Why is PSA the best?

just to clear the air straight off the bat – obviously it can be said that we have an ‘agenda’ and a bias when discussing PSA

While that is true, we also want to point out that a lot of this information is what helped us decide the direction we chose, when starting our own grading company, this is not a PSA slander/smear piece, we just want to ask questions and hopefully start a conversation.

Now that is out of the way…

“PSA is king!”

Thomas George Broomhall, ACE GRADING

This is what everybody hears, from long time collectors to those that have only just started their collecting journey. It is a phrase that is recited, regurgitated, and reused so much, that I am not sure we actually know what it means.

Credit where credit is due, PSA have changed the collecting scene on a global scale. Period.

However, the discussion I hope to create is -how have they changed the collecting scene? and has it been for better, or for worse?

Let’s try and answer some of the obvious points as to why this is the general consensus;

  • They are one of the longest running card grading/authentication services
  • They have an extremely large catalogue of graded cards (37,626,331 to date, excluding pins, coins, tickets and more!)
  • Their grades hold the highest value

Well, case closed! by that logic, we at Pocket Card Grading and all other grading companies should just hang up our hats, right? at face value, yes these are golden examples of why we have put our trust in PSA, but for the sake of discussion and debate – allow me to play devil’s advocate.

31 Long Years

PSA was founded in 1991, it is safe to say that within that time there have been changes in leadership & company direction, what started as a ‘professional sports authenticator’ now covers a wide range of collectibles from TCG’s, sealed products and even Funko Pop figures!

Is this because their love of sports cards has grown over time to include all these other wonderful collectables? of course not, it makes great sense from a business standpoint to expand your catalogue like that, but taking on more and more collectibles that aren’t your forté, can open you up to risks.

PSA card Grading Hero or Villain

I can’t stress enough that this is not a nasty critique of PSA, and that this is arguably ‘old news’ but is also widely not known in the community.

On July 18th 2019, The Washington Post released an article announcing that PSA was under investigation by the FBI, as a brief summary;

A man by the name of Gary Moser, had been purchasing low graded sports cards from the PWCC auction house, cracking open the slabs and ‘doctoring’ the cards (by ways of trimming, chemically brightening and even repairing pin holes!) These fixed cards then make their way back to PSA, where they all scored higher grades, increasing their value potentially upwards of $10,000.

Some may argue that cleaning/repairing cards is all in the name of conservation, however it is clearly outlined in the first step of PSA’s 3 step process (Authentication, Grading, Encapsulation) that they look for “evidence of doctoring, such as re-colouring or trimming”.

I’m not going to pretend that I could spot these issues in extremely vintage sports cards (mainly because I don’t collect them) but as the world leading company in ‘authentication’, shouldn’t they be held to the very standard that they set?

I strongly recommend reading the original article, and watching this video for examples of the altered cards, as it is very interesting to see such impressive restoration on vintage cards.

Jack Of All Grades

Graded Gem released a video discussing potential UK grading companies, in which they outlined that – to be successful, you need to be transparent and have years of expertise with what you are grading.

We completely agree with this sentiment (this is why we are taking so long before accepting Dragon Ball Super cards!)

The irony is that PSA announced in 2021 that they had just hit the 1000 employee mark, do we as submitters get some form of confirmation that our cards were graded by enthusiasts of the specific TCG that we sent in? or that they have ‘X’ years of experience?

More power to PSA for being able to expand as a business and offer more careers to many people, however I do believe that the larger a company gets (that specialises in a given field), the more diluted and inconsistent the overall quality gets.

Quality should always come before quantity – especially if the task in question, is determining somethings overall condition/value.

There rumours floating about the UK grading scene (we can neither confirm or deny these) that PSA have been in contact with Majesty Grading & Pokégrade to possibly help with their submissions.

If this is the case (only an official statement will tell) then wouldn’t that defeat the point of sending the cards to PSA for their gold standard of grading, if it can’t be outsourced and replicated elsewhere?

PSA Are Only Human Too

We had the privilege of talking with a member of Rattle Pokemon’s discord, who was at the unfortunate end of a slight PSA blunder, this is his story

The card was bought raw from crunchy cards in December for $3800. The buyer was here in UK.

The buyer sent it to PSA, who authenticated it, and graded it a 4.

