Taking My Hacks

Here We Go Again

Joe Orlando

I can still remember, vividly, the beginnings of card grading and the debates that ensued. Some people were clearly opposed to the idea and others were quick to embrace the concept. Regardless of which side you were on, every collector can remember those debates.

Fast forward to 2005 ... now card grading is widely accepted and the concept is truly crucial to the maturity of our marketplace.

Enter the grading of autographs.

Recently, we have decided to build upon our autograph authentication service by adding the element of grading to the mix. Already, prior to the service being launched, the debates have begun and the pros and cons are now being weighed.

Before you draw any conclusions, one way or another, here are 5 things to consider:

1) The Concept Has Already Been Accepted – Keep in mind that the grading of autographs has been around for years. Just open any major auction catalogue and read the autographed lot descriptions. Offered here is a Babe Ruth autograph ("8") on a vintage wire photo. Grading isn't new so acceptance should be within reach.

2) 3RD Party Credibility - Following up on number one, grading has been around for a long time but, in order for the grade of an item to really hold weight, it should come from an unbiased, credible 3rd party.

3) The PSA Set Registry – Collecting themes help hobbyists of all types focus and drive towards a specific goal. Everyone has seen what the PSA Set Registry has done for the card market. It makes just as much sense in the memorabilia market. In this case, autographs.

4) Market Maturity – The card market, with the help of grading, population reports, price guides, etc. has reaped the benefits of continued maturity over the past decade or so. In order for any major market to reach maturity, grading has always been a crucial component. Just look at the coin or gem markets, two markets that are far ahead of sports collectibles in terms of maturity. Without the concept of 3rd party grading, those markets would never have matured the way they have.

5) Standardization – One of the most difficult and confusing aspects for new hobbyists is grasping how one collectible may rate versus another one in terms of quality. By creating a grading standard for the autograph market, buyers can be assured that they are paying for the quality they want... and that the seller is NOT the one rating the item... a 3rd party is. Establishing a standard will do wonders for the market and pricing will be more reflective of the true quality of the autographs.

In the end, it will be fun to watch this market grow and mature over time. Keep in mind that it took card grading about 6-8 years to really become accepted in the marketplace.

Something tells me that it will not take nearly as long this time around.


Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief