Jump to content
IGNORED

Let's talk about the sad, new elephant in the collecting world -- Is VGA on the demise?


RH
 Share

Recommended Posts

Member · Posted

VGA has been grading games for a long, long time but in the past two years that WATA has been doing their thing, their partnerships with GoCollect and Heritage Auctions has made it so that they are the de-facto grading company for big money collectors and resellers.

I'm not hear to trash on WATA in this thread, but from my side line observations in many respects VGA is a better grader.  Their grades are more stringent and they will grade anything of any size, so long as it's sealed or NIB.

Regardless, WATA came in and cornered the high-dollar market, which means newbie wannabe collectors with deep pockets and those collectors wanting to grab the low-hanging fruit of the expensive stuff seem to greatly prefer WATA.  Pair that with GameValueNow only quoting WATA graded games and WATA has positioned themselves to practically become a monopoly on graded games in the coming years.

So... what does this mean for VGA?  I don't really follow them and I don't know if they have a news letter or blog.  From the outside, they seem to have no strategy to re-position themselves as the top grader in the industry. I'm sure they do care.  They are a business but they seem to behave as if they don't care because I've not heard of any news or changes to their organization since WATA started cornering the market.

So, my question for discussion is this, in the coming 2, 5, 10 years, what do you think will happen to VGA?  How will the market perception change for them and their graded games?  Will "real" graded game collectors migrate towards VGA and be happy selling on eBay and conventions or doing trades, or is VGA going to become a dinosaur and become irrelevant?  If the answer is irrelevancy, will people start sending of VGA graded items to be regraded by WATA?

These are all questions I'd like to discuss and see what the more serious, long time graded collectors feel.  It's odd, 2+ years ago, I didn't really like VGA.  I didn't love them but they felt like a big grading business that was grading games because they felt it was market they could get in, but didn't seem to be passionate about.  Now, today, the new guys in town seem to be 100% about the hustle and, to me, that feels worse.  How will this dynamic flesh out in the coming years in the collector community?

Edited by RH
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • The title was changed to Let's talk about the sad, new elephant in the collecting world -- Is VGA on the demise?

VGA and CGA are the same company so they won't be going anywhere any time soon. If they stop grading games, then they'll simply focus on comics and action figures. I also think they'll still be relevant in video games as long as WATA doesn't grade things like 3DS yet. However, VGA avoidance was sealed for me once I saw how someone can remove a game from a VGA case and swap it with another game so I haven't touched them since.

I was already sceptical of them in 2015 when I contacted them about grading some games I have and they refused, telling me they only grade retail items, nothing home made. I told them my items were retail sold, I bought them from the Atari Age store. Then they told me they only grade items that were available for purchase from a physical retail location. That was obviously a lie since I kept seeing Nintendo World Championships and all kinds of other non-retail items being graded by them so I was so upset about their lies that I didn't need any other reason to avoid them.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Member · Posted
3 minutes ago, captmorgandrinker said:

Closest parallel I can think of is the baseball card market.   Did BGS (Beckett) end up pushing PSA out of the market all the way?   

They can likely co-exist for quite a while.

Yeah, I understand that and I don't see the VGA company ending the service since they have multiple revenue streams. However, I could see them becoming irelevent because so many high dollar, new market enterers only care about WATA. True, old timers like those of us around here might maintain a preference, but even if you buy games to collect And enjoy for a time, almost all of use do sell and trade for profit, if for any reason other than to put that value in something else we prefer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure what is "sad" about it.  Neither is perfect but the guys at WATA worked their asses off to have the advantages you mention.  They were at all the conventions, they built the connections with heritage auctions, WATA was doing interviews with anyone who would listen, Deniz got himself on Pawn Stars as an expert.  These are guys from the community who started a company from nothing.  

VGA has been stagnant for years.  They don't address any concerns people have about the company or their standards, they aren't upfront about how their process works.  There is a reason people make the joke about "some guy in his mom's basement telling you the condition of your game", it's because of the mystery around their operation.  

Competition is a good thing.  VGA can either try and up their game, or fade away.  They seem to be choosing the latter. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Member · Posted

I agree with both of these statements. I use the term "sad" in the sense of "shaking my head, looking at the sad state of how poorly this has been managed like a 15 year running governmental turnpike project."

VGA does have competition. I prefer them, but no they aren't angels. Regardless, where they simply created a value added service without passion, WATA has taken passion but added exploitation while offering what appears to be an inferior product. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

51 minutes ago, captmorgandrinker said:

Closest parallel I can think of is the baseball card market.   Did BGS (Beckett) end up pushing PSA out of the market all the way?   

