“It was challenging but at the same time exciting in taking the first footsteps in the inaugural journey where no grading company had gone.”
Those were the proud words spoken by PSA Japan Business Director Tony Aram when asked to describe his first year at the helm in Central Tokyo.
Aram, a bilingual financial expert, collector and longtime resident of Japan, spearheaded PSA’s first venture into the Far East and helped cultivate overseas business for the industry’s top third-party authentication and grading company. His year-long journey started with some basic steps that included registering the company, finding an office and adequate storage space, creating a Japanese website, and even designing his own business cards. It also included attending local card shows and debuting a new PSA company booth, answering questions from curious onlookers and, ultimately, earning the trust of Japanese collectors, many of whom weren’t even aware of card authentication, grading and encapsulation.
“The concept of authenticating and grading cards and/or autographs was largely unknown to most Japanese collectors,” said Aram. “Collectors here seem to be very much content with their raw card collections. But as I’ve had the chance to explain what PSA does, collectors started coming around.
“In general, people are reluctant to change or in accepting new ideas. But Japanese collectors are very much like their U.S. counterparts. They enjoy showing off their collections and they’re interested in preserving them. They also hope their collections will increase in value. So, I know it’s just a matter of time before PSA’s brand and services will become must-haves for collectors here in the future.”
Toward that end, after attending numerous card shows and spreading the word about PSA, Aram is proud to report that monthly submissions are on the uptick. In fact, August established another benchmark for the company in card submissions.
“Since November we have seen new records being set almost every other month,” he said. “What’s promising is that I see many first-time submitters who are submitting for a second time. They are also providing images with positive comments on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook when they get their cards back. That all helps PSA’s brand to be recognized in the overseas market.”
While it has certainly been a year of firsts for PSA Japan, one of the proudest moments for Aram came when a Japanese card submission of a 1993 Magic: The Gathering Black Lotus Beta was recognized as PSA’s 33 millionth collectible certified. The card received a grade of PSA Near Mint-Mint 8, which has since generated more than 44,000 views on YouTube.
“I see social media as being one of the keys to our continued growth,” he added.
As for what Year 2 will bring and what Aram can do to build on the momentum that’s already been generated, he doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“I will be focusing on training more and more dealers and shop owners on how to accept submissions from customers at their shops,” he said. “I hope to train them so that they become almost like our sales and marketing force on the ground. Hopefully, that helps cultivate even more collectors in regions outside of Tokyo as well.
“Collectors will find it comforting if they are able to make first-time submissions directly over the counter at their favorite card dealer shops rather than sending them in by mail to PSA Japan’s office only to be forwarded to company headquarters in California for authentication and grading.”
For more information on PSA Japan, please visit www.PSAcard.co.jp.