Where are all of the high grade vintage sports cards coming from?
About 18 years ago, I worked at a TV station where our female news anchor was reading a story about a man surviving a horrible auto accident. Our anchor was a great lady. Spunky, smart and very salt-of-the-earth. She was reading the script and in a momentary lapse into everyday conversation she blurted out "police say they don’t know how in the hell the man survived". The "in the hell" part is what she would have said if the camera wasn’t on, of course. It just sort of ‘came out’.
I thought of that blooper as I was paging through another auction catalog that arrived recently. It was, like many, full of high grade vintage baseball cards. I don’t mean nice cards. I mean mint beyond mint. The kind of cards that make you say ‘how in the hell did they survive?’ Trouble is, I’m not sure I know the answer.
Are there legitimate PSA 9 1953 Topps cards out there? Sure. I’ve actually owned a couple of 8s. Are there SGC 96 T206 cards? I suppose so. Taken from a pack. Stuck some place where they sat, flat, for many years then entered the ultra-protective collectors market. But it doesn’t take a lot of research to see that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of pre-1960 sports cards that are as fresh as the day they came out of the pack. Maybe better.
Art gets restored all the time. It’s not a problem as long as the restoration is divulged. I have nothing against restored cards–as long as the buyer knows what he’s getting. There was a seller on eBay last week with some beauties. Mantle, Mays, Yaz rookie. No matter if you think it’s wrong or not, at least he did admit that they were restored. And bidders didn’t seem to mind that much.
It’s when cards wind up being graded –with no mention of restoration–that the whole thing gets slimy. Again, bidders don’t seem to care. You can’t tell me that every one of the high grade rookie cards that sells for tens of thousands of dollars has never seen the tools of the card doctor. There are way too many of them out there. They do look nice. I can’t even say I’d never buy one. But the one thing this hobby needs now more than anything is transparency. The grading companies need to do a better job of finding restored cards and either labeling them as such or refusing to grade them. The companies and dealers that buy cards and hire someone to restore them need to stop it or sell them raw as ‘restored’ (buyers don’t seem to care, remember?). The card doctors–and I’m sure there are paper restoration businesses out there who do this on a regular basis–need to demand their work be noted by their clients.
There are way too many people who aren’t hip to what’s going on paying big money for cardboard disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.