The Changing Landscape of Sports Card Grading: PSA Reopens Lower Grading Tiers at Higher Costs
The sports card hobby has experienced a surge in popularity, leading to an overwhelming demand for authentication and grading services. One of the industry’s leading graders, Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), was forced to temporarily suspend some of its services in response to a staggering backlog of approximately 12 million cards submitted for grading.
Amid the market boom, PSA found itself grappling with an influx of more than 500,000 cards per week, a tenfold increase compared to previous years. Recognizing the need to adapt, PSA and its parent company, Collectors Holdings, Inc., took measures to expand their operations, including boosting their staff to a total of 1,200 team members and acquiring a 130,000 square-foot facility in New Jersey. Additionally, PSA added Genamint, a software company specializing in trading cards, with the aim of enhancing its operational efficiency.
Reopening of Grading Tiers
PSA has gradually reinstated its lower-cost grading tiers, with the recent reopening of its lowest level known as the “value” tier. However, collectors will now face higher costs for the same services. While the value service previously cost around $10, it has now increased to $30. Moreover, collectors must join the PSA Collectors Club, necessitating an annual membership fee of $99, to access this tier. Alternatively, the cheapest grading option available is the economy tier, priced at $50 per card.
PSA acknowledges that a backlog still exists, and it assures customers that all existing orders will be serviced and shipped before new value orders are processed. PSA President Kevin Lenane expresses gratitude to customers for their patience, emphasizing that the company never anticipated the flood of submissions in the previous year. Lenane acknowledges the focus of the entire team on reaching the present state.
The initial expectation when PSA announced the shutdown in March 2021 was to reopen all grading levels within three months. However, the process took nearly 15 months to navigate successfully.
The Rising Cost of Grading
PSA is not the only grading company to experience changes in pricing. Other major players in the industry, such as Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) and Beckett Grading Services (BGS), have also increased their rates in response to the growing market.
SGC offers grading services starting at $30 ($23 for group submitters), while BGS, which also temporarily suspended some services in 2021, charges $25 for economy grading without sub-grades and $35 with sub-grades.
Nat Turner, CEO of Collectors Holdings, expresses hope that grading services comparable in cost to the previous tiers will be available once again. However, the specific path forward has not been clearly outlined.
The reopening of PSA’s lower grading tiers comes as a relief to collectors who have eagerly awaited this moment. However, the joy is coupled with the realization of increased costs. As the sports card hobby continues to thrive, the industry strives to adapt and meet the escalating demand. Collectors anticipate the availability of more affordable grading options in the future.
1. Will PSA’s decision to increase grading costs affect the overall market for sports cards?
The rise in grading costs may initially dampen the market’s momentum as collectors adjust to higher expenses. However, the long-term impact is uncertain and dependent on factors such as the continued popularity of the hobby and the ability of grading companies to find a balance between meeting demand and maintaining reasonable pricing.
2. How does the reopening of lower grading tiers by PSA impact the resale value of graded cards?
The reopening of lower grading tiers provides collectors with the opportunity to have their cards authenticated and graded at various price points. While the exact impact on resale value may vary, graded cards generally tend to hold higher value compared to ungraded ones, offering collectors a sense of confidence and trust in the authenticity and condition of their cards.
3. Is joining the PSA Collectors Club necessary for collectors seeking the lower-cost value grading service?
Yes, collectors must become members of the PSA Collectors Club to access the value grading service. The annual membership fee of $99 provides additional benefits and opportunities within the PSA community. However, collectors have the option to explore other grading services offered by PSA or alternative grading companies if they prefer not to join the club.
4. How does the backlog affect the turnaround time for receiving graded cards?
The existing backlog may cause delays in the grading and return process for collectors. PSA is diligently working to service and ship existing orders before processing new ones. It is recommended that collectors check PSA’s official updates and communication channels for the most accurate information regarding turnaround times.
5. Can collectors expect any improvements in the grading process following the reopening of lower tiers?
PSA’s efforts to expand its operations and implement software enhancements through its acquisition of Genamint indicate a commitment to enhancing the overall grading process. While improvements may not be immediately apparent, collectors can hope to see refinements in efficiency and accuracy as PSA navigates through the backlog and adjusts to the evolving landscape of sports card collecting.