Although it had been rumored for weeks, Professional Sports Authenticators’ practical doubling of the rate it charges to grade cards sent shockwaves through the sports card collecting community on Monday.
Collectors Universe, PSA’s parent company, announced in November that it would sell the company for $700 million to an investor group, which would make the company private. That sale, combined with the significant backlog of cards PSA has to grade due to increased demand during the sports card boom, led many to speculate that a price increase was coming.
But few foresaw the size of that increase.
Big bump for PSA card grading
The price for value grading increased from a starting price of $10 to $20. Modern card (2018 to present) rates jumped from $15 to $25. To access the value level, collectors and investors must join the PSA collector’s club, with the lowest buy-in level going from $59 to $99 on Monday.
The regular grading rate increased from $50 per card to $100 per card, with other increases seen for higher tier levels of grading.
PSA raised prices for both sports cards and trading card games like Pokemon.
Most internet chatter regarding the price increases skewed toward the negative.
“I haven’t been one of those ‘bubble going to burst’ guys lately, but this seems like a huge checkpoint on the road to that happening,” Facebook user Lea T. Lynch wrote in the group Buy, Sell, Trade & Breaks by TX Sports Cards. “[We’re] essentially paying half the listed value of the card to have it graded.”
But others noted benefits to the new system. The price increase will almost certainly help PSA reduce its backlog and dissuade collectors from sending in lower-tier cards that help clog up the card grading pipeline.
Many PSA customers send in cards of hot players, hoping to get highly graded cards returned to them quickly for sale on eBay, Facebook, and other internet card-selling venues.
“If by some miracle PSA can actually honor their original turnaround times, then suddenly the new pricing seems much more worth it because you can make more money if you can get your cards back sooner,” noted Blowout Forums user dani0100.
Beckett also raises rates as upstart HGA enters market
PSA’s move comes just weeks after Beckett Grading Services increased its rates. BGS charges strictly based on turnaround time, while PSA charges based on both turnaround time and market value. BGS’s cheapest option is its Economy level at $20 per card.
Some noted Monday that rates for some PSA graded cards will actually decrease under the new pricing regime. Whereas previously, cards valued between $200 and $500 would be charged at the regular rate of $50, PSA now allows cards valued up to $500 to be graded at the value rate of $20.
While PSA-graded slabs command a premium in the marketplace over BGS and other rivals, it’s possible the price increase could lead to a paradigm shift. Hybrid Grading Approach, the newest entrant to the card grading market, promises quicker turnaround times than PSA and BGS by limiting the number of submissions it will process each week. HGA slabs, with various color schemes designed to match uniform colors, have proven popular on the marketplace in the early going. Its lowest pricing tier is also $20 per card.