Taking My Hacks: An Avalanche of Cardboard - An Inside Look at the Surge of PSA Submissions

Joe Orlando
Mar 22, 2021

Taking My Hacks

An Avalanche of Cardboard

An Inside Look at the Surge of PSA Submissions

We have now entered the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 impacting us here in the United States and, despite all the challenges our society has dealt with, our industry has not only survived, it has reached an entirely unprecedented level as new participants have entered the fold in droves. Near the beginning of the pandemic, there were those who questioned our hobby’s ability to hold up under the circumstances, and some who questioned my sanity after I wrote a column entitled “The Hobby and COVID-19, Forces of Nature Collide,” which was published on March 27, 2020.

For those who read the article, you can see that my position or point was simply that our hobby has showcased its incredible resilience during economic and societal adversity in the past. Even though it might seem perplexing on some level, there are facets of our market that enable it to withstand the type of challenges that other markets can’t. While it would be easy for me to now gloat and shout, “I told you so” to all those who doubted our hobby, even I didn’t think it would be THIS good.

In fact, if anyone tells you they saw this explosion coming, just smile and back away slowly. No one saw THIS coming. Based on past performance, I was very positive about our hobby’s chances at remaining resilient despite the obstacles in front of us, but it would be disingenuous of me or anyone else to say they believed prices for certain cards would go up 10X-20X in the midst of a pandemic. The market moves were fast, and they were furious, as were the number of submissions that started hitting PSA.

From the outside, our customers started to realize one thing very quickly. Turnaround times were slow and getting slower by the day. It’s true. I am not here to sugarcoat it. I have been a hobbyist my entire life and I’m a former customer, so I understand the frustration in not getting your cards back in a timely fashion. Let me make that perfectly clear. That said, I wanted to share some details about the reality of the situation, so our customers had context for what PSA is experiencing behind the scenes.

During the past year, our company has hired, trained, and onboarded dozens upon dozens of new employees. Just within the last couple of years, Collectors Universe employed around 350 people. Today, we are over 750 strong and growing rapidly. In October of 2020, we doubled the size of our headquarters to accommodate for increased operational capacity. That gave us access to over 125,000 square feet, and we are currently in the process of acquiring another 50,000+ square feet. Our company has continued to invest in technology solutions to assist us in the long term. Now, as a private entity, we are looking to accelerate some of these projects with new ownership as we look to the future.

So, that is just some of the good news. The team is spending a lot of time, and money, on improving our ability to process your orders. Our ability to do so has improved dramatically in a relatively short period of time, but the bad news is that it hasn’t been nearly enough to turn the tide. Quite frankly, it’s better described as a tsunami. For example, at the time of this writing, PSA was receiving more cards every five days (over 500,000 per business week) than what we used to receive every three months. Try processing that for a second. The incoming pace didn’t go up 50% or 2X-3X, it went up multiple times.

The purpose of this column is not to make excuses. It is merely to articulate the gravity of the increased demand, which we haven’t always been able to be so candid about in the past. We want you to be informed, but there is no magic pixie dust PSA can throw at the problem. We can’t just “go faster” since we are dealing with valuables – your valuables – and the last thing we are going to do is ruin the PSA brand by doing things the wrong way. Our brand is why so many orders are showing up on our doorsteps to begin with.

We are extremely excited about the future, not just for our company, but for the entire industry. You should be too. The interest in our hobby is staggering and PSA will do everything it can to keep attacking our immense backlog, which currently totals several million cards, so the customer experience improves. In the meantime, I will not bother asking that you bear with us. My only desire is that our customers have a full appreciation for the size of the cardboard avalanche.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

President & CEO

Collectors Universe, Inc.