PSA Paranoia: Expecting Perfection From Imperfect Pieces Of Cardboard
Paranoia (par-a-noia), noun; a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.
Example: You just opened a pack of cards and your worst nightmare is realized, you've pulled an insanely awesome card! You become filled with anxiety as your eyes scan the front of the card, you notice the centering isn't perfect and there is a slight finger print on the surface!
It's one thing to care about the condition of your cards, it's quite a different thing to be paranoid about the conditionof your cards. Paranoia is when you see 47-53 centering, the slight finger print on a Bowman Chrome auto, a slightly imperfect corner, or anything that can only be seen after obsessive searching.
I'll admit, I've ruined a lot of cards for myself over the years and not one of them involved the mis-handling of the card itself. Instead of leaving an expensive card un-sleeved in a shoe box, I've ruined cards in a much different way, by blowing out of proportion a minor flaw. By seeing things that only a magnifying glass can show me.
Condition is certainly important, no one wants a card with a bent corner, crease, smudged signature, or moisture damaged surface. At the same time, condition isn't the end of the world, nor is it even the end of potential value. If cards were meant to be perfect, they would have used metal, plastic, rubber, titanium, gold, silver, or some material far stronger than a sheet of everyday cardboard.
In the world of 2010, we are a society that insists upon pursuing the impossible, that being perfection. Instead of using the information at our disposal to enhance the world around us, we use it to do just the opposite, we let information tell us why we shouldn't be excited about life, why something that didn't bother us before should bother us now.
"Paralysis by analysis" is a centuries old saying that has found new relevance in the 21st century. Next time you're at a card show, notice the father and son with a magnifying glass trying to turn cardboard into gold. Instead of looking for a great card, collectors are looking for the next Pristine 10 or BGS 9.5.
Here's the secret truth about cards, they are supposed to be a fun collectible with value! Cards are much simpler and much more enjoyable than we are led to believe. A card either looks good or doesn't look good, that's for you and no one else to judge.
Institutions like PSA and BGS are extremely important assets to the industry, but they are only as valuable as our ability to place them in proper context. We need to remember that the condition of the card will never be as important as the card itself.
Collectors shouldn't be afraid of looking at their cards in fear of losing a sub-grade. Cards weren't meant to be defined by the difference between a BGS 9 and a BGS 9.5, they were first and foremost meant to be defined by the player who is captured on the card. Expecting every pack you open to garner 5-pack fresh Gem Mint 10's is as crazy as expecting every lottery ticket you buy to hit the jackpot.
Here's my solution: open packs, buy cards, and most importantly enjoy them! Let the imperfections find you instead of you finding them. I'm not saying to look the other way, I'm simply saying that the only imperfections worth worrying about are the ones that steal the show from the card, the ones that truly stick out.
I've recently come to grips with the fact that there will never be a card in my collection that doesn't have some minor imperfection. The pursuit of perfection is an illusion, an illusion of grandeur. It is something that you cannot control, therefore it is something that shouldn't ruin collecting for you. All you can do is take care of the cards you have and only worry about condition when it needs to be worried about.
Paranoia is not a complex emotion. Paranoia is simply the anxiety we feel when faced with something we cannot control. There's another saying that has survived several centuries that perfectly tells us how to deal with imperfection, that saying, "It is what it is".
Instead of focusing a magnifying glass on the cards, we should use it to take a long look at the condition being paranoid about card condition has put us in. Could you imagine how crazy the world would be if we started grading the condition of everything we own? My car would grade out at a BGS 3, but what does that matter if it does what it's supposed to do, drive me from point A to point B.
Non-paranoid reasons to get a card graded or buy a graded card:
- verify authenticity of card
- verify autograph is authentic
- If you plan on selling a card
- If you want to assure the condition of a card purchased online
- Putting together a high quality vintage set
- Buying or selling a Rookie Premiere or AFLAC Auto (easily forged)