Sports Market Report

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Taking My Hacks

A Collectors Universe Retrospective

Joe Orlando

In June of this year, Collectors Universe reached a major milestone. PCGS, our coin division, and PSA combined for 75 million total items certified since inception. After a lot of hard work put in by a host of different people, early struggles to gain acceptance and through many ups and downs in the market, the company eclipsed this truly remarkable number recently.

In addition to being three quarters of the way to 100 million, this summer marks my 20th year at the company. In fact, August makes it 20 years exactly. It seems like yesterday that I was just starting out, fresh out of school and taking a chance by working in a hobby I had loved since childhood. I am fortunate to work for a company I have believed in since I was a customer in the early 1990s.

After passing this recent milestone and approaching my 20-year anniversary, it seemed fitting to reflect on my experience and share it with you.

When I first came upon PSA and Collectors Universe, I didn't become a supporter because I thought the system was perfect or because I agreed with every grade I saw. In fact, I can remember writing a letter to PSA, sharing my concerns about grading at the time. I became a supporter because it was clear the market was so much better with third-party authentication and grading than without it.

Today, I'm the president and CEO of PSA's parent company and I don't agree with every card, autograph or bat grade issued ... and that's OK. As a collector, I don't have to. Why? Because I don't have to buy it. We have choices, which is part of what makes collecting so much fun. As an individual, I am entitled to an opinion too and it's OK if my personal standard differs from a third-party service. Their job isn't to confirm my opinion; it's to render their own.

Like most other industries, ours contains a fraction of people who choose to do nothing more than complain about how third-party systems are imperfect, instead of offering feasible or logical ways of making it better. Their expectation of human-based opinion services is simply unattainable. There are realities and limitations to what any third-party service can do.

If it were up to them, there would be no umpires in baseball either, because these men don't get every ball and strike call correct. Card and coin graders, like umpires, must make decisions repeatedly in a relatively short period of time. They do the best job they can, but like all people, they are not perfect. They can only judge what they see in front of them and interpret what their eyes are observing. Grading is not conducted in a science lab. It is simply humans looking at collectibles.

The train left the station a long time ago. You can choose to get on board and take the ride, which can occasionally get bumpy along the way, or get left behind with delusions that somehow returning to the Wild West of the 1980s is better than what collectors have today. If you prefer to collect raw cards, that's OK. There are many ways to enjoy our wonderful hobby.

In the meantime, the beat goes on. After 20 years at the company and a lifetime in this hobby, there are a few things I know. There will always be challenges that our hobby will have to face and, unfortunately, there will also be those who choose to spread fear and ignorance. For those of us who love the hobby, there will always be opportunities to improve it by engaging in civil discourse.

More importantly, third-party authentication and grading is here to stay. It makes the hobby better, even though no system will ever be perfect.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
President & CEO
Collectors Universe, Inc.