June 24, 2010

Arguing for and against the Strasburg BGS grade

Yesterday, most of the talk surrounded the grade the 2010 Bowman Stephen Strasburg superfractor received from Beckett Grading Services. I wanted to wait a day to write about it simply because I needed time to let it fester. Knee-jerk reactions just aren’t my thing because I usually ended saying something stupid.

Here's a scan of the card that was posted by the person who originally pulled the card.

Instead of offering an opinion, let’s look at both sides of the argument.

Here are the guidelines as written on Beckett’s website:

Gem Mint 9.5
Centering: 50/50 one way, 55/45 the other on front. 65/35 or better on back
Corners: Mint to the naked eye, but slight imperfections allowed under magnification.
Edges: Virtually Mint to the naked eye. A speck of wear is allowed under intense scrutiny.
Surface: A few extremely minor print spots, detectable only under intense scrutiny. Deep color, devoid of registration or focus imperfections. Perfect gloss, devoid of scratches and metallic print lines

Mint 9
Centering: 55/45 both ways on front. 70/30 or better on back.
Corners: Mint upon close inspection. A speck of wear is allowed under intense scrutiny.
Edges: Virtually Mint to the naked eye. Unobtrusive specks of chipping on the borders are allowed.
Surface: A handful of printing specks or one minor spot. Very minor focus or color imperfections. Clean gloss with one or two tiny scratches barely noticeable to the naked eye. One faint, unobtrusive metallic print line is allowed.

Argument for the grade: Yesterday, Beckett posted on their blog an interview with director of BGS Mark Anderson and senior grader David Poole.

“The weakest grade is the 9 centering,” Poole said. “It’s off left to right, just within our guidelines of being 9 guidelines. Back off as well.”

He also said the corners have some problems on the back, but not anything to keep it from a 9.5 corner. In addition, he said: “the edge has some roughness going on, but still within the 9.5 guideline range.”

Regarding the surface, Poole said there were some indentations on the back, but hard to see.

Argument against the grade: Reading the blogs and forums, there are a lot (if not most) of the people arguing against the grade. The centering might fall within BGS’s guidelines, especially since the back is probably within the 70/30 guideline. The front is too difficult to tell in a scan, but 55/45 might be generous.

The biggest issue with the grading is the edges. According to Beckett’s guidelines, edges are to be virtually mint to the naked eye. Based on the scan of the card, you can see fraying without the help of magnifying glass or microscope or whatever fancy tools are used.

Unfortunately, just based on scans it’s too difficult to tell about surface and corners.

The person who originally pulled the card even said on Freedom Cardboard’s forum: “I had to say wow when I saw this story. I personally held it and I thought for sure no chance at 9.5 … more like 8.5 the edge is rough real rough … it’s not 1979/80 opc with wire cuts so I dunno what BGS is thinking.”

Conclusion: Regardless if the card deserved the grade, perception is reality in this world. Too many collectors that are on the social media sites do not agree with the grade. Some have said they will no longer use BGS while I am sure there are many people who continue to grade their cards.

There is a conflict of interest here, but the same thing can be said for anyone even though spouting against the grade. How many blogs out there get free or sponsored boxes from card companies? How many blogs use advertising on their site? With media companies such as newspaper and magazines, they are still in the business of making money. If they didn’t make money, many people wouldn’t have jobs. But there is a fine line for everyone here.


  1. I'm always amused at how quickly people forget that tradings cards, the grading companies, the pricing companies, etc, are all BUSINESSES that NEED TO MAKE MONEY.

    Of course there are conflicts of interest. The only way to do it fairly would be through a free service run by someone who knows little about sports. If BGS gave the card, say, a 7, they'd be accosted.

    I'm not saying that I have zero issues with this particular grade, but I can understand where BGS is coming from.

  2. Without measuring, I'd guess the back is 20/80. The front is more like 66/34. With the frayed edges and soft corners that are easily visible in the scan, I'd say the grade is highly suspect.

    This is far from the first time that the industry has been called into question, but this is high profile enough that it could be the beginning of the end. It'll be interesting to see how graded cards sell in the months to come.

  3. I have a BGS 9.5 David Price I bought from ebay. The moment I pulled it out I noticed that one of the edges looked like it was cut with a rusty knife. That was the last graded card I bought as I can get ungraded cards in that kind of condition A LOT cheaper.

  4. I should note that I think the entire grading process is silly and I've never even considered it, so perhaps that's where my indifference comes from.

  5. It is great Topps can create a 1/1 card and it is slightly off center

  6. Two things: First, I despise grading to the point that I have purchased and busted open graded cards (documented on my blog in some cases). Second, my word verification is "brands." I thought that VERY apropo to the discussion. :-)

  7. Beckett Grading should not be used because of the conflict of interest. They set prices. We are expected to let them set the market price then grade the cards. Let a company PSA grade it that has no interest in the pricing of the card. I've always preferred PSA. Now, that I have found out that Beckett stocks my local Wal-Mart baseball card shelf, it is no wonder I could never find a blaster box of Bowman at Wal-Mart. Just on Ebay for 3x the normal price. Beckett should be only price not grading. Those of you that can remember what we used before Beckett, CCP and remember what was there downfall. They bottomed the price of 89 Upper Deck. Then everyone started using Beckett. I maybe preaching to the convert here and if I am, Great! If not, please feel free to contact me I would love to discuss what I have been hearing from people at shows and even at flea markets. PSA should have graded the Strasburg and any further ones that come out. I leave near Chattanooga and he is pitching in ATL tomorrow. My cousin's family is going and a good friend of mind is going....Me I can't find a ride. I'd buy the $4 ticket. I just don't have a ride. story of 1/3 of my life.