Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Card

One of the things that I really dislike about the hobby today is the graded card. I understand the principle behind grading. Its main goal is to preserve, or that should be the main goal. This can lead to discrepancies among collectors. Many errors in grading have been found.

In some cases, the same card has been graded multiple times, with different grades as the result. What should the final grade be? How can a card that received a grade of 5, get a grade of 7 the second time it was submitted to the same service?

I just finished reading The Card. It's a fascinating look at the history behind the world's most famous (and expensive) card. After hearing rave reviews from other bloggers in the community, I decided to check out my local library for a copy. Sure enough, they had one on the shelf. I am the fifth person to check out this book since August.

The first thing that struck me after finishing the book is that most of the action took place around my neck of the woods. A lot of the action takes place in Burr Ridge and Oak Park, Illinois. That really opened my eyes. A good chunk of was orchestrated place right under my nose. It was very surprising to me.

At first, I thought an entire book about one card would be a boring read. It would have been, had it not been for the people involved. Friendships were ruined, collectors were stabbed in the back, people were screwed over and deception ruled most of the stories.

There are also personal accounts of the man himself, Honus Wagner. Learning more about the Flying Dutchman was worth the read alone. I feel like I grew up around him as I read about his hometown and his habits and haunts.

This book also documents the rise of baseball cards and memorabilia. It shows the reader how a hobby transformed from a few fanatic collectors writing letters to the beast that it was in the nineties to the premium cards of today. All thanks to one card.

In my estimation, this Gretzky Wagner should not be worth as much as it is. The credit for the inflation should be given to each owner of the card since 1985. Each owner has added to the legacy of this one card. Not many are willing to openly talk about the origins of the card.

The origins are debated and the reasons are argued for each. The only thing that I didn't like about the book was the feeling of anger at how some owners blatantly manipulated future owners. It's also humbling and sad to think that the card may not be all that it claims to be.

The most interesting story comes from two unexpected players who can't seem to catch a break. Although, it seems like they are their own worst enemy. For each step they take forward, they seem to shoot themselves in the foot and hop three steps back.

The book also exposes many problems in the system created by these "pioneers" that set up the card auctions and started the grading systems. If the mystery and thriller elements don't hook you in, the talk of cards and the industry definitely will.

This card has certainly had a great journey since its "discovery" in Hicksville. I'm still waiting for the definitive story of how it got there in the first place.

I still say that grading cards is evil. Cards should be allowed to breathe. I can see one or two of each card being graded for preservation sake, but not for collecting.


capewood said...

I think, like with other ospects of baseball card collecting, that the graded card has become a glut on the market and as such has lost any intrinsic value it might have had. I could see getting a valuable, rare old card graded, if for nothing ore, the protection value. I just took a quick look on eBay. Right now you can bid on a 1968 graded 8.5 Sandy Valdespino card. 4 bidders have jacked up the price all the way to $6.50. Good old Sandy was a 7-year outfielder or a number of teams with 362 games played and a 0.230 career batting average. Beckett says the undraded card is a common worth $2.50. I don't understand why anyone would grade such a card and why anyone would want to buy it. Doesn't it cost like $10 to get a card graded? How can you turn around and sell if for $6.50?


NMboxer said...

How do people store or display or play with graded cards? The whole thing is incomprehensible. Like we need more plastic in the world.

Anonymous said...

I hate graded cards. I have never owned one or desired one. I almost bought one the other day, a Griffey 1989 UD, but decided against it. Why? Because it was only an 8.5. I would rather have it ungraded than to have it graded so poorly.