After reaching unprecedented highs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, card collecting took a major hit in the first quarter of 2021 after an announcement from grading company PSA.
Just a few weeks after Professional Sports Authenticator, more commonly known as PSA, raised prices due to increased demand, the company made waves by temporarily suspending submissions for certain service levels.
In the announcement on March 30, 2021, PSA told collectors that, effective immediately, the company would be halting submissions to its Value, Regular and Express service levels, in order to “fully unbox and receive the recent surge of orders and focus on our most impacted service lines.”
“Given our growing backlog, it would be disingenuous for us to continue to accept submissions for cards that we will be unable to process in the foreseeable future,” PSA President Steve Sloan wrote in the announcement. “It’s an unpleasant conclusion, especially after the March 1 price increase, but it is necessary to properly serve the customers who have already submitted to PSA.”
While PSA did not provide a specific date for a return to full service, the company vowed to “take a tiered approach to reintroducing these service levels,” with a target date of July 1, 2021 for a return to full service.
Given that the hobby is already so focused on the idea of supply and demand, the announcement shook many card collectors to their core at a pivotal time of the year.
Arguably Panini’s biggest product, Prizm, was set to drop for basketball fans a day after PSA’s announcement, with other high-end sets like Select, National Treasures and Flawless on the way in the coming months for football, as well.
Now, collectors will be limited to PSA’s “Super Express” service level to get any of those high-end cards graded in those few months, which the company charges “$300/card for cards with a maximum declared value of $4,999.”
At the same time, the idea of supply and demand will likely become an even larger factor than it already is, with cards graded as a 9 or 10 out of 10 by PSA turning into rare commodities given the lack of submissions for newer cards.
Brand loyalty is a large part of the hobby, especially when it comes to grading.
So, collectors who frequently use PSA to grade their cards, as opposed to a company like Beckett Grading Services (BGS) or Hybrid Grading Approach (HGA), will have a major decision to make: keep their collections uniform and wait for the July 1, 2021 target date to come around, or shift to a different brand to stay involved in the grading community.
If a large enough audience of collectors chooses the latter option, it would not be surprising to see companies like BGS and HGA get overwhelmed in the same fashion, and potentially raise their prices or suspend their services, as well.
Whether collectors choose to wait or adapt, the entire grading community took a hit with the news, and the hobby experienced yet another instance of growing pains associated with its rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With so many collectors waiting on, and, in some cases, rooting for, a “pop” to the hobby’s “bubble” in 2021, PSA’s suspension of services could easily be the first shoe to fall on the way to that moment.