How big is the backlog of cards at Beckett Grading?
“If no more cards come in today to be graded, we have enough grading work for next year,” Jeromy Murray told shop owners and other industry pros on Wednesday morning.
It’s honest assessment of a problem that’s been a sharp corner in the backside of collectors and dealers for more than a year. As demand and prices for trading cards grew, so did the demand for grading, which often turned a $5 raw card into a $100 card, no matter the sport. Eventually both PSA and Beckett had to tell customers the party was, at least temporarily, over. Both companies shut down all but their highest levels of service earlier this year and they remain so.
Some graders are working 50+ hours per week and the work doesn’t stop on weekends.
“We shut down our services a month before the National to make up some ground. We made up two or three months just by being down a month,” Murray told SC Daily after the company’s presentation in Las Vegas.
Progress on the mountain of cards still waiting to be graded continues, but there’s still a long way to go. In the meantime, the company is grading only at its Premium service levels ($125 and $250 per card).
“It’d be crazy to say ‘this is great. We made up two or three months,’” Murray said. “We’re still sixteen months behind on some of our slow orders and that’s not what we want. Our customer service and sales guys are taking a real beating and we’re trying to do everything we can to help customers out, especially in a market that’s hot (and people) want to get their stuff sold so we have to continue to do better.”
Like PSA, Murray says Beckett has tried to streamline operations, devoting more space, adding more equipment while hiring and training more graders, but there’s no easy fix.
“Grading is still going to be one of those processes that’s tedious,” Murray admitted. “It’s a manual process. You can’t just tell somebody to work more, work harder, over and over. They’re already doing that. If I had to grade cards, I’d be angry, grouchy and upset within 15 minutes. These guys are amazing at what they do.”
Grading never stops with some workers putting in more than 50 hours per week at a job that will test one’s concentration and focus.
“There’s constantly someone in the office working on this backlog because we don’t want your stuff in our building. It is better to get it back in your hands to be sold, traded or whatever,” Murray stated. “Especially shops who have submitted things from their customers. They’ve got angry customers, which then impacts us so we don’t want to do that.”
Murray says Beckett has tried to improve online communication so those customers at least know where their cards are in the grading process.
The progress of the last three months has at least bought some time to assess the chances of a partial reopening.
“Our plan is to open at least one more service in early October. Our next plan that we’ve put on the plate is January 1. We’d like to have some more options for people to submit stuff then.”
It all remains fluid though, especially now.
“What’s going to happen over the winter months? Is there going to be another COVID spike? Are things going to shut down again? We had a plan to bring graders to the card show that was held here just before the Industry Summit but we had an outbreak in the office which shut that down.”
With the realization that the hobby’s boom may not be slowing much, the goal is to scale the business to meet future demand and avoid the current problem from happening again.
“We want to get this fixed now so that in two, three, five years, we can have our turnaround times back down and everyone’s getting their cards back as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re going to shoot for.”