Get to Know Andy Broome, CSG Senior Vintage Sports Card Grader

Posted on 1/5/2021

Over the course of two decades, Broome has graded millions of sports cards, including the most iconic ones. Now, he brings that experience to CSG.

Certified Sports Guaranty® (CSG®) is excited to introduce its Senior Vintage Sports Card Grader, Andy Broome, who brings two decades of experience and inexhaustible enthusiasm to the CSG grading team. Read on for a Q&A with Broome, and find out how he became interested in sports cards, what he loves to collect and the changes he sees in store for the hobby.

Andy Broome

How did you become interested in sports cards?

My dad bought me a pack of 1983 Topps baseball cards at the Exxon gas station in my small hometown. I knew nothing about sports cards before that pack, and no one else in my family collected anything. I can’t explain it any better than I fell in love with cards that day. It has been a fun ride since, and I hope it isn’t over anytime soon.

How did you become a professional in the sports card industry?

My official start as a professional card grader was in 2000, after I met another sports card enthusiast at a local card show the previous year. He had the idea to build a sports card grading company and knew of my expertise in vintage cards. So, we got together and ventured into the world of sports card grading.

But really, my grading experience started long before. When I was 12, I discovered T206 cards. I was fascinated by these tiny cards that looked like beautiful paintings on the front, but the backs were nothing more than old-time cigarette ads. I recognized “Piedmont” because it used the same script as a Piedmont cigarette chair that belonged to my grandfather. There was a connection there.

It wasn’t so much that I loved baseball (I do) but that I fell in love with cards — all types of cards. I loved to sit and study the cards under a loupe, asking questions like, “How are they made? What printing process is used?” I had to know all that I could learn about cards. This was before the internet was a major resource like it is today, so it took a lot of time, money and card shows to gain an in depth knowledge of cards.

It was also about this time that I went to Trade Days in Scottsboro, Alabama with my grandfather, who was an antiques dealer on the side. I thought this event would be a great place to find some cards, and I did find a shoebox (an actual box that once held shoes!) full of random baseball cards. Among those cards were some old cards I had never seen before: 1938 Goudey Heads-Up.

When I got home, I opened my baseball card almanac and found the cards listed in there. Some of them were worth hundreds of dollars. But even at the age of 12, something didn’t feel right. A card that old should not be as white as these were. It was then that I made the discovery: On the back of one of the cards were the letters “RINT.” Someone had attempted to scrape off the word REPRINT from the backs.

I realized that day that when cards are worth money, there are people out there who will be dishonest and alter cards. I began teaching myself how to find altered cards and counterfeit cards. I had no idea that by teaching myself this, it would lead to the career of my dreams!

What is your area of expertise?

My expertise is in vintage cards with an emphasis on pre-World War II cards. I am also a passionate collector of vintage Japanese baseball cards and vintage non-sport cards.

What is your favorite card?

My favorite card set changes. I am more of a player collector and a type collector. My favorite player to collect is Victor Starffin, a Russian national who pitched in Japan before and after World War II. He became the first pitcher in Japan with 300 wins and is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, but his life is a tragic story of racism and what might have been. I currently have over 100 different Victor Starffin cards, including signed examples.

In today's hobby, that might not sound like many cards in a collection, but to put it in perspective, vintage Japanese cards are so rare, I am only able to add about four to six new cards to the collection each year!

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1949 JBR 51 "Who am I" color bromide Victor Starffin

While technically a game card because of the clues to the player's identity on the reverse of the card, these cards are classified as bromides due to the similarities in the fronts to other Japanese bromide cards of the era. This example was personally signed by Starffin in the early 1950s in blue ink with a fountain pen.


 

What inspires you?

The ability to do make a difference in the hobby that I love is what inspires me. Aside from grading cards, I have had the opportunity to consult for television shows, develop new technologies to improve the hobby, work with auction houses and museums, catalog new vintage card discoveries and have written many articles about card grading and the hobby in general.

To not only enjoy this hobby but also make a difference drives me each day.

What’s your biggest achievement since you have been involved with sports card collecting and grading?

I have had the rare honor of personally grading our hobby’s most iconic cards such as the T206 Honus Wagner, T206 Doyle, Nat’l and a T206 Ty Cobb Back.

I would tie those honors with being a part of the creation of the “Shoebox Treasures” baseball card exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. If you are a sports card collector, you must make the trip one day to see the exhibit. Say hello to my grading loupe in there!

