One semester when I was in college, signs started showing up in almost every classroom, every dining hall, almost every building on campus that simply said, “Do you agree with Adam?” Soon, people started wearing t-shirts with the same question, and later they wore t-shirts that said “I agree with Adam”. Everyone was talking about what the question meant, until a few weeks later when we found out that it was just a campaign by some stupid religious group that was trying to get attention.
Anyway, I thought about the whole “Do you agree with Adam?” thing after reading and watching Gellman’s commentary about Beckett’s latest ridiculous video box break of 2008 Playoff Prime Cuts. Gellman is by far the most vocal critic of Beckett’s unethical business practices of anyone on the internet, but he is definitely not the only person who feels strongly about the mockery that they make of the hobby. Many bloggers have written posts or commented on other people’s posts, and voiced their disapproval of some of the things that Beckett has done. But I still think there are people at Beckett and the card companies, and even some collectors out there, who think that Gellman is the only person (or at least one of a small minority) who disapproves of what Beckett does.
If we want to see positive changes made in the sports card collecting hobby, including a significant reduction in Beckett’s influence on the hobby, then it’s time for collectors everywhere to take action. No, we don’t have to write about Beckett every day. It’s a lot more fun to focus on the many good aspects of collecting. But I have an idea of something that any card blogger can do, or anyone with a web site, or for that matter, anyone who posts on a message board. I’ve created a very simple graphic that I’ve placed on the sidebar of my blog. It simply states, “I agree with Adam. Beckett SUCKS!” I’ve linked the graphic to Sports Cards Uncensored so that anyone who clicks on it will go to Gellman’s blog where they can read a lot more about Beckett’s negative influence on the hobby. If enough people post that graphic on their blog, their site, or their message board signature, people in the hobby will start to realize that there are a lot of people out there, not just Gellman, who don’t approve of what Beckett does.
If you want to post the graphic on your site, here’s the HTML code to use:
<a href="http://www.sportscardsuncensored.com/" target="_blank"><img src="https://fielderschoice.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/beckett_sucks.jpg"></a>
If anyone out there has better skills at making nice-looking graphics than I do, feel free to improve on it.
I also took some action by posting my own YouTube video in response to Gellman’s. I apologize in advance if I rambled on a little; I know that I can be very long-winded sometimes. It was the first time that I ever sat down and just started talking in front of the video camera without having a box to open in front of me.
So the question that I ask to everyone in the sports card blogosphere tonight is, “Do you agree with Adam?” And if you do, what are you going to do about it?
Here is an excerpt from it:
But the best part of it all? You can afford to own his rookie card.
His 1973 Topps card (No. 174), which shows him in the Chicago White Sox’s short-lived red uniforms three years after he was drafted, is worth just $6.
Not bad considering the guy is a nine-time all-star, a dominating closer in his time who is 18th on the career saves list, a guy with 1,502 strikeouts in 1,809 innings who carries a 124-107 record with a 3.01 career ERA.
Wow, that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? $6 for a 35-year old rookie card of a Hall-of-Famer! Well, it would be amazing if it were true. No, I’m not insinuating that Chris is lying. He’s simply relying on the laughably unreliable Beckett value of the card. I pulled out the June/July issue of Beckett Baseball and sure enough, it lists the Gossage rookie as having a “low value” of $2.50 and a “high value” of $6.00. I remember seeing the same values online at the beginning of this year.
I knew right away that this was inaccurate because I have looked for the card on eBay multiple times since the announcement of Gossage’s election to the Hall of Fame in January. I checked again today. The only Gossage rookies that you can find for $6 or less are in terrible condition or are considerably off-centered. Realistically, you can expect to pay at least $12 for an ungraded Gossage rookie in NM condition, $20-$30 for a PSA 7 with no qualifiers, and $35-$40 for a PSA 8 with no qualifiers.
How could Beckett have missed the upward trend in the value of Gossage’s rookie card after his Hall of Fame election? It’s clear that they don’t actually track the selling prices that 99.9999% of the cards that they list, but come on, it’s common sense that the value of someone’s rookie card is going to go up when they make the Hall of Fame. It would have taken five minutes for someone working at Beckett to check eBay and other web sites to notice that the card has been selling for much more than the listed book value and to increase the book value accordingly.
I remember reading Beckett in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the pages of the price guide would be filled with up and down arrows, showing that the value of various cards had increased or decreased in the last month. Currently, Beckett’s baseball price guide is only published once every two months, so you’d think that there would be even more changes in the card values. You’d be wrong. In the June/July issue, page 41 includes every baseball card set between 1972-1981. There isn’t a single up or down arrow on the entire page.
