Before I begin, let me just state that I am a friend and fan of Ryan Cracknell. His work with Beckett Media and years ago on his own site, Trader Crack’s, has always been top-notch and very entertaining. Furthermore, he turned the tide and made the Beckett Blog AKA news page fun and a must-read for collectors again. With all that said, there is a huge and potentially disastrous storm in the card industry and not only has Beckett Media stayed completely silent on the matter, part of the scandal involves their own employees that are part of Beckett Grading Services.
The F.B.I. are at #TheHobby’s footsteps just 8 days from its biggest industry event taking place, the National Sports Collectors Convention, held this year in Chicago. None of this information and criminal activity would have been uncovered if not for the hard work and sleuthing of members from Blowout Cards Forum. Over the past few months, members on that forum have singled out wrongdoing by Beckett Grading Services, PSA, PWCC, Leaf Trading Cards, as well as many well-known and formerly reputable dealers in the industry.
Personally, I’ve been collecting for 29 years and never had any interest or need to grade a card but I have looked into it. No, I don’t need someone to judge the condition of any card I’ve ever owned but I liked the idea of an outside company marking a card as “authentic” because baseball cards and scandals go together like Jose Canseco and Steroids. This is nothing new. In 1989, a card company was formed that stamped all their cards with a hologram to prevent counterfeiting. Ironically, that same company has been accused of printing hundreds of thousands of extra cards of one of the most iconic rookies of that era. Not surprising, Major League Baseball revoked their license and made Topps Company the only “official” baseball card manufacturer.
As long as there are collectors spending millions of dollars every year, there will be greedy, unethical company heads and employees looking to get as rich as possible. Perhaps the biggest conflict of interest comes from the same company that publishes prices of cards also getting into the business of grading. That’s like the Department of Motor Vehicles opening up a used car lot. How long before one starts squeezing the other? Much like I haven’t had a need to renew my license or registration in almost a decade thanks to the internet, Beckett Media has struggled to keep their price guides in the physical hands of collectors. Yes, the entire magazine industry has suffered over the past decade but is there anything less relevant than a physical guide with late entries and outdated prices? It is almost universally accepted that in today’s world, it’s eBay Completed Auction figures that matter most. Pull out a Beckett price guide anywhere but an empty and dying card show circuit and prepared to get laughed at. The only place these guides hold value is at the local card show every third Saturday of the year. I’ll give them this, at least Beckett Media outlasted several card companies and the near extinction of brick and mortar card shops.
I hate to constantly do this but in my day, Beckett was the Bible of sports cards. It was a beloved and beautiful sight to behold during my first run of collecting from 1990 to 1999 and again in 2007-2008 before I realized that the collecting world was quickly moving on from a physical price guide. Even checklists were available online for FREE. It’s not until Mr. Cracknell’s joined Beckett that the website once again had a purpose. During better times, I would choose to spend whatever small amount of money I could find to purchase a few packs and the latest issue of Beckett Baseball. It was a $6 dollar sacrifice but it would bring me pleasure long after the few packs I bought were stored away into my collection. It would be nice to go back if I could to relive those days but there is no time machine and really, why would I want to go back to a time when the only information available for our hobby was slow and in monthly increments?
Sports Card News has been shinning the brightest light on this scandal. No other hobby related Twitter accounts with large followings has been as vocal. Perhaps it is because they stand to make a profit (ad revenue) or because of their outspoken and polarizing personalities, but there has been a backlash against SCN’s coverage. My personal opinion is that this news MUST spread to the masses to prevent more collectors from being ripped off. Do I agree with all of SCN’s actions? No. Should they be commended for their work? Absolutely. Love them or hate them, they have been pushing the buttons of SCAMMERS for longer than anyone I know and they deserve some credit for bringing this current scandal to even more collectors outside of Blowout Cards.
I don’t want Beckett Media to go under. I am not even hoping for the demise of card grading. What I want is something we have never had in this industry: TRANSPARENCY. I want the people involved in this scandal to lose their jobs and to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I want collectors who got conned to be reimbursed. I want card companies to publicly state their product’s print runs. I want company Twitter accounts to address more than just what’s new and being released that week. As for Beckett, much like the slugger featured in the issue below, your best days are behind you. This is not an opinion. There is no turning back the clock. You did a great service to collectors by hiring Ryan Cracknell but staying silent and not addressing the criminal elephant in the hobby room is the worst thing you can do. It tarnishes your reputation beyond repair and throws any journalistic integrity you had out the door.
The clock is ticking.