The Best Value in Vintage Sports Cards?

October 15th, 2009  |  Published in General Collecting Info

Pictured here are two cards I listed for sale yesterday, both 1968 Topps cards graded PSA 5. Each of them has a tiny hairline crease that I had to use a magnifying glass to see. If not for the hairline creases, my guess is that PSA would have graded both cards 8 or 9.

To me, graded 5′s like these are the best value in the hobby. Typically, a card graded Excellent has a problem that you can see from a few feet away: worn corners, serious printing problems, horrid centering, obvious surface wear. Cards like the ones pictured, though, look perfect until you tilt them in the light and perhaps use magnification. And, being 5′s, they sell for a small fraction of what an 8 or a 9 would sell for.

I’m not sure where the hobby’s aversion to creases came from, but even the faintest half-inch crease on the back of a card is a killer for a card’s grade. Have collectors always downgraded cards so harshly for the faintest of creases, and the grading companies just incorporated that harshness into their standards? Or was it the grading companies who decided that any crease, no matter how faint, is devastating to a card’s value, and collectors just accepted that?

As I wrote in G is for Grading, your personal tastes can differ from the grading companies’ standards. When they do differ, it can present opportunities for bargains on cards that you find perfectly attractive. To me, the biggest bargains are cards with tiny, faint creases–especially on the back. On some cards, such as the old Bowmans, it’s actually sometimes hard to distinguish light creases from lines that occur naturally in the paper.

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