Question on grading of collectibles

I’ve looked at various sites that offer grading services for things like sports memorabilia or trading cards.
The grading and payment process confuses me and it’s couched in how they describe it.

So here’s an example (numbers here are made up).
Say I have a Reggie Jackson rookie card. Various catalogs value a highest grade card @ $25,000. A low grade is $120.
I want it graded. According to the grading service sites, my fee is based on the card’s estimated value. I think this is ridiculous. I am not an expert, so I might assume my card is grade 10 card, and so I would need to pay the highest rate for grading. But me, being an amateur, I don’t notice the small crack in the card’s paint that an anal collector would shudder at thus bringing the rating down to a 4. So I paid a big fee for nothing.
This process should not be a crap shoot.

Do I submit the card saying I think it’s a 10, get told it’s a 4, and pay a high fee for that fact.
Do I submit the card saying i think it’s a 4, get told it’s a 4 and consequently pay a much lower fee.
Bonus: suppose I really have a grade 10, but am uncertain so do I submit it as a 4, pay the low rate, and get the 10 rating?

Here’s what one company does.

Q: What happens if my Declared Value is understated?

A: If PSA determines, in its sole discretion and at any point in the process, that the submitted Declared Value has been understated relative to the market value of the item, PSA reserves the right to decline your stated Declared Value. If PSA declines the Declared Value of an item, PSA may require you to pay for the accurate Service Level as a condition of PSA completing the authentication and grading process as to the subject item. If you refuse, or are unable, to pay PSA for the accurate Service Level, then PSA will return the item to you unprocessed at your cost, and you will be charged for the Service Level at which you submitted the item. PSA’s determination that you have understated the Declared Value will affect only the Service Level charge, it will not change the Declared Value for purposes of establishing the maximum item value for claim or shipping insurance purposes.

That covers my understated value.
So what happens if I overstate? Do they kindly give a refund on the difference in grading costs?

In the question above the one I quoted they go into pretty great detail about how it is your responsibility to do your research before submitting a card for grading and make sure your estimate is realistic. I suspect you end up eating the extra cost if you overestimate.

You don’t have a 10. To paraphrase someone from Pawn Stars, “A 10 is like a 1969 Corvette with only 8 miles on the speedometer.”

Then why wouldn’t everybody submit their cards as 1, and wait for the graders to say - no it’s an 8, pay us this to get it official, else we keep your money, send you back your card and you have no official grading?

And by the way, not that I have the example card, but I certainly have some lesser desired 10’s because I was that anal kid who opened the pack like it was surgery and put the cards safely away. The only tainted cards I had were the checklists.

My Dad worked for Topps in the 1960’s and we had uncut sheets. My older brother was the neighborhood hero as he could get you any card you needed if you were strictly collecting. Of course the sad ending is that my mother wanted none of that “stuff” to clutter our first house when we moved out to Long Island. Well that’s why those sheets were valuable. For most Topps families had a mom like we did.

I don’t when they started warehousing collectibles, but I’ve been in one of the baseball card warehouses. I got the idea this started in the 70s, maybe late 60s but I don’t really know. You probably did have some very valuable cards if your dad worked for Topps. The eventual value of those cards wasn’t appreciated right away. Sure, if you had a Joe DiMaggio rookie card (if there was such a thing), it might be valuable, but they didn’t appreciate how many cards would gain more value over time, especially if signed. Kids grow up and still care about those cards, and when grown up they have more money to spend on them. But at some point somebody had the sense to start putting away cases of every card ever made, usually in uncut sheets.

And yes, much of the value of these collectibles is due to the moms of this world who saw the cards as trash.

Also, let me retract my earlier statement, you certainly could have some 10s there.

But know that even if you opened a pack and carefully sealed a card away and never touched it, it STILL might not be a 10. Pack fresh doesn’t equal a 10 necessarily, especially because typically one of the grading criteria is how well the image is centered on the card, and that’s something that’s done at the factory, so not much can be done about it.

And the grading is quite rigorous:

Is there someplace you can send them to get them “pre-graded”? This is why I have half a mind to just leave my comic book collection on some random stranger’s doorstep.

The whole process is very odd when you come to think about it. Essentially, you’re paying someone who’s an expert in a particular field to answer your question from that field; but when you ask the question you’re required to have done your own research to make a realistic guess as to what the answer would probably be.

I would, furthermore, think it doesn’t set the right incentives to base the grader’s pay on the assessed value of the card; you’d think that this introduces bias into the process, as it incentivises graders to overestimate rather than underestimate the quality of a card. I realise, of course, that it would ruin the graders’ reputation if they simply attached overstated grades to any item to reap higher fees; but surely that fee schedules means that, if in doubt, they’ll rather go a notch higher than lower.

I’m not claiming I have a better solution for a sound business model of such garding services, but it all does look quite odd to me as it is.

Interesting you bring up comics. I’m so used to how they’re graded, and the grading services have a flat rate. None of this “We’ll charge you more if it’s in good condition” crap. And ZERO “making your own guess first”.

Elmer, there’s one way to get “sort of pre-graded”… I’ve had good luck with talking to my local comic book guy. He says if I bring some of my best comics in on a quiet evening, he’ll go through them and tell me which ones are good enough to send in for grading.

I’m pretty sure most, maybe all, of the Graham Crackers stores (Chicago chain) will do that, on a specific day of the week.

But there are LOTS of web pages and tutorials on grading. You should get close to a general Poor-Fine-Good-V’Good-Near Mint on your own. (“There is no Mint, except for five new comics a year in all my shipments.” - Comic Dude)

Me, I made up my own grading system, and I list mine with a Rogofsky Rating.