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1909-11 T206 Fred Merkle Portrait

This is the first T206 card I ever owned. I bought it at a card show in 1988. Of the thousands of T206 cards that have passed through my hands over the last 30 years, this card is my favorite. As a bonus, it has the Howe McCormic stamp on the reverse.


 

Why should collectors be interested in third-party certification?

The intent of third-party grading is to remove any bias between two parties when it comes to the condition of a card. In the “old days” of the hobby (1970s-80s), cards were sold through the mail from ads in magazines. One mail order dealer’s “Mint” was often another dealer’s “Near Mint.” This made the perceived condition of a card completely dependent on the reputation of a particular dealer. Also, the possibility of “generous grading” meant that collectors might receive a card not quite in the condition they thought they were paying for.

Reputable third-party grading companies help to establish consistent standards that all parties can agree upon.

The other role of third-party grading is to guard against card altering and counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the battle to stay one step ahead of card doctors is a constant battle. Collectors and dealers rely on third-party grading to help combat alterations and counterfeits in the market, but the battle has been tough for the grading companies as well.

As card doctors have gotten more sophisticated, the means to detect their work has had to grow and adapt as well. Third-party grading companies must be innovative and embrace new technology to assist experts in catching altered and fake cards.

CSG was founded with this in mind. CSG graders use specialized equipment and machine-assisted grading technology to stay one step ahead of card doctors.

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1910 E104-II Nadja Caramels Honus Wagner

Odds are that I will never own my own T206 Honus Wagner, but there are other great Wagner cards out there that I can own. Some Wagner cards are far rarer than the famous T206 version, and this card is one of them. The card image is based on the same Carl Horner photograph used to create the T206 card, just reversed.


 

How is the advent of CSG going to serve/benefit the hobby?

CSG exists to bring a new and forward-thinking approach to the world of sports card grading. There are areas in this industry that have been lacking, and collectors and dealers’ needs have not been consistently met as a result. At CSG, we will proactively address issues like efficiency and investing in and developing new technologies to assist in grading. In addition, CSG is backed by the Certified Collectibles Group’s 30-plus years of leadership and expertise in the collectibles world.

What advice do you have to someone who may be starting to collect sports cards?

My advice is to learn as much as you can about the types of cards that you want to collect. Do this by handling as many different cards as you can, building a collection of tools — like a proper loupe — and studying your cards. The more you know, the more informed your decisions will be when adding cards to your collection, selling cards or submitting cards for grading. Third-party grading is another tool for you to use to assist in your decision making when it comes to buying and selling cards.

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1914-16 T213-2 Coupon Kid Elberfeld, Chattanooga

I collect anything that represents my hometown team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. This card of Elberfeld is a team change found in a second type T213 set. Kid actually has three different captions in the T213-2 set. One of those variations, from 1915-16, lists Elberfeld with Chattanooga. The image of Kid is the same image used on the T206 card, including the Washington "W" still on his jersey!


 

How would you describe the sports card collecting culture?

Sports card collectors and dealers and the market as a whole have evolved a great deal in just the last five years. As technology and social media have grown, people have become savvier, and their knowledge base has grown. Collectors are more informed about issues like card doctoring, counterfeits and the nuances of grading.

The sharing of card knowledge has grown and now more than ever, people can join groups online, be a part of group breaks and even help police the hobby. The culture of sports card collecting may be intimidating to someone just getting into the card world, but it is also one of passionate collectors and sports fans.

The great thing about this hobby is there is room for everyone. Not everyone is an “investor” and not everyone is building complete base sets, either. But both of those individuals can participate in the hobby together and both benefit in some way from third-party grading. For the person just getting into card collecting, come on in. There is a place for you!

How do you see the future of sports card collecting?

Collecting is rapidly changing. I know this has been said many times before, but interest in collecting has exploded since March of 2020. I remember well the hobby explosion of the late 1980s. The 2020 boom has made that time look like a flash in the pan. We have seen prices for modern cards reach over a million dollars for a single graded card. Cards of players who are still on the playing field are realizing seven figures at auction seemingly left and right.

As we see interest in collectibles and the values of collectibles grow, we also see the potential for fraud to grow. Technology is the answer to meet these challenges. What was once thought of as high-tech and out of reach is now quickly becoming a reality in the hobby. We will soon see tech that will be assisting graders and authenticators to ensure a better, more consistent product in the hobby that both collectors and dealers investors can trust.


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