies. Some on Blow Out forum members have done an amazing investigation into some of the cards that PSA grading did. For cards that have suspicious grades. I've never sent any cards in to be graded. I have some vintage cards and un-opened wax packs that are graded. Some cards that are graded authentic, and up to a PSA 4.
 

smapdi

Well-known member
Aug 7, 2008
4,308
106
I think grading has a place in the hobby. As condition has always been very important to invested collectors, an impartial opinion is a good thing to have. The way things turned out, corruption is a thing, and I'm probably familiar with most of the stories on how graded sausage gets made going back 20-30 years. Still, high grades have become an even bigger price driver than the set, or actual condition, and even the player in some cases. Optimistically, it can be viewed as simply another axis for collection. People accrue their collections typically by some common element. They collect by player, team, set, various other attributes, why not condition? Inevitably, that leads to refinement beyond reason, IMHO. The more microscopic the detail examined, the more prestigious the grade, it seems, though to what end? That is, when I was coming up, there was a generally accepted grading scale topping out Mint, and Mint was the best. Now "Mint" is at best the second-best grade in the world of slabs, even 4th or 5th, depending on who you ask, and for a card to be merely Mint is almost a negative. But if you need an electron microscope to discern Mint from Megamint from Ultramint, is there really a difference worth recording?

However, my post is about these new services. I agree, with no track record and anonymous people behind the labels, it's hard to gauge. Really, the only way is to look at the cards and the grades they earn. So far, I've seen exactly one up close. So I'm asking for more info from people who have handled them or sent stuff to them.
 

JVHaste

Well-known member
Jun 22, 2015
4,655
236
Vancouver WA
when I was coming up, there was a generally accepted grading scale topping out Mint, and Mint was the best. Now "Mint" is at best the second-best grade in the world of slabs, even 4th or 5th, depending on who you ask, and for a card to be merely Mint is almost a negative. But if you need an electron microscope to discern Mint from Megamint from Ultramint, is there really a difference worth recording?
I 100% agree with this point, well said.

I'd be willing to look the other way if companies made errors on the microscopic level but this type of embarrassment is too common:


It goes back to @mrmopar and his point about what makes these guys experts. Compare me to the grader-

A regular guy with meh vision(disadvantage #1) on a small laptop (#2) seeing only a tiny pic of the card and not able to move angles(#3) taking only 3 seconds (#4) . . . .yet I immediately can tell the card is flawed and nowhere near a 10! The centering is brutal, look a the tails and the spacings. Mr Red has his full tail showing to the point you can see the blank space in between the curve, where Mr. Yellow tail's gap is barely there at all!

The funny part is I originally didn't go looking for that card as an example. . . I remember an egregious Tejada Green 10 so I searched it and this same exact mistake popped up in a red instead! :ROFLMAO: How many of the same mistake in the same set per player? You can't make this stuff up.


So back to your original question I think giving new graders a try is a decent idea if you're after enjoyment and enjoyment only (holding those cards long term for fun) but if you're after the money then going after the greater fool who still believes in the mainstream brands makes a lot of sense.
 

JVHaste

Well-known member
Jun 22, 2015
4,655
236
Vancouver WA
A few years back I watched a vid on someone trying to become a pro coin grader and there was maybe 25ish pre-selected coins of differing types and damage, the guy having to complete a grading of each in a small time limit while explaining every pick to the boss. This wasn't even an interview for the job, but a warm up to see if the guys worth time. I really doubt card grading has any standards but the one thing I'd like to see is a slab template of:

Card name
Grade
Graded By (full name)

Your opinion as the grader changes the value by thousands of $ sometimes, yet you don't have the courage of your own conviction?! :(
 

jmc855

Member
Jan 11, 2013
76
42
RI
<<Disclaimer, typical Interwebs BS story material to follow, but recounting anyway!>>

I heard from someone once that he was offered a shot as a grader at Beckett because he approached them to do so about 10 years ago. CLAIMED he had to grade 6 cards in 3 minutes in front of the boss (they allow 30 seconds per card for grading to maintain efficiency was the CLAIM) . He wasn't able to meet their expectations and "missed" the correct grades on 4 of 6 cards by more than 1.5 on the scale. he did not get the job. The cards were a vintage and modern mix at that time.

Again, I HEARD this form someone, I was NOT there, and cannot validate. Just an interesting story.
 