I wasn’t really in the market for a 1st ed at the time, but he listed it at a good price, and the card looked clean AF for a PSA 4 (sometimes PSA are overly harsh on surface damage right?). So we agreed a price and I bought it.

The card had a tiny tiny faint crease on the rear, so I spent a few days considering options, and decided to resubmit the card to CGC who are a bit more lenient on surface damage.

So trusting PSA’s authentication, I cracked it and sent it off. But CGC rejected it due to the fake stamp.

At the same time, rattle posts his part 2 vid documenting crunchy cards as the scammer, and I find out this card was bought from same seller.

I had bought it privately from the buyer so he had no obligation to do anything. Although I was still in contact with him so I alerted him to what had happened.

90% of the cards value is wiped, being a regular shadowless and not 1st edition.

PSA offer a guaranteed value buy back policy if they miss grade a card. So I contacted them. Typically the card must still be in the slab. But I argued that the only issue with the card was the fake 1st ed stamp, and with the help of the hi res scans of the card on their website, we can prove that issue was already present at time of grading, and we can prove we still have the same card they falsely graded.

But PSA refused to help. I spoke to their product integrity manager and customer relations manager on a conference call. And I also had email communications with Kevin Lenane (PSA President) and Nat turner (collectors universe CEO, who own PSA)

I’ve exchanged msg’s with rattle about this, and given him all the evidence, so he can add it to his case

I then reached out to eBay – as I figured if the original buyer can claim a cancellation/refund on his purchase from December, he can then in turn reimburse me, and eBay are aware of the wider scam from crunchycards so I figure it wouldn’t be a surprise to them.

But ebays return/cancellation/refund policy is only 30 days. And we’re just at 6 months now.

But eBay did say if he paid via PayPal, PayPal policy offers protection for 6 months.

So I got back in contact with the buyer that sold me the card, and he’s helping out. He’s raised a dispute with PayPal and given them all the info.

So fingers crossed to see how that plays out. It’s prob my only option of getting the money back

  • fake 1st edition charizard graded by psa
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  • Pokemon Charizard un graded
  • Fake 1st Edition Charizard not graded by CGC from PSA
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  • CGC Label
  • Fake 1st Edition Charizard from PSA to CGC
  • Fake 1st Edition Charizard Stamp

Now obviously it’s easy for me to sit in my chair and say ‘look, they aren’t perfect!’ but being realistic, innovative methods of faking cards are improving each day, this method of taking a genuine shadowless base set card and thermal printing the 1st edition stamp is really quite clever, and I wouldn’t have thought to look at them so cautiously, if it wasn’t for Rattle Pokemon’s fantastic videos on the subject.

It would make sense for a criminal to target PSA when attempting to sell fake or tampered cards (as we’ve mentioned, they carry the highest price tag) fortunately for us, we have followed the story of these stamps since we opened, and are 100% confident in the ones that have passed through our hands, we also hope for the sake of our brethren UK graders (and their customers!) that they have kept on top of this also.

Being that the PSA serial number is quite a recent one, this could be held as ‘exhibit A’ in why expansion of such a great scale, or ‘biting off more than you can chew’, isn’t always a great decision in the long term for ones reputation.

Money Talks – The PSA Premium

Ah yes, Money! the best and worst part about being a collector.

Common phrases such as ‘PSA 10’s are quite lenient’ or ‘PSA don’t score as tough as Beckett’ are often used in collectors circles, so the question that always comes to mind when I hear these, is – Why does PSA 10 carry such a high price tag, when we arguably know that it is a relatively easier goal to hit, than with other companies?

Circling back to our points at the beginning, I would expect answers such as ‘they’ve been going the longest’ or ‘they’ve graded the most’

But as we have just mentioned, these aren’t always good points!

To round up this rambling of madman, I leave you with these questions – Is it just a ‘herd mentality’ in which we agree with another collector who has had more experience then us? the Dunning Kruger effect possibly?

And ultimately – ‘Why is PSA the best?’

I would love to hear everyone’s answer, there is no right or wrong, so please leave a comment, or join our discussion in our discord server.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. sonic670

    PSA are anything but the best grading company. They are the apple of the grading world, have most value and hold Value only because of their name. PSA grading standards last couple years is horrendous, so inconsistent and in a quite obvious way giving cards that clearly are no higher than a 7 a grade 10 and vice versa

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