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Grading your playing card treasures

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Grading your playing card treasures
« on: February 10, 2014, 07:57:19 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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Here are the descriptions commonly used, extracted from the Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards http://www.dawson-on-playingcards.info/hochman/, in describing the condition of vintage and antique playing cards.

CONDITION
Like any collectible, playing card condition plays an important role in desirability and thus in value. We would all like our decks to be sparkling mint and still in their original wrappers and/or boxes. Unfortunately, most vintage decks that collectors find have seen at least moderate use and have probably lost some element of their desirability.

While terminology relative to assessing the condition of playing cards has not been standardized, most collectors would agree that “as issued” means the deck was found in about the same condition as when it left the factory. Perhaps it had been opened but never really taken from its packaging, and certainly never played with. If even the slightest element, e.g. a cellophane wrapper, is missing from an otherwise pristine deck, it could not be classified as ‘as issued’ – rather it would be ‘mint’. If the missing element was of more consequence it would likely be further downgraded.

Years ago, Gene Hochman devised a system to describe decks of playing cards:
•   As issued – a complete deck, in mint condition, with all cards, jokers and extra cards contained in the original packaging when first distributed for sale. It might be unopened or carefully opened               for examination, but not played with. If applicable, the tax stamp, not necessarily unbroken, would be attached.
•   Mint – a complete deck showing no signs of use. Normally all cards would be present as would the original box in mint or near mint condition. The inside wrapper would not need to be there.
•   Excellent – a complete deck that has been occasionally used, but still in first class condition. Gold edges would still be intact and you would be proud to use this deck in your game.
•   Good – A complete deck showing signs of repeated use, but still usable. There would be no serious creases or bent/broken corners. The deck would not be swollen or misshapen and would fit comfortably into the original box.
•   Poor – A deck not good enough to fit into one of the above categories. It likely would have at least one of these serious faults - bent or broken corners, bad creases, heavy soiling, etc
•   With Faults – A deck in one of the good to as issued categories, but with a serious fault like a missing or damaged card or a damaged, incomplete or missing box.

Many collectors have introduced variations into their cataloguing, e.g. ‘mint plus’, ‘mint’ and ‘mint minus’. In addition, it has become popular to describe the condition of a deck’s box as OB1 (basically mint), OB2 (some damage but complete) or OB3 (quite heavily damaged and/or some portion missing). Nonetheless, use of the above descriptions and a careful notation of anything that is missing will provide an appropriate listing for cataloguing .

In all attempts to grade a deck, it is important to describe everything that is there and anything that is missing. For example, a brief description of an early advertising deck might read as follows:

“Advertising deck from 1910 for Discourse  Old Time Ale. Mint condition, in original box (slight damage to flap) with dated 2¢ U.S. revenue stamp. 53 cards with advertising Ace of Spades and special advertising Joker. The extra advertising card is missing and the Club Jack has a small smudge”.

A note on missing cards. The extra cards over and above the regular 52 and joker(s) are clearly of less importance and a deck lacking one is hardly devalued, although the extra cards in wide advertising decks (which usually depict a factory, a separate ad, a price list, etc.) are more important. Again the pips in an important deck, especially one with unusual or non-standard courts, are of lesser importance than the courts. The Ace of Spades or Joker, if missing, creates the most serious deficiency.

Despite most people’s desire to collect only as issued, or perhaps mint, decks, collectors will still rejoice at finding a deck in only, say, good condition if it is high on their want list or quite scarce. Often it will be purchased with the expectation that the same deck in better condition will one day replace it.


What is not covered above are the criteria for collectors of new decks. Most of these are still in their original packaging but even there, there can be differences in desirability. What difference does it make if a deck has been carefully opened?; or if there is a tear in the cellophane wrapper?; or if it show signs of being exposed to light?, etc. We want to expand this post to talk about these 'flaws' and determine their impact. Please post your thoughts.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2014, 07:58:48 PM by 52plusjoker »
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2014, 02:39:53 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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By and large, a new deck that's been opened, even if never used, has a lower value than one that's in as-issued condition.  The major exception would be if the cellophane was removed so the artist or a prominent magician could autograph it.  Even then, the deck's seal (if it ever had one) should be unbroken and the cards should be in an unused condition, at most examined and replaced in the precise order and orientation as when printed and boxed at the factory.

