Sports Market Report

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Taking My Hacks

The Power, and Lack Thereof, of Eye Appeal

Joe Orlando

The issue of eye appeal is certainly not a new one, but its impact seems to be getting greater and greater as the hobby moves forward. Its power is not confined to the sports card hobby either. The effect of eye appeal can be felt in just about every collectible field you can think of, from coins to movie posters to comics. As a matter of fact, in some of those hobbies, there are third parties who only evaluate eye appeal versus the technical grade.

The bottom line is... eye appeal does matter.

The question is... how do we properly measure its impact?

The question is a hard one to answer because of the inherent subjectivity in what someone considers attractive. That said, there are two key ways eye appeal can play a role in valuation. Eye appeal can move the needle within technical grading, which can improve its market value, or it can simply act as a premium valuation asset within a technical grade.

Let me explain.

When it comes to technical grading, there are times - many times - when a card, coin, autograph or otherwise are right on the fence between grades. In those cases, the degree of eye appeal can be the difference in the collectible reaching a slightly higher grade or it can act as an obstacle to a higher grade if the aesthetic quality of the collectible isn't perceived as a plus.

Let's start with the technical side of grading.

While the above is true, there are limits to what eye appeal can do for a collectible when it comes to determining the numerical grade. For example, a card that exhibits perfect centering and extremely vibrant colors simply cannot achieve a very high technical grade if the card has rounded corners, no matter how exceptional the rest of the card is. Most hobbyists have a solid grasp of this point, but you might be surprised of how many do not.

In other words, these hobbyists believe that eye appeal alone can overcome whatever shortcomings the card possesses. From a grading perspective, this simply isn't true. It can, however, be the difference between grades, but one cannot ignore the core of the standard just because certain aspects of the card are aesthetically pleasing. The lesson here is that eye appeal, from the vantage point of a grader, is merely one factor or characteristic on a card, nothing more.

How about eye appeal and the pricing premium?

Here is where eye appeal gets to flex its muscles. Its impact is not limited by the rules of technical grading. The foundation in all collectible fields will always be the grade, but the value of sheer attraction goes beyond the number. If you thought incorporating eye appeal into technical grading was somewhat subjective, its ultimate affect on value can be even harder to predict.

I was talking with a fellow collector recently about two professional model bats that were on the table, so to speak. They both received the exact same grade, dated to the same era and were ordered by the same player. The issue was one bat caught your eye in a clear way much more than the other one did. Simply put, it just looked cooler. It had, as they say, "the look" and it made a big difference in wall appeal.

Everything else about the two bats was equal, but one had more character. The result was a significant difference in market value because eye appeal does fuel demand. That is why you may see a PSA VG 3 card sell closer to a PSA EX 5 price on occasion. Eye appeal has the ability to bend the traditional valuation rules when it is outstanding.

There is no doubt that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if more collectors think an item has that "X" factor (the visual advantage that gives a collectible an edge versus most in its specific category), then we can't ignore it.

The moral of the story is the power of eye appeal should not be underestimated or overestimated; just understand where its reach ends.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
President & CEO
Collectors Universe, Inc.


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