Proposed Beckett Grading Changes Flop
Beckett has been trying to catch up with PSA for decades now. But in the last couple of years, they have also fallen behind SGC grading in the volume of cards graded.
So, the veteran BGS brand has been making changes and trying to keep up with the competition. In late March, the company announced changes to its grading system.
Immediately, their user base went up in arms against these proposed adjustments. Now Beckett has walked them back. However, we doubt this was the final word on the issue. Confused? Do not worry. Our guide to the proposed Beckett grading changes flop is here to set things straight for you.
An intro to BGS Grading
BGS is a grading game veteran and has a unique way of doing things. It opened its doors to grading in 1999 and soon established itself comfortably as the number 2 behind the big guys over at PSA.
Just like any other major grading company today, Beckett grades on a 1-10 scale. Their more precise and transparent measurement scale made them unique and differentiated them from PSA.
There are two elements to that. First, the BGS cards included half grades; any card could be halfway between one number and the one below it. So, for example, you can get a 9.5, 8.5, 7.5, and so on.
What does it mean when you have a half grade? According to the BGS website: “Cards that are assigned a grade with a half-point increment typically share characteristics from both the level above and the level below the actual grade given.”
The 9.5 versus 10 BGS debate
You can get many possible half-grades when you submit cards to Beckett. But the only one people really care about is the 9.5. The reason is that BGS has always claimed their 9.5 is a gem mint and would receive a 10 if submitted to PSA.
Opinions are divided about how accurate that is. But the result is that BGS 10s are more scarce than their PSA equivalents.
But that doesn’t mean there is no difference between the excellent and yet flawed 9.5 cards and their perfect equivalents. Here is how the BGS website defines the two.
Attributes of 10 BGS grade
A Pristine 10 card has the following characteristics:
Centering: 50/50 all around on the front. 60/40 or better on the back.
Corners: Perfect to the naked eye and Mint under magnification.
Edges: Perfect to the naked eye and virtually free of flaws under magnification.
Surface: No print spots. Flawless color, devoid of registration or focus imperfections. Perfect gloss, devoid of scratches and metallic print lines.”
Attributes of 9.5 BGS grade
Meanwhile, a gem mint 9.5 card is described in the following ways:
Centering: 50/50 one way, 55/45 the other on the front. 60/40 or better on back
Corners: Mint to the naked eye, but slight imperfections are allowed under magnification.
Edges: Virtually Mint to the naked eye. A speck of wear is allowed under intense scrutiny.
Surface: A few extremely minor print spots, detectable only under intense scrutiny. Deep color, devoid of registration or focus imperfections. Perfect gloss, devoid of scratches and metallic print lines
The proposed BGS grading changes
The changes were first announced at the Mint Collective held in Las Vegas on March 30-April 2.
Beckett explained that a Gem Mint would now be any card with at least one 10 subgrade and no other subgrade lower than 9.5 sub-grades.
A card meeting these qualifications would now be considered a Gem Mint 10. The move doesn’t seem dramatic at first glance. However, it takes away one of the main unique selling points of the BGS brand. Until now, Beckett cards with 9.5 were considered Gem Mint and thus equivalent to a PSA 10 or SGC 10.
The 9.5 grade would not be removed altogether. But now, it would only be assigned to cards with 9.5 in each of the subgrades. That would undoubtedly make the 9.5 grade far less common than it is currently. And as stated, these 9.5 cards would no longer be considered Gem Mint. This makes sense because they did not obtain ten grades in any category.
Why does this matter? Because until now, the BGS 10 was considerably less common than a 10 from the other companies. That meant collectors lucky enough to get one could demand a premium for extra rarity. It is one of the fantastic and unique features of grading through Beckett. Unfortunately, that has now been eroded by the changes.
But that is of less immediate concern to most collectors. Instead, people are really up in arms about the demotion of many 9.5 cards from a gem mint to mint+ status. After all, that means that cards already experiencing lower yields than PSA 10s will now face a further potential devaluation.
Why were these changes proposed?
BGS has found itself in trouble recently. They did not fare well in the COVID grading glut. The company was saturated with cards, just as PSA was.
But they did a far worse job keeping customers engaged and cutting through the backlog. When they returned, Beckett found they had fallen far behind PSA and even SGC.
Naturally, when a company is in this position, they start thinking about possible service changes. One issue was the BGS subgrades. While many collectors love that element, which makes the company distinct, it has made selling its graded cards somewhat tricky.
Why the BGS 9.5 is valued lower than PSA 10s
While BGS considers the 9.5 equivalent to a PSA 10, not everyone agrees. Many looked at the subgrades to see if there were enough 10s in them to warrant a Gem Mint designation.
As a result, BGS 9.5 often sold for significantly less than PSA 10s. And since BGS 10s were so challenging to come by, that often made Beckett cards a less worthwhile proposition. It doesn’t matter that BGS claims their 9.5s are just as good as a PSA 10.
At the end of the day, 9.5 looks less impressive and desirable than a perfect score, no matter what the guys in Plano, Texas, tell us. And adding to the sense that those BGS 9.5s aren’t as valuable as other 10s is the Beckett grading philosophy.
At the same time, Beckett claims to be as harsh. There are some differences in the grading where the smaller company is more lenient. For example, they are not as harsh on corners as PSA can be.