Figuring that the prices of newer cards would be more volatile, I flipped to page 256, which contains the prices for several 2007 Topps sets. There are only two arrows on this page. Beckett says that the value of the 2007 Topps Gold Daisuke Matsuzaka dropped to a low of $8 and a high of $20. Also, the Poley Walnuts card in 2007 Topps Update decreased to a low of $12.50 and a high of $30. Putting aside how ludicrous it is that only two cards on this page had any change in value over a two-month period, I checked eBay. The Dice-K card recently sold for 99 cents (plus $3 shipping). To be fair, the Poley Walnuts card ranged from $16.50 with shipping to about $30.
So all of this is just another example of Beckett’s decreasing relevance to the modern baseball card hobby. If your interest on this subject has been piqued, check out this outstanding post on Sports Cards Uncensored, and my own views on Beckett here.
I really love the sports card blogosphere and I am proud to be a part of it. In addition to my own blog, I love to read many of the other blogs that are out there for some great insight on our hobby. Today was an especially good day in the blogosphere as I uncovered a treasure trove of new posts on other blogs. Two of them made such an impact on me that I want to point them out here.
The first is from Cardboard Mania, which is an outstanding blog that I recently discovered. The writer, Harner, wrote an extremely thought-provoking post entitled Making recycling sense out of the hobby. As you can likely discern from the title, it is about the environmental impact of the sports card hobby. Harner makes some great points about what we can do as collectors to reduce the amount of waste that our collecting generates and also how the card companies can improve their packaging. I believe that this is an essential post for any collector to read, and it is already inspiring me to change my ways by reusing bubble mailers, top loaders, and penny sleeves that I get in the mail.
The second great post is from Sports Cards Uncensored. I’ve expressed my fondness for Sports Card Uncensored before, but I was truly blown away by Gellman’s post today entitled Its A Beckett World, We Just Live In It. If you’ve never read Gellman’s writing, or if you’ve only read a few things from him, I strongly implore you to read this post. It is basically his manifesto against Beckett. He’s made most of the same points before, but in this one post, he summarizes everything about the negative influence that Beckett is having on the hobby. I truly believe that every collector should read it and that every blog should have a permanent link to it. More on that below…
I’d like to add some of my own comments about Beckett to the discussion. I’ll start from the beginning. Beckett was great for the hobby in the 1980s. The publication was started by Dr. James Beckett when public interest in baseball cards started to grow in the late 1970s. In those days, there were very few card dealers in existence and it was difficult for them to communicate about how much money each card and set were selling for. It was pretty much impossible to determine a market value. Dr. Beckett stepped in and began surveying dealers across the country to determine the true market value of cards and sets. He was widely respected for his ethics and integrity, and as a result the Beckett Baseball Card Monthly rightfully became the recognized standard for determining how much cards were worth.
I believe that at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, a seismic change occurred in the hobby. It used to be that the market determined the prices that appeared in Beckett. But when every dealer in the country began to rely on Beckett as the bible of card prices, the prices listed in Beckett became what people perceived to be the market value of cards. It was unquestioned and universally accepted by dealers and collectors alike. Rather than bargaining with customers, dealers would simply open the latest issue of Beckett and use the prices within it to determine exactly how much money to charge for cards. For a while, collectors accepted this. No one doubted the integrity of Beckett. But as time went on, and the prices were no longer based on the economic law of supply and demand, eventually the prices in Beckett no longer reflected reality.
This was a big reason why many people left the hobby. In the early 1990s, most people considered the Beckett value of their cards to be an accurate reflection of what they were actually worth. However, they were in for a rude awakening when they actually tried to sell their cards for the Beckett value. No one wanted to pay Beckett value for cards from the 1980s and 1990s and even the values for pre-1980 cards were somewhat inflated. People felt deceived and lost faith that their cards would ever have any real value, and they left the hobby in droves. This may not have been the only factor in the general decline in interest in the sports card hobby, but I believe that it was a very large factor.
And then came the internet. By the turn of the century, many hobby shops were closing, and many people found a new way to buy cards on the web. The auction site eBay soon became the most popular place to buy cards online. The great thing about eBay is that cards only sold for what people were willing to pay for them, or in other words, what they were truly worth. In addition, collectors could search for eBay auctions that had ended in order to see how much money any particular card had been selling for. It was the first time in many years that people could determine the true market value of their cards. And today, the price that a card is selling for on eBay (and other sites like Naxcom and Sportlots) still gives us the best understanding of the true market value of that card.
It seems that Beckett has remained unaffected by this. Many collectors suspect that the prices listed in Beckett today are more likely to be pulled from the anal cavities of Beckett employees than to be the result of careful consideration of how much money people are actually paying for cards. Because of this, in most cases it is best to simply ignore the prices that are listed in Beckett and just check eBay to determine the true value of a card.
