The Importance Behind Third-Party Authentication and Grading

 

Larry Legend’s signed card is in the author’s private collection.

One of the toughest decisions any collector faces is when to part ways with all or some of his collection. It’s often based on finances – or lack thereof – and brings with it an emotional toll. It could also be a move that’s made to trade up, if you will, with the hope of landing another item that means just as much to the collector, if not more. Personally, I’ve acquired hundreds of autographs during my three decades in the hobby, many of them in person as I’ve watched players jot down their signatures, sometimes even adding inscriptions. These moments are etched forever in my mind although few, if any, were actually caught on camera.

Okay, what I haven’t always done is get my items authenticated after the fact because…well, heck…I watched the cards or the photos or the baseballs get signed! But realizing my nearly 14-year-old daughter Dylan appears more interested in fashion and social media than she is in her dad’s sports memorabilia collection, I’ve decided it’s important to get third-party authentication behind the items. I certainly will gift the keepsakes to Dyl but knowing she has the proper authentication and/or grading behind the collectibles will make me feel better. By furnishing her with proper contact info to a couple of reputable auction houses, she will be all set when the day arrives she decides to sell.

Toward that end, I thought it would be appropriate to write a blog entry about this eventuality and gather some keen insight from a couple of hobby insiders as to how they feel about third-party authentication and/or grading. PSA first introduced card grading to the marketplace in 1991, while its autograph authentication division (PSA/DNA) kicked into gear seven years later. Today they have collectively certified more than 35 million collectibles with a combined value of more than a billion dollars. It’s a staggering figure, but in today’s hobby climate – where forgeries and duplicates still exist – it’s a necessity when it comes to selling your wares.

This 1933 Sport Kings Ruth-signed card sold for $148,973.

“The services offered by PSA and PSA/DNA allow everyone to ‘speak the same language,’ which makes the sale of items quick and easy,” said Brian Dwyer, president of Robert Edward Auctions. “We often consult with non-collectors who are unaware of just how important grading and authentication is for the success of their items at auction.

“We communicate to them that the investment is wise and worthwhile since we consistently notice a premium attached to items that are authenticated by PSA or PSA/DNA. For us, as well as our clients on both sides of the equation, utilizing PSA’s services is an important step in the process.”

Auction house presidents should know. Nowadays, they really wouldn’t have it any other way. The peace of mind third-party authentication provides for the buyer really can’t be emphasized enough. People want to know that what they are buying is the genuine article. Just listen to Mile High Card Company President Brian Drent.

“PSA and PSA/DNA are essential to our market,” said Drent. “Our recent find [and subsequent sales] of exceptionally high grade Babe Ruth autographed cards would never have realized their world record prices had they not been authenticated by PSA/DNA. In fact, they would have been met with complete skepticism.”

For the record, Drent sold all four 1933 Ruth-signed cards during the past four months for a combined $563,973.

“Do yourself a favor and use PSA and PSA/DNA,” he added. “It’s really the only way.”

Posted by Terry Melia

Terry Melia is a hobby veteran who has served in various PR and marketing roles for industry movers and shakers including The Upper Deck Company and SCP Auctions and is currently working as PSA's Public Relations Specialist.

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