Even tears in an otherwise intact cellophane wrapper are too much for many collectors.  And perish the thought if you're a retailer and the deck has even the slightest of dents in it.  The most hardcore collectors will ship it back for a refund if it doesn't come in "museum grade" condition!

Bizarrely enough, misprinted or faultily-made decks can fetch a premium in the eyes of some collectors.  Misplaced seals, double seals, cellophane on backwards, a misfolded box - all kinds of goofy stuff.  I would have thought when I first learned of such things that these defects would decrease the value, but no - they enhance it.

I get the feeling that a lot of these criteria originate from other modern collecting markets, such as comic books, sports memorabilia, sci-fi/Star Wars/Star Trek/etc.  Businesses make a big fuss about grading such items and sealing them away into hard plastic cases filled with pH-neutral gases to replace the air so their grade remains intact for as long as the box remains sealed.  It's a bizarre twist when the "toy" market is suddenly overcrowded with adults buying them and never actually using or playing with them for fear that their value would decrease.  This kind of mentality is being carried over into the modern deck market, though I think it will ease somewhat as the desire to collect vintage decks increases - it's quite rare to find a vintage deck in as-issued condition, utterly without a blemish, just as these folks expect their modern decks to arrive.
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2014, 09:03:28 AM »
 

Lee Asher

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I propose we set-up a few grades within the As Issued category, to specifically account for the cello (or however the deck is packaged).

Here's an example of the nomenclature off the top of my head. I'm sure we can iron this out a bit more and give it smarter names with time & deep thought:

As Issued - Class 1 (perfect cello, no cracks or wrinkles, tuck in mint)
As Issued - Class 2 (excellent cello, little cracking or wrinkling, tuck in mint)
As Issued - Class 3 (broken cello, tuck in mint)
As Issued - Class 4 (no cello, tuck in mint)
As Issued - Class 5 (tuck is dented)

*Grading is based on the original cello, not a re-seal. (Unless maybe noted in Class 4)?
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 09:07:13 AM by Lee Asher »
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2014, 10:26:29 AM »
 

bhong

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That's a really good suggestion. I like the sub-grading system added to the "As issued".

I think if the deck has been re-wrapped in new cellophane it would be good to be a sub-category for Grade 4. Is it possible to open cello in such a way that it could be rewrapped again?

Grade 4 (a) - no cellophane, tuck mint
Grade 4 (b) - re-wrapped cellphone (not original cello), tuck mint

For Grade 5, does it matter if the cello is still in tact? And does it matter whether the damage is factory/machine made or man made? For example, the original Deco tucks (that were returned to USPCC) were all pretty much damaged due the machines folding up the box over someone just dropping a deck and denting it.
 

Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2014, 05:59:30 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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Good ideas. We definitely need sub-classification for as issued newer decks. They'll also work with many vintage. For antique, as issued decks are so scarce that collectors would likely value a Bicycle deck from 1890 the same, whether or not the seal or tax stamp was broken, the box was a bit banged up, etc. it likely doesn't matter.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 06:01:02 PM by 52plusjoker »
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2014, 03:16:09 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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Good ideas. We definitely need sub-classification for as issued newer decks. They'll also work with many vintage. For antique, as issued decks are so scarce that collectors would likely value a Bicycle deck from 1890 the same, whether or not the seal or tax stamp was broken, the box was a bit banged up, etc. it likely doesn't matter.

You're right on that point!  The older the deck, the less intact its packaging tends to be unless they were exceptionally well cared-for.

I propose that the Class system suggested by Lee be used, but with a few tweaks:

Eliminate class 5, instead making it a "rider" to the existing categories.  For example, if a deck has perfect cello but also has a slight dent or other damage, that could be "Class 1x", and so on, adding an "x" to the class of a deck with a dented box.

I would call a class 4 that's "naked" a class 5, and a resealed naked deck as a class 4.

All of these classes assume that the deck's sticker seal (or stamp seal or tax stamp, if applied to older decks) is completely intact and untorn - the cards inside have never seen the light of day since being packed.  Anything less would not be in "as issued" condition.  For decks without seals - it was a popular trend until custom deck seals came about recently - the box must show no signs of use (no bent flaps, no damaged cards inside, no heavy creases in the fold lines for flaps indicating they were folded back as the deck was opened, etc.), or else it, too, is not in "as issued" condition.

