Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hobby Conversation: "Graded Greats" Delivers Vintage Excitement

Over the past few weeks, I've enjoyed a robust hobby conversation with Chris Geiss, co-founder of Graded Greats. After "meeting" via twitter (as @ryanspitch and @GradedGreats) when I decided to give their Graded Greats Series 2 product a try, we quickly discovered a shared passion for card collecting. In particular, Chris and I have an affinity for vintage cardboard and have apparently been on parallel journeys into the world of graded cards, vintage or otherwise.

As readers of this blog know, I often strike a schizophrenic balance between both ends of the cardboard appreciation spectrum. One end offers what many consider to be the most organic hobby experience - collecting without the burden of concern for cards' 'value', 'condition' or even thematic organization. The opposite side involves concepts such as investment, market reports, registries and grading authorities - a hobby vernacular that has only come into mainstream focus during the past ten years.

Please note, I firmly believe that enjoyment of the hobby exists at both ends and at every point in between. While my dabbling in all of the above has created a more complex collecting approach that I am continuously refining for my own collecting pursuits, I've learned a lot and met some wonderful people along the way. And my education certainly continues.

Graded Greats caught my attention because their product presented the possibility for me to bridge the gap between both ends of my hobby spectrum. Could they truly capture the fundamental excitement of opening a pack of baseball cards and combine it with the value-driven but predictable peace of mind that comes with purchasing graded vintage cards?

In a subsequent post, I'll review my experience with their Series 2 product and compare my thoughts with the philosophical dribble hobby experience I've subjected you to above - for now, though, I'd like to share with you a brief conversation that I had with Chris about his own collecting story and where he feels Graded Greats might fit into our wonderful hobby:

RyansPitch: What was your first introduction to the sports card hobby? Any fond memories of your first card or set?
Chris Geiss: My first introduction to cards occurred when I was about 5 years old. For some reason, I recall the '77 Topps football set but I more clearly remember the '81 Topps baseball set and busting those rack packs! I went on to collect through high school and opened a shop while in college for about 4 years. I also participated in a lot of shows during that time.

RP: Would you describe yourself as a baseball fan who collects cards or a collector who enjoys baseball? As a collector, how has your collecting approach evolved over the years and what are you currently collecting?  
CG: I guess I would describe both myself and my co-founder, Cody, as collectors who are also fans of the game. We both played on the same legion baseball team and spent plenty of time talking about baseball and every other sports as well. From a collecting perspective, Cody and I are both fans of the "old" stuff. Even during the 80's, we were always intrigued by the classics.

RP: We seem to share an affinity for vintage cardboard - can you describe your affection and/or attraction to the classic, vintage elements of our hobby's offerings?
CG: I enjoy vintage because it never changes and I believe it will always be sought after. There aren't going to be anymore Mickey Mantle 1960 Topps cards produced but Mike Trout will continue to sign autographs and have more of his own cards created for years to come.

An exclusive peek into the Graded Greats stash...

RP: How were you introduced to graded cards and what was your first 'slab' purchase?   
CG: I was introduced to grading several years ago and was instantly impressed. They looked so nice in the slabs!! The first graded card that I added to my collection was not a purchase; rather, it was a '86-'87 Fleer Michael Jordan that I sent in myself for grading...and it came back as a "7"!

RP: What's your favorite graded great in your own collection?
CG: My personal favorite is a PSA 10 1993 Topps Derek Jeter rookie card because I can still remember pulling it from a pack 23 years ago but didn't submit it for grading until last year.

RP: George Lucas came up with the concept of the Millennium Falcon while chowing down on a hamburger - please set the scene for us regarding the genesis of the Graded Greats box.
CG: In all honesty, it wasn't something that took forever. Cody and I had bounced around ideas about getting back into the and how to do it. We tried buying into case breaks and thought that maybe that was the answer for us. Then one day on a phone call, we had the idea of "buy-back" graded Hall of Fame cards. We hung up the phone with a mutual agreement to think on it and reconvene later. When we continued our conversation, we both presented each other with the same idea for naming our concept - Graded Greats! After a few laughs, we put together a plan and decided upon some key elements for our product:

  • our base product would always be at a good price point
  • packaging would be top notch and deliver a little something extra (the experience)
  • we would only deal with Hall of Fame players
During a subsequent meeting, we decided to add some vintage packs to the graded cards and this has proven to be a very exciting element for our customers.

