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Breaking News — The Current State of Trading Card Game Grading

Breaking News — The Current State of Trading Card Game Grading

Hey everyone! Hope you all are doing well. There has obviously been a ton happening in the Pokemon world over the past year or so and it seems that is not going to change any time soon! The hype is still very real and that can be seen in the current state of the grading companies. Grading interest and participation is at an all time high, which has led to some changes within the companies. I do not want to spoil anything, so I will leave the specifics of that for later in the article.

All that you need to know is that this article is going to cover everything you need to know about the current state of the grading world and include a look at the three major grading companies!

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Overview

So, as you now already know, there have been some serious changes and occurrences that really effect the world of grading in several ways. Not only am I going to cover the three main companies and what their current state is, I will also talk about how grading is affected and what I think might happen moving forward. Before reading the rest of this article, if you have any questions about what the differences are between these three companies or any other grading thoughts, I encourage you to check out my very thorough grading guide where I cover all that and more! A lot has changed since then, though, but I do believe the general structure for each company remains true. Plus, you will hear about everything new in this one!

Time to really get started.

Grading Pokemon Cards

When it comes to Pokemon, PSA was indisputably the most popular grading company for many years. While Beckett existed, it was not used for nearly as many cards as PSA, which lead to PSA just taking over the hobby. When CGC got into grading Pokemon cards, it certainly started stealing some of that market share. A lot of people decided to make the switch due to pricing and turnaround times, as they were far superior in both aspects. I would not blame PSA for that, nor would I really credit CGC for that a whole lot either. The fact of the matter is that CGC is now in a very similar situation to what PSA was in very recently. Beckett is sort of just chilling still, as why I am sure they are having issues, they are just not a main competitor in the Pokemon world now, but I do have more to say about them later.

PSA

I have good things and bad things to say about PSA’s current situation.

The bad news is they are closed. They are still offering high tier submission levels that cost hundreds of dollars and are meant for very valuable cards, but they are basically closed. They are closed until July because they were very backlogged and wanted to get caught up, which is a move I respect a lot. I know some people did not agree with it, but it is a great way to provide a better service for the people already supporting you and prepare to provide a good service in the future. In fact, since they have closed, multiple of my submissions from last summer have made their way back to me!

On top of that, PSA also purchased Genamint, a software company that should provide a better grading assessment and potentially speed up the grading process, both of which would be huge wins for PSA. Additionally, they were also recently purchased by Nat Turner. I say recently, but the deal was done a while ago at this point, but it was done in a time where I do not think anything he could have done would have changed the current outcome of the company. I am a strong believer in what he will do moving forward, though, and that can already be seen with the decisions to close the company and purchase Genamint. Big fan of both of those moves and we will see how things are looking in July.

CGC

Unlike PSA, I have mostly bad things to say about CGC’s current situation, but you will come to learn that does not necessarily mean I don’t believe in them getting everything together.

The good news is that they are not closed like PSA is and that they have been hiring employees out the wazoo, along with purchasing more space to work with. This is come great stuff, which is why I believe in them getting things together! I am confident they will eventually get turnaround times down at the very least, though I am not sure on the timeline for that, which is why I said I didn’t like their current situation. To me, they are basically following in PSA’s footsteps. They were getting unprecedented volume, turnaround times and prices increased multiple times because that is just what happens when business is booming, and you need a way to balance things out. Just like with PSA, I do not blame them for that as much as it sucks for the consumers.

CGC SUBMISSIONS - Jetpack Comics & Games

To this day they continue to get a ton of volume as the orders I submitted in April have still not been checked in yet and it shows no signs of stopping. It would not surprise me if pricing or turnaround times increase again. Nor would it really surprise me if they announced a decrease in turnaround times in the coming months. I will say, though, that I do not have any sort of insider information on the exact numbers and such, which means they could be getting less submissions and making progress on getting caught up. I did just have one of my bulk orders from January 4th get scheduled for grading, which is always awesome to see! Before moving on, I just want to make it clear that I am a big fan of PSA and CGC. Additionally, I do not have much of any feelings towards BGS because I have barely graded anything with them. While I may critique things, they do or talk about how they could improve, that is strictly me analyzing the situation.

BGS

The reality is that BGS just does not have much going on with it now when it comes to Pokemon. It is certainly an option that I would not blame anyone for using, I have a small order with them myself now. As I talked about in previous articles, BGS does grade a wider variety of cards than the other companies, which leads to them seeing some business off that. My order with them is non-English Pokemon cards that the other companies do not grade, which left me with BGS as the only option.

As for pricing and turnaround times, they are comparable to the other companies from what I hear. My order with them was shipped out a couple months ago and unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way for me to even know what the state of it is. There is no grading portal like there is with the other companies, which is certainly a negative.

Beckett Grading Service Review and Price Guide - BargainBunch

BGS ultimately just seems to be making very little changes to their methods and operations, which seems to be working well for them as they are a dominant force in MTG and sports cards. They just aren’t popular in Pokemon, so I do not have nearly as much to say about them. However, I could see them gaining market share if the other companies continue to raise turnaround times and prices, especially if BGS found a way to decrease theirs or appeal to the Pokemon world more.

What To Do About It

No matter how wrong you think a company might be for shutting down or raising its prices, the fact of the matter is that these things needed to happen. The delays were absurd and not good for anyone involved. While it is obviously disappointing, there is not much an individual can do about it, so everyone just needs to adjust appropriately.

I think the biggest thing everyone should do is really think about what cards they are grading. If you are grading for your personal collection this applies to you in a lesser manner. At the end of the day, you would only be grading cards you want to collect anyways, which means the pricing and whatnot mean less as well. However, if you’re like me and grade cards as a way of increasing their value before selling them, you need to be careful. The cost of even bulk submissions right now is truly quite expensive when you think about it. Paying $20 a card is double what you used to pay, which may mean that lower valued cards should be sold as is. The “junk slab” era was starting to come about, as people were grading pretty much everything and anything. This only made sense, though, as you would profit on pretty much every card you graded. Sure, it might take some time to sell everything, but you would recoup your capital long before than and then slowly realize additional profits as each card sells.

Additionally, now that turnaround times and prices for the lower tiers have increased, the higher tiers should be considered by many customers as well. Instead of submitting additional cards that you might not care about as much to reach the bulk minimum, you could use that extra money to get the cards you do care about back faster. While this is not always the correct move, it should be considered, and I have sent in some higher tier submissions myself recently.

The Future

This section is going to be divided into a few sub-sections, as I have a couple different areas to cover and think it would be best to focus my thoughts on each one.

Prices

I will start with the bad news.

Prices are going to be much harder to lower than turnaround times because let’s face it, companies are in this for the money. Basically, the only way I see companies lowering prices is if they think they are losing money by having them so high. This would happen by people losing interest in submitting due to the higher prices or submitting elsewhere at a lower rate. Speaking of that, competition is another way this could happen as well. When CGC first came onto the scene they made sure they were the cheapest on the market, which got them a ton of attention and off to a great start. However, you don’t see PSA or BGS trying to compete for market share by lowering their prices because they get enough business regardless! All therefore I think the prices may not ever be lowered to what we consider normal, but I could be wrong, and I hope I am. I just don’t want anyone getting their hopes up.

Turnaround Times

I have great news for this section, though!

The good news is that unlike prices, it is in the company’s best interest to get these as low as possible. That is because it makes their service more attractive, which means they will make more money. This is because turnaround times are a big part of what people think about when they are deciding if, when, and where to grade. Having a lower turnaround time means you will likely get more cards and churn through them in a faster rate, which is good for everyone involved.

Am I confident that turnaround times will improve, though? Yes, I am. Not only is the company going to be motivated to assist with this, but the price increases will also deter people from submitting a lot of cards. The less they must grade, the faster they will get through what they have. Additionally, each company is making moves that should help with this already. PSA purchased more space and Genamint, along with remaining closed until July. CGC purchased more space as well and is hiring a ton of employees. All of this should allow them to get through the orders they have faster, which is what we need to happen for turnaround times to ever decrease. Despite this, I have no timetable on when this might happen, but I am confident it one day will.

Which Company Reigns Supreme?

This is a tough question to answer and while it may sound like a cop out, I think there is no clear winner between PSA and CGC. I will say that I would be surprised if BGS ended up being the top dog strictly because of how they are positioned in the grading world and their current Pokemon fan base quantity. With that being said, I really think prices and turnaround times make the decision for a lot of people. The quality of the service matters, but at the end of the day, I feel like most people are not constantly submitting cards and would likely just go for the best ratio of speed to cost. That only makes sense, right?

As for myself, I grade a ton of cards. While I do think CGC was more accurate prior to PSA’s shutdown and acquisition of Genamint, I do not think it was by as much as people tend to express. The reason I made the switch and stuck with it is because CGC was offering cheaper prices, which I cashed in on quite a bit. Additionally, the turnaround times were advertised as being substantially lower, which was partially true, and I did get to benefit from that on my first two bulk orders and a couple higher tiered ones. I am telling you all of this because it should show how I made my decision, which was ratio of cost to turnaround time, and I think most people will be on the same wave as me. PSA is closed for now, so CGC will be my company of choice for the time being and I will just have to see where the future takes me.

That is all for today, everyone, I hope you all enjoyed it. Grading cards is a huge part of my life, so I will absolutely be writing another article like this one in the future! I expect it to be in July once PSA is open again, as I feel that would be a good point to evaluate everything again. As for other future articles, I will be back next week, likely with a review of some of the newer Pokemon releases, possibly a preview of Chilling Reign and what’s going on with that. I am clearly not set on an exact topic, so if you have any suggestions feel free to comment down below. I will see you all next week!

Peace.

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