In addition to the designator "x" for a dented box, we should use "c" for boxes that were made or sold without a cellophane wrapper (such as the Misc. Goods Deck, late-model Studs, Aviators, etc.), "s" for boxes that did not have a deck seal when filled with the cards at the factory, and "+" for decks with an autograph on the box and "#" for decks autographed on the unopened cellophane.

Finally, there should be one final class designator, "D", indicating the deck has a factory-made defect, such as two seals instead of one, improperly wrapped cellophane, off-centered cut of the tuckbox sheet, etc.  Some people would pay a premium for such a deck, as long as it's also relatively intact.  If the deck is in opened condition, it would also cover card defects, like a radically off-center cut, ink smears, what have you, so the "D" designator could be applied to other pack grades as well as "as issued".

So, to summarize, within the category of "as issued" we have the following classes:

1 - Perfect cellophane wrapping
2 - Slightly damaged but intact cellophane
3 - Broken cellophane, but still present
4 - "Naked" but rewrapped using a deck sealer
5 - Devoid of cellophane, "naked"

Of course, all of those categories assume the box is both intact and pristine, mint condition.

To these classes, we can add one or more of these designators as needed:

x - dented/damaged box
c - deck was manufactured without cellophane wrapper
s - deck was manufactured without a seal of any kind
+ - deck is autographed on box
# - deck is autographed on cellophane
D - deck has a manufacturing defect

For example, the Misc. Goods deck came without a cellophane wrapper or a deck seal, so a perfect example of this deck would be "as issued, class 5cs".  A mint Aviator deck, sealed and without cello, that's been autographed would be "as issued, class 5c+".  Using a resealer on that signed Aviator deck would change the grade to "as issued, class 4c+".  If that pack of Misc. Goods Co. had a few cards with seriously off-center cuts, that class would become 5csD.  If Joe Somebody, Magician or Jane Somebody, Designer or Jack Somebody, Celebrity signed my brand new, mint Bicycle Masters deck on the cellophane, it would be "as issued, class 1#".  Take that same deck with the cellophane a little loose at the seams and it's "as issued, class 2#".

In essence, the class number refers to the condition of the cellophane cover, while the designators deal with box condition, manufacturing state, autographs, etc.

People will need to be careful in the categorization of their decks - for example, it's impossible to have a deck that's "as issued, class 1+" unless it was autographed at the factory, and even more impossible to have a deck that's "as issued, class 5c#" - signed on the cellophane it was never issued with!

What do you guys think of this idea?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 03:17:46 AM by Don Boyer »
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2014, 08:15:34 AM »
 

52plusjoker

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A lot of detail there but as it seems these are important differences it would be good if we promote these as a standard system for decks in the zero to 20 year old category. For vintage and antique I think we should stay with the Hochman categories.
Tom Dawson
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2014, 07:21:21 PM »
 

Anthony

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I really like the idea, while I know the opinion of most is that cards are meant to be played with, and I respect that, there is no denying that if offered 2 identical decks of the modern era, lets say from 10 years ago, one sealed and clean the other opened and lightly used, they would be valued differently.

My only suggestion, referencing Tom's comment "...a standard system for decks in the zero to 20 year old category." I would assing a specific year, not age. Meaning, decks printed after 1970 for example.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 07:24:58 PM by Sparkz »
 

Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2014, 07:58:02 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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Agree. Maybe it is 1995 on!
Tom Dawson
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2015, 10:52:20 PM »
 

ddhburns

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I know I'm jumping into a year-old thread, but what the heck... If a modern deck has a production run of 2500, and the "As Issued (Class 1)" deck is selling on eBay, CPC, etc. for $30, how much of a loss should I expect to take when I can't stand it any more and carefully cut the cello and the seal so I can look at the cards? (Assume I'm handling the cards like a photographic negative (remember those?), my hands are just washed, and the cards remain in precisely the same order they arrived in). Just trying to get a feel for how much "downside" there is to collecting one box at a time, knowing that at some point I'm going to want to see these lovelies, feel the handling, admire the finish. The idea of buying one box to remain forever unopened and a second box to actually experience the cards seems antithetical to my personality, to human nature, and to the artists who work hard making cards to be LOOKED AT! I mean, seriously, what's the value of a deck that is never SEEN?! Perhaps inside the cello every card has a giant black line running through it... You'd pay top dollar for the deck and never know it! I'd rather buy one of each and look at every single one, just once in a while. The money goes twice as far, thus twice as many decks collected... Obviously there's some essential of "purist collecting" I'm missing, here...