I say “in most cases” because there are some cases when the Beckett value is somewhat relevant. I can think of two examples. One example is for graded vintage (pre-1980) cards. The value of these cards is stable compared to newer releases, and it is simple to determine the condition of the card from its grade. I’ve found that these cards usually do sell on eBay for very close to the prices that are listed in Beckett. A second example is with cards that are in low supply and rarely appear on eBay. Only the listings that ended within the last 30 days can be searched on eBay, so in some cases, the only source to check to understand a card’s value may be Beckett. I’ve experienced this when trying to find some rare Don Mattingly inserts and parallel cards from the 1990s. Still, it’s important to take the Beckett value with a grain of salt even in these cases.
It would be bad enough if the inaccurate prices listed in Beckett were the only reason why Beckett is bad for the hobby. But that is not the only reason. While the prices in Beckett could just be the result of laziness, the other problems with Beckett are much more appalling:
- Beckett’s acceptance of free boxes of cards from the card companies, which they use to create video box breaks. Gellman has done an excellent job of reporting on the ridiculously tough pulls that routinely come out of these boxes. It’s true that the card companies are also to blame for this because it is they who actually send these boxes to Beckett in the hope that collectors will be fooled into thinking that they’re likely to get similar pulls from their own boxes. But how can a company that accepts these gifts from the card companies, and that generates a ton of revenue from ads by the card companies in its magazine, be a trusted and impartial source on the industry? It can’t. And how can the prices that Beckett lists in its guide be unaffected by their sponsors, who want their cards to be listed for high values? They can’t. If Beckett ever wants to restore its integrity, it will need to stop accepting free products from the card companies and stop accepting ads from them. Since Beckett wants to make as much money as it can, this will probably never happen, and Beckett will continue to act without integrity.
- Beckett’s corrupt grading service, BGS. I have read and heard an incredible number of accounts of Beckett giving inflated grades to cards from customers who send the most cards to be graded. Because of this, many collectors do not trust the grades of cards that have been graded by BGS. In my opinion, PSA is the only reliable and trustworthy grading company. I am proud to say that I don’t own a single BGS graded card, and I would never pay any more for a BGS graded card than I would for an ungraded card. I do own dozens of PSA graded cards and I can honestly say that the grade of every PSA graded card that I have encountered has been accurate.
- If that’s not bad enough, Beckett actually sells many of the cards that it grades. Yes, you read that correctly. Beckett pretends to be an impartial judge of a card’s condition and authenticity, and then turns around and tries to make a profit from that very same card. If you find this difficult to believe, check out Beckett’s eBay store and see for yourself.
- I’m not done ranting about BGS just yet. Late last year, a huge controversy erupted when Beckett posted a picture online showing 270 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards that someone had submitted to them for grading strewn carelessly on a table. The picture spoke louder than any words could have ever done to demonstrate the carelessness of Beckett’s graders. The picture and a summary of the controversy can be found in this post on Wax Heaven.
- Finally, the seemingly innocent fact that Beckett has its own blog is a problem. It’s plain to see that today’s sports card blogosphere is looking out for the best interests of collectors much more than Beckett is. One of the ways that we do this is by pointing out some of the bad things about Beckett itself. I believe that the reason why Beckett created its own blog was to try to drown out the voices of the truly independent bloggers. By linking to other blogs and occasionally featuring columns by writers of other blogs, Beckett drives a lot of traffic to these blogs. Since the bloggers depend on Beckett for steering many readers to them, they are less likely to criticize Beckett when criticism is warranted. So I believe Beckett’s blog is more of an insidious means to prevent criticism of Beckett in the blogosphere than a service that actually helps collectors.
I got on a roll here and this post is much longer than I originally intended. I hope that it’s kept your interest so far. I want to get back to Gellman’s post. I mentioned that every card blog should have a permanent link to it. Well, I’ve done that. Since I started Fielder’s Choice, I’ve had a link to Beckett under “Important hobby links” on the sidebar. Today I changed that link title to “Beckett = Bad for ya” and linked it to Gellman’s post. I hope that this will help in a small way to increase awareness about the reasons why Beckett is bad for collectors. I also removed the link to Beckett’s blog from “Professional blogs” on the sidebar. Although Beckett’s blog never did link to my blog, I don’t want anyone to think that I am in any way supported by Beckett, so I removed the link.
So there you have it. I do believe that Beckett’s problems are correctable, but I don’t know if they have the will to correct them. Until they change their ways, I hope that other blogs will join in raising their voices about why Beckett has not been a good influence on the hobby.