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JVHaste

Well-known member
Jun 22, 2015
4,655
236
Vancouver WA
<<Disclaimer, typical Interwebs BS story material to follow, but recounting anyway!>>

I heard from someone once that he was offered a shot as a grader at Beckett because he approached them to do so about 10 years ago. CLAIMED he had to grade 6 cards in 3 minutes in front of the boss (they allow 30 seconds per card for grading to maintain efficiency was the CLAIM) . He wasn't able to meet their expectations and "missed" the correct grades on 4 of 6 cards by more than 1.5 on the scale. he did not get the job. The cards were a vintage and modern mix at that time.

Again, I HEARD this form someone, I was NOT there, and cannot validate. Just an interesting story.
If I read something on the interwebs then its 100% true, so thanks for your story report, fellow investigative journalist. ;)

Jokes aside it makes sense they didn't give him a chance as 1.5 off is terrible when you consider that's really missing by 3 grades.... although knowing Beckett I bet he missed by 1.5 too low instead of 1.5 too high. If you inflate a cards number that's an auto-hire. ;)
 

mrmopar

Member
Jan 19, 2010
4,519
847
Grading should not be timed, period. Sometimes it just takes time to get something right. In my job, we want speed and efficiency, but safety takes 1st consideration. If the job/task is not safe, you stop and fix the issue before proceeding. Dead people are highly inefficient at our job!

If speed is factored into the equation, then it is a recipe for disaster.
 

jmc855

Member
Jan 11, 2013
76
42
RI
"Grading should not be timed, period. Sometimes it just takes time to get something right. In my job, we want speed and efficiency, but safety takes 1st consideration. If the job/task is not safe, you stop and fix the issue before proceeding. Dead people are highly inefficient at our job!

If speed is factored into the equation, then it is a recipe for disaster."


Agree that grading should take as long as it takes. BUT, give me enough time and a 10x magnifier, and I almost guaruntee I can find a "flaw" in everything and NO CARD is ever a "10" if thats my goal.

That said, consider that PSA is backed up with at LEAST 1 million cards right now and CLOSED further submissions to catch up. I'm sure if we crunch the numbers, in order to get those backlogged ones graded, running 6 days a week, payng hourly wages delaing with all that comes with payroll and expenses, they probably can't possibly allowmore than 60 seconds a card. Maybe 90. Otherwise, cards will be there for YEARS. Then, open up submisions and receive 100,000 cards a month....and start doing the math again. It's ugly.

And again.... I 've made ANOTHER point for why I dont like grading.
 

mrmopar

Member
Jan 19, 2010
4,519
847
I would still hold firm to my comment. If meeting demand means hiring more people so that you can turn around results quicker, then that is what is needed. To say that because we have too much business, we won't grade as strictly is laughable to the reliability of 3rd party grading as a concept! I would also argue that older graded cards are "better" than newer ones with the same grade, because we can assume that during a less popular time, cards were graded over more time for review and thus more strictly. I don't doubt that there is a subgroup in grading cards that fully believes this and seeks out older serial numbers because of it.

Your reply just goes to show in another way that grading is imperfect anyway. If the standard is a 10X magnifier, then so be it. Maybe certain flaws under that level of magnification are considered "normal" and the grade is applied based on that standard. However, consistency is the key then. All cards have to be graded under the same standards. Do 1933 cards get treated differently than 2021 cards because they are made of different materials? Who decides which card is looked upon less stringently due to composition/materials being more susceptible to wear, damage, chipping, etc?

It's like saying nobody is perfect, there is always room for improvement. Can the same be said for an object? If you look close enough or decided based on a grading criteria that is strict enough, then yes, there is probably nothing that is perfect. Yet, there are endless supplies of "perfect" trading cards already proclaimed by reputable grading companies.

It is a complete racket and millions have bought into it. I don't fault anyone for buying into it, but I have not personally.
 

JVHaste

Well-known member
Jun 22, 2015
4,655
236
Vancouver WA
This gave me a good idea for the next Night Crew game: Bad Grade Showdown!! :p Each contestant puts up a card with a wrong grade and we decide which one is worse. Who's game?
 

ASStrosTrashCan

New member
Nov 24, 2021
1
0
TX
If you got that Altuve from topflightcars or texascardhouse then you bought the card from the owner of ecg. Probably why it was graded high.
 

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