How many of the forum members collect for "economic upside," do you suppose? And how many of us just want to have a bunch of beautiful cards around. Seems hard to do both... If you bought two identical decks and felt compelled to sell one, which one would you sell?! Like choosing to sell your left or your right hand: I think I'd keep the one that was most useful and brought me the most pleasure (oops - the analogy becomes a bit risqué at this point!).

Just musing.
 

Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2015, 03:36:16 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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I know I'm jumping into a year-old thread, but what the heck... If a modern deck has a production run of 2500, and the "As Issued (Class 1)" deck is selling on eBay, CPC, etc. for $30, how much of a loss should I expect to take when I can't stand it any more and carefully cut the cello and the seal so I can look at the cards? (Assume I'm handling the cards like a photographic negative (remember those?), my hands are just washed, and the cards remain in precisely the same order they arrived in). Just trying to get a feel for how much "downside" there is to collecting one box at a time, knowing that at some point I'm going to want to see these lovelies, feel the handling, admire the finish. The idea of buying one box to remain forever unopened and a second box to actually experience the cards seems antithetical to my personality, to human nature, and to the artists who work hard making cards to be LOOKED AT! I mean, seriously, what's the value of a deck that is never SEEN?! Perhaps inside the cello every card has a giant black line running through it... You'd pay top dollar for the deck and never know it! I'd rather buy one of each and look at every single one, just once in a while. The money goes twice as far, thus twice as many decks collected... Obviously there's some essential of "purist collecting" I'm missing, here...

How many of the forum members collect for "economic upside," do you suppose? And how many of us just want to have a bunch of beautiful cards around. Seems hard to do both... If you bought two identical decks and felt compelled to sell one, which one would you sell?! Like choosing to sell your left or your right hand: I think I'd keep the one that was most useful and brought me the most pleasure (oops - the analogy becomes a bit risqué at this point!).

Just musing.

Reviving an old thread is perfectly fine, if you can breathe new life into it.

Opened decks of modern playing cards have a significantly lower value compared to sealed ones - half or less, depending on the exact model.  The most sought-after decks might fetch a bit more, but that's about it.  Some have no real worth at all - no one would buy them opened - but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Many modern collectors don't operate on the same wavelength as a vintage collector - to them, "mint in box, as issued" is all they want.  I've heard of people in the retail end of the business having decks returned for exchange because of the slightest little dent in the corner of the tuck box - the buyer demands perfect or no sale.

There is a breed of collector out there, for whom the act of ownership alone gives them all the satisfaction they desire.  They never open so much as a single pack of their rare decks.  To me, I've compared this in the past with owning masterpiece-grade artworks and putting them on display while they're still in the crates.  But then again, masterpieces don't lose their value when the crate's been opened!

There are also some collectors who would be more accurately described as speculators.  It's thanks to them that a pack of Jerry's Nuggets now commands prices in the mid three-figures.  They buy while it's cheap, at original retail, in the hopes of selling later at a hefty profit.  "Later" in this case can be a few years later or a few weeks later - it depends on the deck and the collector as well as the market.

This to me seems rather foolish, at least in the long term.  These are the kind of people looking for the next "Action Comics #1" or a Mickey Mantle rookie card in original condition, complete with the scent of the bubble gum the card was packed with.  But for every "Action Comics #1", there's perhaps hundreds or more other titles that are barely worth the cover price, and for every Mickey Mantle rookie card, there's hundreds and hundreds of others, the sole value of which is how much noise they'll make when you stick them in your bicycle wheel's spokes.

