In our industry, just like any other industry, the issue of brand is a serious one. There are brands that are synonymous with certain types of products and brands that carry little or no meaning in their pertinent marketplace.
Why does brand matter?
It really is very simple. A strong brand, one that is tried and true, is one that has meaning to the masses. A brand should speak for itself. Brand respect is something earned over time. Brand recognition equals credibility and quality. A brand is bigger than any individual or set of individuals, it is the symbol of a team effort. A great brand carries the ultimate weight. A brand is just that - a brand.
For all of the above reasons and more, brand strength is very important for the buyer and the seller. The buyer wants to have confidence in his purchase while the seller wants to generate maximum interest in the products he is offering. Without a recognized brand, an item becomes generic; its quality also becomes suspect as a cloud of uncertainty hovers above the item.
In addition, brand affects pride of ownership in a dramatic way. Do you think men buy Rolex watches because they keep great time? No. Do you think women buy Fendi bags because of the construction of the handle? Ridiculous. Do you think people drive luxury cars, like a Mercedes Benz or a BMW, because of the great gas mileage? Of course not.
Now, while all of the above brands have earned their status through quality, part of the reason people buy these brands is due to pride of ownership. These brands stand out within their respective product lines and consumers know what these brands, and other comparable brands, symbolize. The brands speak for themselves. That is what makes a brand great.
In our hobby, it is no different. Some brands of trading cards are stronger than others. Some brands of professional model bats are preferred over others. It goes on and on.
If you have an "authenticated" or "graded" item but the company or individual behind the service is not branded in a universal way, then that item will carry little to no weight in the industry. Even if the company or person has great skill, it is irrelevant. For example, my uncle could be the greatest autograph expert or card grading expert in the world but, if only a small fraction of the hobby knows this, then my uncle's opinion is rendered meaningless.
When a collector owns a PSA Mint 9 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card, it carries weight - the item has a real market value because the industry recognizes and accepts it as a commodity. If that same exact card is graded by another service with an unrecognized brand, even in the same exact grade, the card is given little credibility. The eventual question will be, "I wonder what PSA would grade it?"
When a collectible is authenticated or graded by PSA, or another reputable brand, most collectors know exactly what they are getting and that is crucial to the health of the market. Dependable brands help bring new participants into the market and increased participation is good for everyone.
As a suggestion to all the collectors spending their hard earned money out there, please make sure you are brand conscious when buying an authenticated or graded product. Otherwise, you will be left with a worthless piece of paper or plastic.
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief
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