Graded Greats' original Twitter "teaser" 

RP: For anyone who might be unfamiliar with your product, what does each Graded Greats box contain?
CG: Series 1 and Series 2 boxes contained 3 graded Hall of Fame cards and one additional 'vintage' item (pack, raw card, relic, autograph). Each box was individually stocked with carefully packed pouches and sealed with its own unique serial number in that particular batch. It's our goal to ensure that the end result delivers a great balance of "ripping" or unveiling excitement with an appropriate level of return on value - regardless of the unknown potential in items such as unopened packs, etc. 

RP: According to your site, only cards from the "top 2 grading authorities" are included in your product. Which firms did you select, how did you determine these two finalists and what do you like/dislike about each company's product (slab design/quality records/etc.)? Any suggestions for these companies?
CG: We chose PSA and Beckett because of name recognition and the trust that we perceive them to have built with the hobby and its collectors. 

RP: Opinions might differ, but from your point of view, what's been the greatest graded card you've dropped into a pouch and mailed off to a customer? Greatest pack?
CG: The greatest graded cards will truly be dropping into Series 3 boxes, and could easily be chosen from any of the ten raw, vintage HOF cards that we've submitted to PSA for grading. Personally, I would go with the 1966 Mantle! As for greatest pack, that would certainly vary by personal preference as you suggest. We've sent out a lot of '78, '79 and '80 Topps packs - all of which carry a high "unopened vintage-wax" value.  

RP: As some collectors build their own graded card collections, what are some of the best methods that you've encountered for storage, transport and display of these collectibles?
CG: We have seen a lot of methods for storage during our 'hunting' trips. I've seen some collectors customize walls in their collecting spaces by notching out perfect spaces for PSA slabs. If you want to display them without modifying the family homestead - there are a lot of other modular, mobile and cost-effective options! If you're acquiring graded cards for investment purposes, a small fire-proof safe is a simple way to keep them safe, come what may.

Slabbing & Vintage Hunting - Precious Cargo!

RP: What can customers expect from Graded Greats in the future and specifically, Series 3? Ryan's Pitch is always happy to facilitate the announcement of exciting news!
CG: Series 3 has already sold out in similar fashion to Series 1 and Series 2 but we are working hard to make final preparations for a few new products coming up in the near future! One of which, I'd like to go ahead and announce right now - Wax Museum TV:

Essentially, we're trying to capture the excitement of online group breaks with a vintage twist. Participants' entry fee will guarantee them a pack from a sealed wax box from a vintage release. Each pack will be paired with a raw vintage card of HOF player that the participant will receive in addition to what they pull from their pack. On top of that, we will make things interesting by attaching other "chase cards" to random common cards in that particular set. Theoretically, we might determine beforehand that card #361 from the '76 Topps set ( the Tigers checklist card, by the way) will be "exchanged" for a premium card (graded HOF, star player auto, etc.). Therefore, a participant could actually walk away from a '76 break with an exchanged premium card, a Winfield RC and their pack's paired raw HOF card. An entirely new spin on group breaks! Be sure to follow us on twitter (@gradedgreats) and on Ustream (gradedgreats) for updates and information. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or are simply interested in joining the hobby conversation - we're looking forward to having a lot of fun!

RP: Sounds amazing, Chris. I appreciate you taking the time for our conversation and applaud your company's efforts to think outside of the box. Our hobby can become somewhat stagnant at times so it's refreshing to see something new and have an option that incorporates different collecting approaches. Best of luck with Graded Greats!
CG: Thanks, Ryan! We're always up for discussing our latest ideas, products and our passion for hobby in general. At the end of the day, we're collectors who are lucky to be doing what we love and are very excited to share that love with fellow collectors.

Thanks to Graded Greats and Chris Geiss for a great discussion. I hope you guys enjoyed it, too! What are your thoughts on their products, ideas and overall strategy/approach? How do you feel about graded cards, vintage packs or group breaks in general?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts below or reach out to me via twitter (@ryanspitch ) or email (

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!



  1. This is great! No pun intended, I swear. I hadn't heard of this product, but think the concept is very new.

    Well done!

  2. Never heard of them before, it sounds like it would be fun...but probably out of my price range.

    1. A & APU - thanks for reading! I'll do a product review post soon where I detail my experience with one of their Series 2 boxes. Price point was at $59, about the same as a hobby box of Topps flagship. In my humble opinion, I had a lot more fun opening my 4 "vintage" packs than a whole box of modern releases - plus, I also walked away with three graded HOF cards ('60 Mays, '78 Nolan/Niekro, '89 Unit RC) & a raw '51 Topps blue back.

      Hope you stay tuned and check it out. You make a great point, though. I have the same concern to Chris when we chatted & he inferred that, while they may develop/introduce higher end products, they're keeping their core offering & it's affordability on a front burner.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!