Certified Collectibles Group and 5 Ways the Sports Card Grading Industry Should Embrace Technology

The other day, I saw an article on Sports Collectors Daily announcing that Certified Collectibles Group is getting in the sports card authentication game. The card grading side of the company will be called Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG). 

Overall, I think it’s a positive thing for a significant player to enter the space. Competition is good, and the big three sports card grading companies (PSA, SGC, Beckett) will have to up their games.

Three things, in particular, stood out to me as positives in the announcement:

  1. They will be augmenting grading with technology-based authentication 
  2. All cards will be scanned and available electronically
  3. No one who works there will be allowed to buy or sell commercially.

The emphasis on technology-based authentication reminds me of a line from a Forbes article a few years ago (Christoper Mims of the Wall St Journal wrote a similar essay around the same time called “Every Company Is Now a Tech Company

Every company is a technology company, no matter what product or service it provides. The companies that embrace this fact are the ones that shape our world.

Stephanie Stone

She says that every company needs to understand how technology affects their business, how technology affects their customers, how to accommodate the wave of change and embrace new ways of thinking.

I feel the industry has done well on marketing authentication within the construct of the financial growth and peace of mind that sports card grading enables. But they haven’t advanced technology in a way that pushes things forward (or not as far ahead as a computer engineer like myself would like), beyond some good work in more tamper-resistant holders. 

Fundamentally, the entire grading process, which PSA explains on their site, should become a digital assembly line. With that said, here are a few ways I think the grading companies need to think about adopting technology to improve the hobby and stand apart in the industry to improve speed, accuracy, and integrity.

  1. Automatically log each order with a scan. Digitally match that scan to the user submission and against a database of all cards to ensure the correct specification (player, number, card year, etc.). The customer should see what the grading company sees at every step online.
  2. Utilize machine learning to create an algorithm that performs digital pattern/texture recognition to give the same card the same grade. Throughput would certainly exceed human performance. Perhaps the computer is verified/validated by a human until we all become more comfortable with our computer overlords.
  3. Software-based, digital transparency in the reporting of card grades. Companies need to compare databases and present them to the community to include cross-over and re-submission history. CSG intending to scan and make all their cards available electronically helps make this a reality. Giving a sports card’s grading history and a statistical estimate that a card was cracked and submitted again, either from the same or another service, is possible using today’s technology.
  4. Similarly, algorithms should investigate whether a card was doctored, through machine learning and image comparison, and resubmitted in an attempt to defraud the community.
  5. Design a transparent, call it a systems engineering approach, to ensure integrity. Both from a technological perspective, but also a human one. Companies should share the efforts implemented to ensure no one can influence grading, be it graders, owners, submitters, anyone. The money in graded cards is big enough for some form of increased and advertised agreed-upon policies. CSG not allowing employees to buy or sell commercially is an appreciated start.

In what ways would you like to see the grading card companies improve the process and the industry? Drop your thoughts below in the comments.

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