For the level of risk, it's not really worth it to be a speculator on that scale, but that doesn't stop some people from trying.  When is the last time you heard about someone buying a new house or putting their kid through college by selling a few comics, a few baseball cards or a few custom decks?  For me, that answer is "Never."
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2015, 04:24:04 AM »
 

HankMan

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I know I'm jumping into a year-old thread, but what the heck... If a modern deck has a production run of 2500, and the "As Issued (Class 1)" deck is selling on eBay, CPC, etc. for $30, how much of a loss should I expect to take when I can't stand it any more and carefully cut the cello and the seal so I can look at the cards? (Assume I'm handling the cards like a photographic negative (remember those?), my hands are just washed, and the cards remain in precisely the same order they arrived in). Just trying to get a feel for how much "downside" there is to collecting one box at a time, knowing that at some point I'm going to want to see these lovelies, feel the handling, admire the finish. The idea of buying one box to remain forever unopened and a second box to actually experience the cards seems antithetical to my personality, to human nature, and to the artists who work hard making cards to be LOOKED AT! I mean, seriously, what's the value of a deck that is never SEEN?! Perhaps inside the cello every card has a giant black line running through it... You'd pay top dollar for the deck and never know it! I'd rather buy one of each and look at every single one, just once in a while. The money goes twice as far, thus twice as many decks collected... Obviously there's some essential of "purist collecting" I'm missing, here...

How many of the forum members collect for "economic upside," do you suppose? And how many of us just want to have a bunch of beautiful cards around. Seems hard to do both... If you bought two identical decks and felt compelled to sell one, which one would you sell?! Like choosing to sell your left or your right hand: I think I'd keep the one that was most useful and brought me the most pleasure (oops - the analogy becomes a bit risqué at this point!).

Just musing.

I completely agree with you there.. I too had that issue where I just couldn't bring myself to open some decks, since they are produced before I started collecting. But I guess now I see it from a different angle, I change the purpose of my collections. I am planning to keep this for a long time.. not 1 or 10 years but even longer (touch wood if nothing bad happens), Therefore I choose to open the deck and have a feel and enjoy playing with the cards. I stop thinking about its value in the future... but 1 thing for sure I do take care of them as much as possible and try not to damage them in anyway.

For some of the older modern deck, I even go for the opened but in good condition decks. Since I am going to open it anyway...  :D in the end I pay much less than brand new deck.
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2015, 02:00:19 AM »
 

Rob Wright

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My take on this is if you are buying decks with intentions of resale for profit. Then you are not collecting. You're just stoking inventory. In that case- DON'T OPEN THEM, and don't quit your day job. You're not going to make a lot of money. I've been selling a few extra decks I have on eBay for the last few months. In February I sold 37 decks for $480. My fees where $62. That makes an average of about $13 per deck. I probably made about $70 profit overall. Sometimes you get lucky and are able to sell a deck for $50 or more, but that is rare.
As far as my collection. I have not opened 95% of them. It's not that I don't want to. I just haven't yet. I'm sure that one day I will.
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Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2015, 09:13:14 PM »
 

ddhburns

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My take on this is if you are buying decks with intentions of resale for profit. Then you are not collecting. You're just stoking inventory. In that case- DON'T OPEN THEM, and don't quit your day job.

Well said! While I'm perusing the topics around the forum: There's a bit of talk about determining the counterfeit status of a deck by the finish on the cards. How're you gonna tell what you've got without opening the cellophane?!  If I were going to invest in printing counterfeit decks, I'd put 90% of my money in the tuck, knowing that most "collectors" would never know... Hmmm... Anyone got a decent printer and a wrapping machine? Maybe THAT's the day job!
 

Re: Grading your playing card treasures
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2015, 11:06:29 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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My take on this is if you are buying decks with intentions of resale for profit. Then you are not collecting. You're just stoking inventory. In that case- DON'T OPEN THEM, and don't quit your day job.

Well said! While I'm perusing the topics around the forum: There's a bit of talk about determining the counterfeit status of a deck by the finish on the cards. How're you gonna tell what you've got without opening the cellophane?!  If I were going to invest in printing counterfeit decks, I'd put 90% of my money in the tuck, knowing that most "collectors" would never know... Hmmm... Anyone got a decent printer and a wrapping machine? Maybe THAT's the day job!

Forgeries are fortunately the exception rather than the rule so far.  When buying Jerry's Nuggets, buy from a RELIABLE source, regardless of the price being charged.

Some forgeries are easily spotted.  I have had a number of cheapo forged Bee decks - they never seem to get the box design right.  Someone tried forging an Ellusionist deck called Ultragaff - it's a not-so-cheap pack of cards used to perform tricks with a Bicycle Rider Back deck in red.  The forgeries have terribly misspelled wording on the box and while the cards themselves are of decent quality, the printing on them is a bit weak - not as sharp and a little too dark, about what you'd expect from a non-digital copy of an original.
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