Taking My Hacks

Listen to Your Gut

Joe Orlando

We all encounter scenarios where we may not be able to explain it, but our gut is trying to tell us something. Sometimes we listen and sometimes we ignore it, but the instinctual voice inside tries to warn us by causing hesitation before proceeding further. This happens in both our personal lives and professional lives. It may impact things like relationships with other people or affect the way we operate as collectors.

While it is always best to not let your emotions steer your actions as a collector, gut instinct is something different altogether. It is triggered more by common sense than raw emotion. It is more about your head than your heart. That is why we must listen to our gut. There is a reason why we occasionally pause in certain situations. Our instinct is telling us to reflect for a moment because something may not feel right.

There are countless situations where listening to your gut can help you make the right decision. As collectors, we all have our own personal tastes. There are specific things we look for in cards and memorabilia, certain attributes that catch our eye in a good or bad way. Yes, there are third party authentication and grading services like PSA who try to help create a general standard in the marketplace, but your personal standard is what matters most when opening your wallet.

Let me explain. We have all heard the expression, "Buy the card, not the holder." There may not be a greater cheerleader for third party services than I am, and it's not just because I work at PSA. I believed in the third party system long before working here, and I will continue to believe, as a hobbyist, long after someday. That said, after a reputable third party has rendered their opinion, the buyer still needs to be happy with the product.

For example, let's say you are looking at ten different 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle cards and each card is graded NM-MT 8 by PSA. While each card technically qualifies for the grade, they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some of them may exhibit slightly better centering while others might have better color. After you decide that you want to purchase a PSA 8 copy of the card, the key is finding a PSA 8 that you like-one that you can look at each and every day and be happy with.

If you are looking at one of them at a show, during an auction or on a seller's website, make sure it has the attributes that appeal to you. Even if the card is graded correctly, if the card has a print dot in Mantle's facial region that bothers you, don't buy the card. If the card has marginal centering for the grade and you prefer cards with exceptional centering, don't buy the card. The reason? If it bothers you today, it will continue to bother you tomorrow.

I was talking to a friend of mine during The National about this very subject. In this case, we were discussing a bat he was interested in purchasing. He spent about 20 minutes rationalizing why he should buy it. Towards the end of the conversation, I started to laugh a little because I have done the same thing in the past. The more you feel the need to explain why you should buy it, the more you should avoid it. You are trying to justify buying something you really aren't 100% comfortable with. Needless to say, he passed on the bat because the bat, although a very nice example, simply wasn't for him.

You can apply this to so many different situations. Perhaps the most obvious one has to do with deals that are seemingly too good to be true. Even if the price isn't too good to be true, perhaps the circumstances surrounding the deal should cause you to proceed with caution, or not at all. Just like a rational person wouldn't buy a Rolex watch from a guy wearing a trench coat on a street corner, a rational person wouldn't meet a guy who has no credible hobby references with a bag of cash at the local Starbucks to consummate the deal.

That is your gut at work. Listen to it.

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.