It was a little controversial at the time. Not everyone thought the hobby needed professional graders when PSA launched its operation 21 years ago. It didn't take long, however, for the concept to stick and on Monday, the sports card grading and authentication pioneer reached a milestone. The company announced Tuesday that it had certified its 20 millionth item.
"We could not have reached this important 20 million milestone without tremendous public support from both buyers and sellers. It shows continued strength and growth of the PSA brand and the importance of third-party certification year-after-year, through good markets and not-so-good markets," said Joe Orlando, President of the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) Certification Services divisions of Collectors Universe, Inc.
"It took some time for the third party concept to finally catch on in the late-1990s but, by that time, enough buyers started to insist that the items they purchased were certified by PSA. Your loyalty is appreciated. It's a very significant milestone and everyone at PSA is proud of it. It's a great way to finish a terrific year," Orlando added.
The 20 millionth certified item is a 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects autographed rookie card of Washington National outfielder Bryce Harper (#BCP111), and it was graded PSA Mint 9. It was submitted by a collector from Daly City, California. PSA is sending him a certified Bryce Harper signed baseball as a gift.
"It's fitting that PSA's 20 millionth collectible is a 2011 Bryce Harper Bowman rookie card," Orlando stated. "In 2012, the sports world witnessed the emergence of several special rookie athletes like Harper, Mike Trout, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. These are the types of athletes that help generate continued interest in collectibles. The next generation of superstar athletes will play a significant role in PSA certifying its next 20 million items by helping cultivate the hobby's next generation of collectors."
After its founding in 1991, it took seven years for PSA to reach the one million milestone but, since 1998, PSA has averaged well over a million submissions annually. The combined total value of the 20 million sports, entertainment and historical collectibles PSA experts now have examined, authenticated and certified is well over $1 billion.
"For the first couple of years we were only grading 200 or 300 cards a month," recalled David Hall, President of Collectors Universe and a Co-Founder of PSA. "But we knew the idea of third-party grading would help the card market. I love sports cards, so we kept going and waited for the idea of third-party certification to catch on. Now, after 20 million cards, autographs and other items, we obviously feel very good about the market we've always loved."
Recently, PSA has expanded its services to help the hobby grow and attract new collectors by providing educational reference information free online for all collectors.
The new PSA Collectible Facts website launched in June 2012 is a continually expanding, free Internet encyclopedia of sports, historical and entertainment collectibles. It now contains extensive information and thousands of images of sports and non-sports cards, autographs and professional model baseball bats. Another new section, PSA TicketFacts, will go online in early 2013 with information and images about collectible tickets such as those from the Super Bowl and World Series.
What's the most interesting item of the 20 million PSA has certified? Orlando says there have been many incredible items that have been submitted over the years, but his personal favorite is a signed, professional model baseball bat that PSA certified in 2003, which sold at a public auction in 2004 for $1,265,000.
"The coolest item for me is the bat Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day in 1923 to beat the Boston Red Sox. It's not the most valuable item in the hobby but, from a historical perspective it's hard to beat the weapon used by the Sultan of Swat to christen a stadium with such a rich history; a stadium that is now gone," he explained. "The story behind that particular bat, its lineage and the importance of that moment all contribute to its appeal. That is a big part of why we all collect, it's the story behind the items."