Taking My Hacks

Why an Expert Matters

Joe Orlando

The hobby has certainly changed over the past 10-12 years. In my opinion, the change is certainly for the better. Despite the advent and importance of grading and authentication, I still hear people say things like:

"Why do I need a 3rd party to grade my cards?"

"I know this autograph is real, I got it from my grandfather. I don't need an expert."

"This bat came straight from a longtime collector/dealer. I know it's real"

It was very common to hear statements like these 12-15 years ago but apparently the hobby dinosaurs still roam the open hobby plains. In all seriousness, this is all part of the continuing education that collectors and dealers go through. We all learn something everyday with so much to know.

The message I would like to get across today is that while many of SMR's readers are of the advanced variety and understand the value of authentication and grading, most people do not. An educated hobbyist is a happy one and an educated hobby is one that can flourish.

For example, if fewer people are "burned" by fraud, they tend to stay in the hobby instead of leaving disgruntled and bitter. If more people realize the value of buying authenticated autographs versus ones that are not, the value of the authentic examples would increase. Currently, buyers spread their money out in a pool of authentic and non-authentic items. If a higher percentage of that money was focused on the authentic material, the values would naturally surge upward.

Recently, a couple of game-used bat concerns came to my attention. Amongst bat experts, it is a known fact that many 1998 McGwire gamers were in fact not used by McGwire. When McGwire was chasing the record, some of his unused bats became available (whether they were stolen from the locker room or giveaways). Keep in mind that there is a big difference in value between a used gamer and a mere game-issued McGwire bat from 1998.

The difficulty here is that the bats are real McGwire gamers but the use placed on them was not from Big Mac. Bat doctors would place pine tar on the handles and take batting practice with them in hopes of replicating legitimate game use. The vast majority of collectors cannot tell the difference but the experts can. That is why we need them.

In a similar story, the Kansas City Royals were known to order George Brett bats as giveaways during his career (it is actually recorded in the Louisville Slugger shipping records). Again, these bats look exactly like the real thing but the use, in some cases, has been fabricated. The experts can tell the difference but most cannot.

The same thing happens with cards and autographs. I cannot tell you how many times people will say that their autograph came from an old collection or their grandparents. The problem is that there were so many secretarial and clubhouse autographs put into circulation decades ago. While most people think they have a genuine Babe Ruth signature, they actually have the signature of his nurse. That is why we need experts.

Please, to keep the hobby moving in the right direction, take it upon yourself to educate the next guy. By doing so, you will ensure the health and viability of the hobby for generations to come - a hobby that we all enjoy so much.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.