Collecting Graded Football Cards Offers Collector Peace

Collectors are all bonded by the same ‘rush’ of the hunt for treasure, or a great hunch validated.  The rush of opening a new pack and finding that one unexpected gem, or making a big deal that turns out in your favor over time.  So when graded cards became the norm back in the 90's, the traditional collectors (especially vintage specialists) understandably had some reticence: 'Send my valuable cards away for someone else to evaluate?'

Vintage collectors have profited nicely from the graded market, for example this 1948 Leaf Roy 'Rebel' Steiner selling for $19,159 in 2009

But while sending your cards away used to seem painful (I likened the process to turning in a term paper and awaiting the teachers red marks)... in actuality the process adds another rush to the card-lovers life.  Once you've opened the packs, you get a second chance at the same rush once the graded version comes back with news on the condition, whether it be a new card or a vintage staple!

The graded market provides a great dimension for vintage cards, and has opened up the collecting world to more casual collectors over the last 15 years.  Getting a vintage card returned in a high grade doubles the rush of the unique find in a new pack!

On the business side, grading takes SOME of the ambiguity out of the buying and selling process, especially since so many deals are conducted online.  A uniform system, albeit not perfect, also allows dealers to comfortably invest in a deal and know they won’t have to take a major loss due to a counterfeit or shady customer most of the time.

As mentioned in our investment article, PSA, Beckett Grading and SGC are the most trustworthy options when purchasing on the graded market.  While some higher graded cards come with a premium price tag, you have to factor in the cost to have the card graded, and the number of cards available with the condition of the card you are purchasing.

For example, consider the 1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw Rookie Card.  Without a doubt the 4-time Super Bowl winner would garner many a collector.  There have been 1,888 total submissions of the Bradshaw RC card to PSA.   While 384 of them came back as pure NM-MT 8 a mere 18 of them have been graded a MINT 9, with only 3 having been granted the holy grail GM MINT 10.  That’s not a typo, only three!

So while PSA has a pricing guide that list the NM-MT 8 at $425 and the MINT 9 around the $4,800 range, the PSA 10 doesn’t even have a price in their guide.  As with every publication in the card market, including Beckett, the guides are just that- -a  guide.  While they may be followed exactly for recent cards at times, the vintage and graded markets dictate the prices just as much as any guide could.

PSA notes that a PSA Gem Mint 10 Bradshaw rookie sold for $18,233 in 2006 and a PSA Mint 9 Bradshaw rookie sold for $6,485 in 2009.  A PSA NM-MT 8 #156 Bradshaw sold for $907 in 2012.  As you can see the market prices are quite different from their listed prices above, and that makes sense since only 3 PSA 10's are in existence.  Don't forget that Steeler fans are insanely passionate, a factor than cannot go unnoticed.

While the Bradshaw RC is just a microcosm example of the graded world, there are countless other examples that lead you down the road of investing in graded cards, for a multitude of reasons.  Trust, uniformity, and accuracy are a few of the key words for supporters.

Even newer issues are valued much higher when it comes to the graded market, but you still have to be savvy.  As we all know, just because a card comes fresh out a new pack, doesn't mean that it is going to be in GM MT 10 condition!  SP Authentic has been proving this over the last 15 years pretty consistently.  But, while last year Cam Newton stormed onto the scene with values that skyrocketed beyond belief (his '11 Topps Chrome 1/1 Superfractor Autographed rookie card was listed with a starting price of $12,000 upon release), there are 172 PSA 10's of his 2011 SP Authentic.  These can be had for as little as $15 now, after demanding a higher premium last year.  Of course, this is not his best card by any means, it just shows how fickle things can be when supply is so prevalent, from set to set and year to year.

Newton's regular issue might be abundantly available, but this Gold Auto edition is the only 1 of it's kind listed by PSA in GM MT. Of course, it comes with a $3,500 price tag on ebay in January of '13
'58 Topps Jurgensen RC is listed at auction for $3,000
Notice the OC qualifier drops the value on this one at auction down to $550

The printing presses are still not perfect by any means, so qualifiers exist to account for a card in nearly great condition minus one rare flaw.

The details for PSA's qualifiers, with O/C being the most common.   The centering of any card can drastically impact the value.  The side-by-side comparison of Sonny Jurgensen's 1958 Topps is a great example. A qualifier generally knocks a card's overall grade and value down about two points.  In other words, a 9 o/c is worth about what a 7 would sell for.

In summation, your investments will be easier to re-sell or trade even if the player's value drops, if the card is graded.  By no means do graded football cards guarantee stability.  All cards are subject to market fluctuations or player performances, but the graded world can provide you some security when it comes to moving the products over time.  And if you buy a few or even a bulk lot of vintage cards, you can send them off for grading and get that same rush as opening a new pack all over again.

Click here to see vintage, PSA-graded football cards on eBay.

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