Look at this card:
Now look at this one:
I’m not bothered by off center cards, but nearly miscut cards do irk me (The one that’s miscut on the Koosman side bothers me less than the miscut on the Ryan side). However, and it’s a big however, there is a balance between cost and condition, A card with these corners and well-centered is going to cost at least $100 more. Will I be happy with a Ryan rookie at $150 if it looks like this? I’m not 100% sure but I’m leaning yes.
Maybe it’s a residual of my pack opening years that makes me unaffected by off-center cards. If I gave you an opened pack of 1975 Topps, the odds of pulling a full 10 well centered cards would be a million to one. But, they’d all be sharp as hell, razor tight corners, beautiful color and gloss, and fine by me.
That works in my favor because in this graded world where centering has a regal place, I can get discounts. My pal Jimmy is a stickler for centering. He preferred this card:
to this one:
He said that might sound insane to me, and it does, but the disparate criteria we all bring to the hobby and what we collect is part of the joy. Over at Baseball Card Freaks on Facebook, Bailey Walsh has posted and commented on what he calls his “PSA 1 Project.” He has his criteria (which I want him to write about for this blog), but what he doesn’t mind is interesting – a staple hole, some gunk, marks on the back, etc. He just got this card and, I have to say, it’s lovely.
Now I don’t know if I could handle a PSA 1, though if it was raw I wouldn’t know it was PSA 1. That made me think hard about what grading means. It has skewed our view of a nice card in ways that are, for me, anathema to the fun of collecting and how we view what is, or isn’t a nice card.
Those of you in the hobby for a long time will remember Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen. Rosen garnered a well-deserved reputation for making huge finds of unopened material. When the grading boom began, he wrote something that stuck with me. If he were to hand you a fresh pack of 1952 Topps, by the system we use, all the cards in that unopened pack are presumed minute. True, right? They went from the factory to the pack to some kid’s hands.
Yet, if you opened this pack of mint cards, they became not mint and if you pulled a pristine Mantle rookie that had 80/20 centering, well, you were screwed. It would only be an 8. How can that really be true and how can that hypothetical Mantle card have lost value upon its reveal? It’s bizarre.
Furthermore all of us seem to love most dearly the cards we collected in our youth and prize those above what we purchased later on. When I recently went through my 1975 set, I was thrilled about how nice they were AND how some were cut less than perfectly. Didn’t bother me one bit.
I have nothing earthshattering to say here. To each his own is not a profound thought. Still, I marvel at what bothers some and doesn’t bother others and how we are told now what makes a great card and what makes an OK card. It’s nonsense.
I can tell you one thing – writing this post is likely to make me buy a way off center Ryan rookie that looks like it came right out of a pack and I’m going to be damn happy about it!