Taking My Hacks

The Danger in Being Your Own Expert

Joe Orlando

Before you begin reading this piece, I want to make the following point: Educating yourself in this hobby is very important because, as they say, knowledge is power. That said; there is a huge difference between using knowledge to improve your experience and trying to become your own expert. That is where things can get dangerous.

Most of the time, the problem in the hobby is that many collectors choose not to learn more about the collectibles they spend so much money on. It is a fascinating but frustrating issue that exists despite the volumes of information available to the collector today. Sometimes, the problem is completely different... when hobbyists decide that they don't need the help of true experts anymore.

Forget about the hobby, you see this phenomenon take place outside of the hobby all the time. Some people want to be their own lawyers because they watched an episode of Law and Order; others want to diagnose their own ailments after watching House reruns. Maybe it is a result of the male ego, where pride can get in the way of common sense, a reason why so many men refuse to ask for directions when they are lost on the road. Whatever the reason, it has become an issue in this hobby just like it has affected so many other areas of life.

The time when it is most dangerous is at the point of sale. Instead of relying on a reputable third party expert, some people decide that they are willing to take the gamble without consulting anyone remotely close to being qualified to render an opinion on the item. This can be a catastrophic mistake because your money is on the line and, sometimes, we are talking about a lot of money.

Once again, it is always a good idea to learn and expand your base of knowledge but let's face it; most people simply do not have the innate ability to be an expert. It's the same principle in athletics. You can't teach someone to have a great arm, or to be fast or to jump high. You can improve these things, there's no question, but you either have it or you don't. The same can be said of having the "eye" for certain things. You can study for 30 years straight but never be able to spot the subtle details necessary to perform well in the expert role.

I can show the average person a detailed chart, filled with images of different grades and include the PSA Grading Standards for reference, but it doesn't mean they will ever be able to grade cards successfully. I can show that same person an autograph library of exemplars, with numerous examples of both authentic signatures and forgeries, and that doesn't mean they can distinguish between good and bad. Finally, a person could be provided with the professional model bat ordering and labeling records for a particular player but that doesn't mean they know how to identify a true gamer.

The list goes and on and on. There are some people who will always try to act as their own expert, their own handyman or their own mechanic. I wish those people well. There is nothing wrong with learning new things but not everyone has the knack for it, the ability to do it right. Everyone can technically cook but how many people are really good cooks?

Often times, I let the pros handle the work in everyday life where I lack the ability. Yes, it might cost of a little more out of pocket but I would argue that you will be saving more in the long run, including your time. The same rule should apply in this hobby.

The bottom line is that this is a dangerous game and, in my opinion, one just not worth playing.

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.