Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Existential Crisis: Gellman vs. Beckett

I'll start by saying I'm a big fan of Sports Cards Uncensored. I haven't looked at a Beckett in years. Now that I'm significantly older than when Beckett was required monthly reading, I'm glad that folks like Gellman are out there taking Beckett behind the woodshed at every opportunity. He does it better than I ever could, with more panache and more info than I could ever bring to the table. So I got good laugh out of this post in which Gellman talks about running into a college student writing about price guides, who shows him a Beckett where he writers refer to blogs as "cesspools of misinformation" and "full of 'uneducated ranting.'" Then I got really pissed off, and now I'm finally writing about it.

To begin, if academia has taken notice of you, you have officially jumped the shark. Based on that alone I'd say Beckett has about six or seven moths left. Get those resumes ready boys and girls!

Beyond that, and has been said many times before, the Beckett print model is WAY behind the times. Magazines in general are folding, and Ebay provides real-time sales figures for every card imaginable. Their fiercest competition is FREE and updated every second. I remember few posts over at Beckett (can't find them now, d'oh) where two people went back and forth over the value of the 1986 Donruss Canseco. If I remember correctly, one guy said said the card moves at $3 on ebay, but Beckett listed the price at $6. A Beckett editor responded something like "Ha! $3 is the low book value. $6 is the high, so we are still right." Fair enough, but if you have to say your prices are accurate to within +/- 100% people will rightly question the value of the info you provide.

I honestly think that BGS graded cards started out as a valuable service to the collecting community, especially insofar as it facilitates buying high-end condition cards on the internet. When you think about it, it's a savvy adaptation to a change in the market. I don't pay much attention to condition, so I don't mess with graded cards too much, but my own anecdotal experience shows that the grading system is either busted or was always a scam. I purchased a 9.5 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks David Price for about $18. The card I got has imperfections that are clearly visible, specifically a rather rough looking right edge with two tiny splinters of cardboard hanging off. If that's "Gem Mint" I wonder what NM looks like? I got the population report on the card and found, unsurprisingly, that 9.5 Prices far outnumbered lower graded ones. Things that make you go "HMMMM." 

I could go on about this all day but I won't. I'll just end by saying the fact that Beckett would stoop to insulting blogs as opposed to showing how Beckett media doesn't do the things the blogs accuse them of (and in many cases blogs prove that they do) just shows that Beckett is on its last legs and its place in the hobby is slowly shrinking up to nothing. 

At least for me, Gellman taps into a kind of populist rage against the people who, when we were kids, enabled card shops to steal our lunch money during the junk wax era. It's pathetic their business model hasn't changed. Anyone who passes off my David Price as a 9.5 is clearly a "cesspool of misinformation," and what's worse is they aren't educated enough to fathom the economics of why they are in trouble. I'm glad Gellman, et. al., are out there, on issues like Beckett, grading, and fake autos so I can have a rather meaningless blog on rather meaningless cards. 

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