Inside the Pack: Noted Comic, Coin Grading Company Enters the Sports Card Market

Certified Collectibles Group, world-renowned for their grading services in comic books (CGC), coins (NGC) and paper currency (PMG), announced last week that it would be joining the likes of PSA, SGC, and Beckett as a third-party grading company for sports cards. The new card grading service,┬áCertified Sports Guaranty (CSG), will join the other companies in the group, which together have authenticated nearly 60 million collectibles since 1987, according to the firm’s website.

A formidable alternative to the current grading companies could not be coming at a better time for the hobby. Owing in part due to pandemic-related shutdowns as well as general increased interest in the hobby and graded cards, PSA has been running months behind schedule for much of the past year. Interest in SGC-graded cards has picked up recently, with prices creeping up closer to their PSA counterparts. But with increased interest and attention comes increased wait times: despite being fairly on-schedule early in the year, SGC is now running more than a month behind for standard grading services. All three major grading companies have also dealt with various levels of scandals, including the authentication of altered cards.

This won’t be the first new competitor to enter the grading landscape. Many have tried before; besides the cheaper alternatives like GMA, which really exists more as an affordable way to slab your card and not as a way to ascertain a grade, and the other knock-offs intended to look similar to PSA in an effort to trick unsuspecting newer collectors, a few other major companies have dipped their toe in the water. Sports Collectors Digest graded cards for a few years before being bought out. Even Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers had a company called Class AA Investment Grade.

But Global, also known as GAI, was perhaps the most successful. Founded by the founder and former president of PSA, Steve Rocchi, GAI had industry clout due to reputable graders and Rochi’s presence. They also were the first in the game to grade and slab unopened packs. But, they were always running a distant fourth to the big three graders, and by 2008 they filed for bankruptcy. Their spirit carried on as a new company, Global Authority, but the grading standards were not quite the same, and the company undid themselves by offering free grading, allowing customers to pay only for cards that achieved a grade they were happy with. As one would imagine, this increased the number of cards the company was grading, but decreased the number of purchases they had. They got swamped, lost money, and were done for good by 2015.

CSG promises to be different, They are already posting notices on every reputable site around the internet, looking to hire graders who are known throughout the industry. With their background in grading other collectibles, it’s almost certain that their standards will be up to snuff with the other major companies. Perhaps most importantly, they carry with them an air of familiarity. Many card collectors also collect other items like comics and coins, and those who do will be familiar with the company’s work as well as the style of their slabs. In fact, CSG may even have the added benefit of bringing new people into the hobby: a comic, coin, or paper currency collector who collects graded items from one of Certified Collectible Group’s other companies may be intrigued by venturing into a new hobby, comforted by the well-acquainted feeling of the slab’s design and the company’s infrastructure.

CSG has yet to announce when they’ll start grading cards. All indications are that they are going to do this right by taking their time to build a team and create unimpeachable standards for their cards. If they do those things, they’ll be a strong player in the world of grading.