Grading has changed the way cards are collected.
In the early 1990s, Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) started grading cards. Other companies followed, and today there are many which provide the service, including Ultimate Sportscard Authority (USA), Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) and Beckett Grading Services (BGS). Grading is done on a 10- or 100-point scale and costs anywhere from $8 to $40, depending on the speed of service.
"It's a very convenient vehicle," said Classic Collectibles Inc. owner Richard Oglesby. "If you want to sell cards through the mail or over the Internet, you have a third party that tells you what the card value is, instead of relying on what the seller says when you haven't seen the card."
Mike Steele, co-owner of Mike and J.J.'s cards in Aiken, disagrees with that notion.
"If you and I agree on the price of a card, we shouldn't have to go pay a third party to tell us what the card is worth," he said. "All it does is bring somebody else into the mix.
"We have no idea on who the grader is. We don't know anything on his credentials, and that's why I think it should just be the people involved in the deal. How can we be guaranteed that we are getting back the cards that we sent to be graded?"
Classic Collectibles Inc. manager Scott Parham sees grading differently.
"If you have something that is worth getting graded that's in premium condition and is better than most of them out there, you'de be crazy not to take advantage of it," he said.
There is much to take advantage of these days. The card values have increased and keep getting higher in an industry that has come a long way since the days of bubble-gum packs. These days, kids would not dare to stick their cards in their bicycle spokes. They would rather put them in a protective case and a shoebox.
Why not, when a Derek Jeter rookie card books at $120, but when graded could become worth $12,000?
1986 Fleer Michael Jordan $1,600 $32,000
1992 Upper Deck Shaquille O'Neal $60 $3,500
1995 Finest Kevin Garnett $100 $600
1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant $450 $2,000
1998 SP Authentic Vince Carter $1,000 $3,500
1984 Topps John Elway $120 $4,000
1993 Pinnacle Drew Bledsoe $70 $1,200
1995 SP Terrell Davis $35 $800
1985 Topps Mark McGwire $175 $6,500
1987 Donruss Gregg Maddux $20 $400
1987 Fleer Barry Bonds $40 $2,500
1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. $150 $3,000
1994 SP Alex Rodriguez $100 $10,000