Card Altering and the Registry Problem

Altered cards have created another problem — how they affect set registries

The altered cards scandal that has been unleashed on the hobby is, of course, causing a big mess. The problem has created an issue for some of those cards’ owners but the full effect goes beyond that.

See, while owners of some individual cards have an issue on their hands, owners with cards that are part of registry sets have even more on their plate.

I had thought about this a while back when large numbers of allegedly altered cards really started coming out of the woodwork over at Blowout. But then a post on the subject really drove the point home.

T204 Walter JohnsonIf you’ve been paying attention to cards that have been alleged as altered lately, you know that one set in particular has been hit quite hard — 1948 Leaf football. Now, I haven’t discussed those cards over here since they came after the pre-war era had ended. But as an older vintage issue, it’s definitely something that would be on the radar of many readers here.

According to one user there, more than 50 of those cards have been hit. As I wrote here, T206 was one pre-war set targeted a good bit. But T206 isn’t cited as much on the Blowout threads as the Leaf set has been.

And since these are graded cards, we’re talking about a significant amount of registries that have been affected.

A graded card registry, if you’re unfamiliar with them, is roughly an accounting of a collector’s cards in a particular set or grouping. While many collectors couldn’t even tell you what one was, they are are of great importance to others.

The reason for that is because PSA assigns rankings to collectors’ sets in these registries, effectively allowing you to see how well your cards in a particular set stack up to others owned by someone else in that same set. It can be kind of a fun way to compete with others around the world while collecting cards. Obviously, the higher your cards are graded, the better your ranking. Collectors will routinely upgrade cards as they can in order to improve their ranking to either maintain or improve upon their position.

As some collectors will point out, this can appear to be a, shall we say, anatomy measuring contest of sorts. That leads some collectors to deriding others that participate in such things. Me? I’ve got no issue with it. Everyone collects their own way and if striving for the best possible set out there is your thing, I’ve got zero problems with it. We all want to have nice looking cards and making fun of collectors that merely want to keep track is just kind of silly. It’s not personally for me but it’s for plenty of others out there and I suspect is even a major reason why some collect. And someone collecting that way, after all, is better than that person not collecting at all.

e93-21-mathewsonNow that we’ve got an idea of what registries are and how they work, the issue with the card altering situation is that these registries are now, of course, affected. Registries have never been mistake-proof, obviously. All sorts of alterations in cards in them are probably unknown and, more to the point, since grading is subjective, a person’s exact standing in a registry could be debated as it is. But in general, the registries are a nice way for some collectors to ‘keep score.’

These things are important to many collectors and even PSA treats them as such. See, PSA actually gives out awards for certain registry sets, identifying the collectors of them and honoring them. And it doesn’t take a genius to explain, then, how these alterations affect things.

A recent Blowout post not only listed all of the Leaf cards into one place but identified the collector registries associated with them.

Now, point blank — the whole lack of privacy thing is not really my deal. And it’s the reason I’m not posting that link here. Even though the information is public, identifying collectors and calling out their specific cards isn’t really up my alley. Those folks, after all, deserve a measure of privacy while they sort this out, even if that privacy is not entirely veiled. But putting collector usernames with cards as that post does really highlights the extent of the problem.

in the Leaf set, for example, one registry owner had 13(!) of these cards that have been alleged to be altered — more than twice as many as the next person, who had six. Another had five. In short, these cards are really messing up the rankings for those that care about them. That’s because, if the cards have really undergone trimming, erasures, or other alterations, those cards should be deemed as ‘Authentic’ and would do some damage to a registry’s ranking. All kinds of rankings may need to be recalculated if these cards are tracked down and either removed from the population or simply regraded as Authentic. And while that might seem like a small deal to non-registry folks, it’s going to be a sizable development for those taking part in them.

The flipside to that argument is that, while many cards have been outed, we’ve still got a very small number in the grand scheme of things. Registries would certainly be affected but how many collector registries are drastically disturbed is still very much up in the air.

I’m not a registry person and don’t have any sets listed there. Most of my cards are raw and lower-grade. But for collectors in the registry game that have cards in some of the sets that have been cited, the altered cards scandal has understandably created an even bigger mess than it already has.

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