By Dave Bell
My Name is Dave Bell and I have been collecting for over 45 years. In my time, I have attended many shows, organized and produced shows and conventions and given lectures about fakes and frauds. Like everyone else, I have memories of cards I use to collect and put in bike spokes or trade with friends only to have them all disappear (maybe mom tossed them)?
As I grew older, I rediscovered my interest and in the late 70’s I became one of those guys that started trading 2 for 1 and soon amassed monster boxes to sell at flea markets before card shows became a thing in Western Canada. I remember buying a Bobby Orr rookie card for $4 and thought that was way too much. Price guides like Sluggers were not around then.
As the hobby developed so did my philosophy about it. I came to discover that there was value in cards. Not just monetary value but historic and personal value. While it is true that professional Grading such as we find at KSA can dramatically increase the monetary value of a card in nice shape, it is also true that there is much to be said about personal value. For example; I remember cutting old baseball cards off the backs of cereal boxes. This has become my passion. When I find a card sometimes a kid has written their name on the blank back. Now I get to imagine the life that card must have had in near 60 years to have started there and ended here. Show me a gem mint Mickey Mantle and I will show you a card that has never been loved.
As this hobby grew so did the expectations of collectors. Some collect food issues, some mainstream. There are those who like favorite players, teams or rookie cards. There is a collector and market out there for almost anything. Also, as people started to become aware of possible monetary value, extra caution was starting to be considered. Unfortunately, like everything else in society if there is a way to take advantage of something - they will. Prior to 1991 some of us veteran collectors began tutoring our friends and customers about quality, cheating, preproduction, printing and cutting methods, ink and much more that would assist collectors when deciding to spend their hard-earned money. Lectures and publications began but soon fell way to professional Grading in the 1990’s as a more convenient and consistent way to find faith in what was purchased. It didn't take very long to go from a company that authenticates to one that also can provide added value by assessing a grade from 1 through 10. The upside is that the card is now slabbed, and its condition is preserved forever. The downside is that you can no longer feel that card in your hand. I guess its up to you to decide if that card is loved or not?
In this hobby we have gone from 4 colour lithographic 65dpi halftone printing with solid over prints and guillotine cutting on heave card - to digital laser printing, computer stripping and 100% 300dpi halftone printing with laser cut edges on 60 to 80pt stock. I have always felt that grading these eras by the same standard is something to be considered as well. However, the overall concept does provide assurance and security to many in the hobby.
Grading, like anything else can be seen as positive for growth and development in this hobby that never seems to be slowing down. New collectors become educated, veterans find the assurance they need, and I will even argue that many vintage cards are now preserved. Thanks for hearing me out, have a great day out there.