They can likely co-exist for quite a while.

PSA is still king, and their graded cards tend to fetch a higher price compared to BGS. That very well could be the case in the long run for VGA, considering WATA hands out 9.4 grades to games with giant holes in the back of their boxes

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, captmorgandrinker said:

Closest parallel I can think of is the baseball card market.   Did BGS (Beckett) end up pushing PSA out of the market all the way?   

They can likely co-exist for quite a while.

 

3 hours ago, Gulag Joe said:

PSA is still king, and their graded cards tend to fetch a higher price compared to BGS. That very well could be the case in the long run for VGA, considering WATA hands out 9.4 grades to games with giant holes in the back of their boxes

ya it seems psa brings a higher $ than bgs. 

those two conpanies are pretty close though. there are bgs guys and psa guys.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe WATA's rise has had little impact on VGA submissions overall.

I just sent a huge batch of games to VGA for grading. My submission contained a lot of very large collector's edition items, a console, many DS games, and even some strategy guides. All of which are very precious to me and I desperately wanted them cased and graded. VGA/CGA has some of the highest quality acrylic craftsmanship I have ever seen. Let me assure you that their business is not struggling even after the rise of WATA. They are struggling to keep up with the demand. Lots of people, such as myself, are still using VGA for their personal collections and with no immediate intentions to re-sale. In this idea, I think a big difference could be that more VGA games are being shelved for personal enjoyment, whereas more WATA games are being put up on the market for re-sale after the grading. Besides, I imagine a large percentage of WATA graded games were VGA slabbed at one point. I have nothing against WATA personally. However, I won't use them due to personal preferences and because of their casing limitations. I think it's great that VGA has some competition, but I know they aren't going anywhere. The reason they don't update their website or simplify their processes is that they don't have to yet. Neither company is the best at what they do, but they are both fantastic in some way or another. If the business isn't hurting, don't change it. Those are my thoughts on the matter.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, RH said:

Yeah, I understand that and I don't see the VGA company ending the service since they have multiple revenue streams. However, I could see them becoming irelevent because so many high dollar, new market enterers only care about WATA. True, old timers like those of us around here might maintain a preference, but even if you buy games to collect And enjoy for a time, almost all of use do sell and trade for profit, if for any reason other than to put that value in something else we prefer.

VGA isn't going anywhere. They fill a couple spots in the ecosystem.

1) They grade custom sizes, as they make their own cases. (Because of this I love the way my games look in their cases as they "fit" better. and don't look like mini gas pumps.)
2) For the discriminating collector who is the most condition sensitive, VGA is the way to go, as basically 90+, 95, 95+, and 100 will all just cross to a 9.8 A++.  It's ok if this becomes a high-end niche. It really always has been as historically most video game collectors avoided graded games.

At the end of the day, CGA/VGA is a trusted grading company that does try their best to be a neutral third-party reference grading company and they have a history of doing so. Their grades have meaning and value to anyone who cares about the condition of their sealed games. Also, remember Heritage Auctions does trust CGA, as they consider their grades the gold standard for action figures and toys.

The fact that Heritage Auction has created a sales funnel with WATA will not make VGA games worthless, or drive CGA out of business. 

As best as I can tell, the WATA/HA grading scheme was skewed to make games seem like they are higher grades than they are. They also introduced CIB grades. Both of these seem to be an attempt to create more gradable product for their auctions, in an attempt to expose the hobby to more wealthy collectors. 

As far as grading goes, I consider them similar but different. Both have their flaws, but at the end of the day their relative grades are mostly reliable. I have chosen to collect VGA, and continue to plan to do so. I can't really envision a likely scenario where I'd switch to collecting WATA, as I really really don't like the looks of their cases, and appreciate the fact they don't make the grades sound better than they are.

Does that mean I would never buy a WATA game, or send one in for grading? No it doesn't.  If I can get a sealed game I want and it hasn't been available in VGA, I'd certainly consider a high grade WATA as an option. Depending on the set it's part of I'd either keep it WATA or in very rare cases cross it to VGA.  I'd also consider sending a game to WATA if for some reason I felt it made more sense to sell it on HA. (Not something I see in my immediate future.)

Edited by Grondorr
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing about VGA is that as long as CGA, Inc. is doing business they will be around. That is pretty much it. I mean flaws aside, they will always be that small toy department at a 1980's department store or grocery market.

