A great collection of graded cards doesn’t need to cost a lot. A vintage collection can be assembled at affordable prices and by selecting the best examples of those cards you can build it quickly. Owning cheap hockey cards doesn’t always have to mean ‘low grade’ or ‘common player’.
Most average folks can’t really tell the difference between a card graded 7 and an 8. Sometimes a ‘4’ can look better than a 6. For those wanting to start a graded hockey card collection or those looking to expand, it can make sense to look for the graded cards in the middle. High-grade example might cost way too much and the vintage cards with the lowest grades may be a little too rough to enjoy, so the best of those in the middle grades might be the right fit. Someone wanting graded 1970s cards might be able to buy several of them at a PSA 6 or 7 grade for the same amount of money that one PSA 9 card.
Remember the adage, “buy the card, not the holder”. Just because a grading company has certain, rigid standards doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to that exact scale. A teeny, hairline crease that is barely visible—or not visible at all to the naked eye–might turn a graded card from a 9 to a 3 but still look spectacular. That’s your cue to jump on it, assuming your only aim is to build a collection of popular vintage hockey cards with eye appeal.
Do remember that grading is somewhat subjective. A collector might be able to find a PSA 4 card from 1953-54 Parkhurst which doesn’t look different when compared to some of the PSA 5 cards available but can be acquired at a much lower price. Also keep in mind that standards do vary between grading companies. What one overlooks, another may not.
When looking at the cards with lower grades, collectors can sort through the cards at the same grade by deciding which are more attractive. Two cards–each graded 4– could have different centering. The card centered 70-30 with some edge wear may not look as nice as one with 60-40 borders, some edge wear and a minor printing blemish. The older the card is, the larger discrepancy between prices as the grades change. There might be a saving of several hundred dollars due to corner wear on a card made in the 1930s, and while it may carry a low technical grade, it could still be a great card for a collection. Most people who view the card won’t even notice light corner wear as much as they would a big crease through the middle or the card being badly miscut.
Those wanting a Gretzky rookie card, but not wanting to spend a huge amount, could find a bargain with cards graded PSA 5 by reviewing enlarged scans and comparing several cards offered at that grade. There are many, that when viewed by everyone but the most experienced card sellers and experts, don’t seem to be much different than a card graded NM/MT. Yet prices for 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 cards graded 5 or 6 are less than half what a PSA 8 would bring.
Don’t even discount cards graded ‘Authentic’. Many cards that don’t carry a numerical grade for some reason look great in a holder, yet sell for far less than cards graded 2 or 3. The ‘A’ may be assigned due to the existence of an alteration, a major defect or the original submitter may have requested that PSA encapsulate the card without a grade. In the case of expensive vintage hockey cards, though, it does mean the card is real and for many collectors, that’s the only thing that truly matters.
One reason why collectors look first at the cards with lower grades is to try to find one they think is “undergraded” so they can send it in again and hopefully get the card back with a higher grade, and therefore an increase in expected value. Sometimes they send the card back to the same grading company, while other collectors will get a card graded by a different company than the one which first graded it. This can increase the value as there are people who prefer the grades of a specific company and pay more for it. Remember, PSA didn’t use the half-grade system until 2008. Not long after that, SGC added four new levels to its grading. Anyone with cards graded prior to this time who has never re-submitted, may have cards for sale that are in a 6 holder that might actually be graded 6.5 under the new system. For expensive cards, that can mean a significant difference in value.
Cheap hockey cards also have a chance to increase in value. A rising tide lifts all boats and when demand increases for high grade cards, the lower grade examples also enjoy a boost.
Don’t underestimate your own ability to decide what makes a card attractive to own, take advantage of those lower prices and you’ll be adding some great cards to your collection for less money.
Click here to check out low-priced vintage graded hockey cards currently listed on eBay.