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A Booming Industry Turning to Automation and Robotics to Address COVID-19 Backlogs

by | Dec 3, 2020

While the pandemic has ravished a variety of industries, Covid-19 has resulted an unprecedented spike in demand for certain products and services that wouldn’t necessarily be considered “essential.”

During times of crisis, it’s normal for people to hoard items such as food, toiletries, water and other crucial tools for survival—but sports cards? Interestingly enough, the market has seen a significant surge as more people are forced to find enjoyment from hobbies at home rather than spending that money on live events.

Alongside this surge has been a heightened demand for card grading, which has caused enormous backlogs for companies who provide these services. California’s “shelter in place” law also compounded this issue, as some had to even close headquarters. To remedy the backlog, some of the leading companies are turning to automation and robotics.


Industry Background

Collectors Universe is the parent company of PSA and is one of the leaders in the card-grading and authentication industry. Other competitors include BGS and SGC, but all of their functions are essentially the same: evaluate cards shipped in by their owners for authenticity and provide a grade on a scale of 1-10 based upon how good the condition is.

A “10” is considered a “gem mint” example, while a “1” would be considered “poor.” The grade each card receives significantly effects the price, as “gem mint” cards generally have a much lower population, thus driving up the value.

A high-end example of the uptick in price for each grade would be a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card, which recently sold via eBay for $428,000 as a PSA 8, while a PSA 6 sold for $81,000. Cards from that era were often used for dart games, put in bicycle spokes for sound effects, or utilize in a variety of other damaging ways—so it’s not overly surprising the population of high-grade examples is scarce.



Addressing Backlog with Automation

With consumers realizing the current market value of high-grade examples of rare cards, more have flocked to grading companies, which has resulted in the largest backlog to date. With limited or no automation solutions in place, this has caused customers to wait for more than six months for orders that were processed in 6-8 weeks or less in the past.

Coupled with the fact that PSA and their competitors can’t hire fast enough to address this demand, the need for automation and/or robotics has become as clear as ever. Collector’s Universe President and CEO, Joe Orlando, stated the following in a recent earnings call that was featured in an article on the Sports Collector’s Daily website.

“We plan on introducing robotics into our process in the coming months for image recognition and capture,” Orlando stated. “We have received our first prototype for testing and look forward to using the capability more widely. This represents our first major move into automation.”



New Ownership, Newfound Resources

Collector’s Universe (PSA) may now have the resources needed to quickly and effectively address this, having recently been purchased by an investor group led by entrepreneur Nat Turner. Turner’s extensive experience scaling technology businesses will be a welcomed addition to help jumpstart their digital transformation.

Turner and Orlando will undoubtedly be integral cogs in PSA’s migration towards automation, something Orlando also addressed during his recent earnings call.

“The demand for our services is clear, and the need for greater operational capacity is paramount,” stated Orlando. “To that end, our team has reconfigured the relevant departments and introduced new shifts to help spread out our employees who have returned to the office. Furthermore, we have accelerated our onboarding efforts to enhance the efficiency of the service we provide to our customers. We are very pleased we were able to keep the Collectors Universe team intact and fund payroll throughout the shutdown and ramp up periods.”

If you are a forward-thinking enterprise looking to stay ahead of the digital transformation curve, contact Western Integrated Systems today to discuss our variety of automation solutions. Our talented team will address your business processes and tailor a solution for your specific operational needs.




Written by WIS



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