As for the way both companies grade, lets use @Gulag Joe's regraded game as an example.

1. A VGA 95Q can also be seen as a VGA 95+Q. It all depends on the grader.

2. A VGA 95+ can be downgraded to a 95 if either the box or seal look to be a 90 to 95.

3. A Wata A++ means that the seal is 'box fresh' (VGA 85+ to 100).

4. A Wata 9.6 is a VGA 95Q, with a Wata 9.8 being a being a 95+Q. Again, see #1.

In the case of said game, it sounds like the box could be disputed as a 95+Q (or 9.8) but the VGA grader was stingy enough to downgrade it to a 95Q (or 9.6). It could be that any light reflected on the seal makes the box look like a 95.

And since the seal is graded a A++ (case fresh or better), it would have graded anywhere from a 85+ to 100.

My guess that if VGA used AFA's standard system, the seal would come back as either an 90 (90+ between the two) or a 90+ (with that being the deciding factor for the final grade). I am going with the latter of the two.

Either way, AFA is competing with CAS. And I would have worried about VGA if CAS did a better job promoting their video game division. Maybe not as much since many here like seeing the grades on top of the case (which is not CAS's forte).

Either way... If CGA, Inc. stops grading altogether all I can say is that it's more on them more than anything else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with the sentiment that VGA is here to stay for next decade or two unless a much different catalyst occurs. CGA/AFA have been their money tree. One can easily assume more games are being graded by VGA now than ever before due to the massive influx of new collectors in the space. Yes, Wata has a much bigger piece of the market but VGA probably doing better than ever. It wasn't like 7-8 years ago a lot of games got graded. 

Their grading system is probably here to stay. They have many divisions that use the same 10-100 grade scale, it would would be hard to imagine them to change one division. I prefer cgc 10 point scale but cant see them changing.

Wata/Heritage 10 point scale can easily be assumed it connected with comic book collectors that knew that grading scale and make confidence in graded games much easier. 9.8? Yea, tens of thousands of young comic collectors that grew up playing video games knew what that represents. 

Last part, regarding their promotion and publicity. CGA/AFA/CGA has never been one to put their necks out and this can be looked as a positive. I think them not teaming up with auction houses strengthens their third party position. Also I feel with grading it is best to quote the old saying "sometimes it is best not to know how sausage is made" or for that fact, who is making it the sausage or what their incentives. Some will argue transparency always is best but sometimes when something we want to think is set in stone like a grade, I do think it is best that the company keep heads down and stick to consistency. We are human but we live in society that expects absolutes. More a company shows their human side, it shows more how there is more conflicts of interests and less absolutes. 

 

There is no right or wrong answers, just perspectives. Just my 2 cents.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Member · Posted

I 100% agree that I don't see VGA going anywhere.  What I do see is there relevance diminishing because they don't care.  That's what's sad to me.

Competition is a good thing.  Yay free markets!  I'm tracking with all of you.  What seems sad is they allowed a new guy in town, they've not tried to build up a competitive edge and what bothers me the most about WATA is how they pray on the rich-guy sucker demographic.  Say what you will about "a fool and his money is easily departed" but it's just a stigma I don't want attached to my hobby.

And to be clear, it's not about there being expensive games. I'm fine with that.  It's that they've worked with GoCollect/Heritage Auctions to hustle worthless games as investments.  That never looks good on any collector hobby and I don't want that associated with me when people hear I collect games.

I'm not coming to any direct conclusion.  I'm just saying I'm not entirely fond of WATAs business model and it's sad the old dog that was the only market simply hasn't cared.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel there is a major misconception on this forum that “VGA is becoming irrelevant and that WATA is replacing VGA as the end point in grading service”. I think a lot of this is the visual hype (online articles, Pawn Stars episode, HA sales etc.); as well as all the gossip that surrounds such as hype. Meanwhile, VGA is plodding along as per usual.

VGA is surely less talked about, but this isn’t the same as them disappearing in both existence and in relevance. Myself being a Pal collector, I don’t plan on giving up on VGA in the foreseeable future. And looking up on eBay sites from Europe and Australia, VGA is still the main service that is visibly seen, with WATA much much less in these regions.

The other thing I can see is that the pandemic has caused some destabilisation of the VGA service, with less workers, and also the European and Australian consumers (like myself) choosing to lie low until the pandemic settles down. Once the pandemic dust settles, I think there will be a big surge in VGA services.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...