Other factors undermining BGS 9.5 value
Further undermining the value of the BGS 9.5, is the existence of SGC and CSG 9.5 cards. Only PSA, among the big guys, doesn’t have grade fractions of this sort. But neither of those companies considers their 9.5 grades to be gem mints.
Therefore, many collectors have called for that middling 9.5 grade to be eradicated. These individuals called for the possibility of shipping in any of those cards and having them replaced with a BGS 10. But as we know, that is not what the company did.
When these changes were first announced, BGS Chief Visionary Officer (we don’t know what that means either) Scott Roskind said, “We spent months and months and months talking to all sorts of hobby participants going through this and believe that this is the best thing for the hobby.”
But either they did not talk to the right people, or BGS didn’t discuss it with enough of them. Soon, a severe backlash emerged.
The backlash to the proposed BGS trading changes
A user of BGS had several immediate concerns, and they clearly stated that they were dissatisfied with some aspects of the suggested changes.
Perhaps the most controversial of the changes was the proposition to lower the status of the gold-label 9.5 grade from Gem Mint to Mint Plus. Many of the concerns circled back to a specific issue: What would happen to the value of BGS 9.5 cards already on the market?
By denying the Gem Mint status for future 9.5, collectors fear the value of the cards they hold will be undermined. And, of course, the difference between a PSA 9 and 10, or their BGS equivalents, can be massive. Sometimes a PSA 10 can be worth several times more. So, there were concerns that values could collapse.
As a result of these problems, the Beckett Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages were inundated with negative feedback. As always, it is a Blowout Forum user who said it best: “85% of current gem mint slabs have subs that are less than 9.5/9.5/9.5/10. If grading standards are not relaxed, then going forward, only 15% of cards that would have previously been deemed gem mint will still be gem mint.” And that is the main problem here.
A reslabing process for BGS 9.5s?
Therefore, some collectors hoped that if the changes do go through, the company would be willing to reslab the current 9.5s as the new BGS 10s. A process of this sort could do a lot to assuage the fears of collectors.
Of course, a process of mass reslabbing would involve a considerable amount of expense unless they charged the total price for it, which would only serve to increase customer dissatisfaction.
And there were further questions BGS was not ready to answer. For example, would cards resubmitted for grading undergo an additional round of grading inspection? That would be concerning because cards already classified as Gem Mint could be downgraded. But that would happen in practice anyway from the proposed changes.
The quick retraction of the proposed BGS grading changes
It only took 48 hours from the moment the proposed BGS changes were first made public to their retraction. After that, the backlash from their veteran customers was simply too significant to withstand.
BGS said the following of the change.
We are grateful for the insights and feedback you shared over the past 48 hours. Your passion for our brand and hobby are truly remarkable, and we appreciate your support. After listening carefully to the feedback you all shared, we have decided not to make any changes to our grading scale at this time. However, we will keep you updated with an official announcement later next week regarding improvements to our grading scale. We thank you for your continued trust and loyalty to Beckett. Please continue to share your thoughts and feedback directly with us.
What happens now with the proposed Beckett Grading changes
The cancellation of the changes announced (somewhat ironically) at the Mint Collective was not final. Instead, there appears to be a pause as BGS reconsiders its steps. Considering the considerable backlash they received, they will not go ahead with the same plans.
However, there is no question that Beckett needs to change their services. Their grading scale should be part of it, though it may not be their biggest problem.
Therefore, we expect changes from BGS to come through. However, they will hopefully take more of these fundamental concerns into account. They will want to not cheat current 9.5 holders out of value while maintaining the cache of their super pristine BGS “Black Label” 10 cards.
If they can do that, they can market their pristine cards as the true holy grails of the hobby. That seems like the best way forward for this company.
If changes go through, will it be enough to save BGS?
BGS is in trouble. To many observers, myself included, grades are not the main problem. Solving that would be nice, but seeing how that removes the company from its current doldrums is hard.
There are several other complaints that this company has faced:
- They use subgrades unevenly. They should be provided on all cards reliably and transparently.
- Their website looked like something out of the 1990s when they started grading cards; unfortunately, that has given the entire company an antiquated feel.
- The card grading tracking system is quite bad. It should be overhauled along with the website.
- The prices are too high. BGS has high prices that reflect their old demand. They will need to cut it, at least for awhile, to recapture market share.
The final word on the proposed Beckett grading changes
First, BGS missed a golden opportunity. They came out with this news right before April Fools Day. Why not use that traditional day of merriment and pranks to take back this public relations fiasco? Just release a “haha! You got punked!” post and be done with it.
Second, and more seriously, the feedback Beckett receives from their customers is essential. Therefore, it is always a good idea to consider the feelings of your most committed users.
However, there is a danger in being too attentive to your base. In politics, those who run for office often have to balance between winning over their hardcore supporters and winning the general electorate.
I know this isn’t the Washington Post but bear with me. BGS faces a similar task. They don’t want to alienate the people who are committed to Beckett. But at the same time, the company is losing its wider market share and needs to appeal to a broader customer base.
In addition, many new people are in the hobby and are not used to the BGS grading scale, which may strike them as weird and archaic.
Therefore, when BGS releases its grading policy (for realsies this time), it can’t afford to bow to its loyal customer base at the expense of a broader market. Their statement gave a timeframe of one week to announce those changes. They could have significant implications for the ability of Beckett to compete in an increasingly cutthroat hobby.