Grading Considerations Between Vintage and Modern Cards -- PSA History Opinion
I will agree with **@RonSportscards **on this point that cards from the 60's-80's and possibly a few years from the 90's should be graded differently than the cards today, and offer the following as food for thought. Note: I am new to this industry but have learned this so far:
I can open a pack of 2023 cards today and immediately send one in for grading. I am very confident that it will receive a PSA 10. The only possible defects could originate from factory, handling, etc. A majority of these cards will be worth a lot more with the 10 rating regardless of whether or not they are base cards or a 1 of 1 card. Right?
History lesson time: the first sports card grading company was a company called ASA, which was soon sent off to the sunset by PSA which was formed in 1991 (which was a coin-grading company). Then in 1998 (in my opinion), thanks to the home run record chase between McGwire/Sosa AND the emergence of 3-year old eBay, the sports card grading industry exploded -- a perfect storm essentially. Beckett (formed before PSA in 1984, but was mainly magazine/price guide), jumped into the grading service industry in 1999. Then, SGC began in 1998. In my opinion, it was at that point that it became apparent that grading became more profitable (and financially competitive) than collecting or dealing?
At first, grading was embraced by collectors as it provided a baseline for everyone buying, trading or selling -- it added peace of mind knowing that a card was legitimate and was of an agreed upon quality standard. This confidence came from the fact that a CREDIBLE third party (WITH NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE CARD ITSELF) had reviewed and applied a 'grade' to the card which became the basis for its market value. The grading criteria was transparent and universally agreed upon by collectors and dealers. It worked, then. To a certain degree, this was and still is the foundational belief amongst collectors, and governs and dictates prices, values and importance of cards.
Fast forward to today...in my opinion, the actual act of grading a modern card today is relatively easy and straightforward. It is not a complicated process (once you figure out if it is a parallel, etc.), and takes little time, expertise or effort. I am guessing that this is the reason why PSA charges less to grade modern cards than vintage? I think that the Grading of cards is more tailored for vintage cards (pre-1990), because they are harder to grade than modern? While authenticating cards may be harder to do for modern cards than vintage (technology has evolved), grading is not.
However, the QUALITY of a modern card will 9 times out of 10 be superior to that of a vintage card. Obviously. A good example would be centering: has anyone ever seen a modern card that is not centered? I have not, but i am a noob, i suppose.
I think that everyone agrees that vintage cards need to be graded on a different scale than modern cards. PSA purports to do this by having 2 different submission categories (pre-1979 and 1980+), right? But are these cards graded by the same graders which grade both categories using the same grading criteria and standards? If so, it should not be done so.
But something seems to have changed. The legitimacy of the grading industry came under scrutiny with the T206 Honus Wagner card (which happened to be the first card graded by PSA) and then again in 2019 with the card doctoring scandal which actually involved the FBI and should have been the first red flag of issues to come. But it definitely started to change in the 2000's -- but I believe it really changed in 2020 -- when Collector's Universe (parent company to PSA) was bought out by hedge fund firm $700 million. PSA no longer answered to collectors or dealers. In simple terms, PSA became "corporate". Profit and shareholders became the focus and collectors and dealers became means to those ends.
what is there for us the collector to do? where do we go? who do we trust? should we turn to the new grading companies that use AI? should we go back to the honor-system and deal only with ungraded cards? do we continue to feed the profits and growth of corporate entities who could care less about the hobby of sports card collecting?
Note: I pulled info from several sources and will provide footnotes attributions if asked. The opinions and/or postulations I have made are my own. I welcome corrections and feedback.