Updated: Oct 5
Kurt Colone’s videos on social media are mesmerizing. Colone’s work resonates with just about any collector. In some videos he gets wrinkles, stains, and dirt off cards. In another, he minimizes a pinhole on a vintage card.
The before-and-afters are spectacular. Colone takes cards with some of the worst characteristics, like heavy creases and dents, and greatly minimizes or takes them away. Colone uses the videos to promote his products but also has a mission to teach people what he knows. He is using his company, Kurt’s Card Care, to accomplish that mission.
It’s a polarizing topic for collectors. Some think they have a right to fix their cards to get the highest possible grades from their grading submissions. Others believe that restoring cards, undetectable to the grading companies, borders on fraud.
Stills captured from Kurt’s Card Care channel on YouTube.
For Colone, he doesn’t care what people might think. Making his cards better always made sense to him.
“People don’t understand it,” Colone told me. “Some people call it alteration, and some call it witchcraft. I don’t have different messages for different groups of people. I have one message: ‘If you want to do it, great, if not, then don’t do it.’”
To understand Colone, you have to understand his upbringing.
Born in Detroit to a car family, Colone’s family owned a car detailing company and a dealership. His mom, an artist, exposed him to painting, experimenting with different mediums, and using his creativity. The family business created its own polishes and shampoo products for car restoration.
At the same time, Colone was an avid sports card collector. His collection grew when uncles passed down their cards from the 1970s, most in pretty rough condition. It bothered him that the old cards didn’t look as nice as the modern cards he started collecting in the ‘80s.
“That’s where being around restoration and holding things of beauty - it started there,” Colone recalls of his time spent in the family body shop.
His entrepreneurial spirit took off further when he sold restored sports cards and comic books to friends at school. One day, the principal caught him, so he had to stop. He continued the side hustle at home, selling to friends on the weekends.
In one of his videos, Colone restores a Jackie Robinson rookie card by smoothing a crease on the back.
In the 1990s, new card products like Fleer Flair and Fleer Ultra featured glossy finishes. Chrome cards followed a few years later. The cards were changing from pure cardboard products to being made with thin, clear layers of plastic.
“But even after a few years of having [chrome cards], they would lose their luster,” Colone noted.
A light bulb went off when Beckett opened its grading services in 1999. Every card’s price was dependent on its position on the grading scale. Having the best-conditioned cards now mattered more than ever. It’s when Colone got serious about the appearance of his cards.
“It was a game changer,” Colone said. “But now you had to be real good with card preparation.
I was sending in Fleer cards and getting sixes and sevens. But they looked perfect to me.
“Maybe I’m way too nerdy and think too much about this, but I would go to card shows and ask, ‘How do you work on your cards?’ And it was almost like I was speaking a different language.”
Kurt’s Card Care With grading companies gaining more prominence, Colone got serious about making a business out of improving cards. First, he ruled out certain things he felt shouldn’t be done to a card.
He references the importance of the “numbers matching” terminology used in car restoration. Matching numbers indicate that different car parts, like the chassis, engine, and gearbox, have the same serial numbers from the factory.
Cars with matching numbers on the parts are considered more authentic because they indicate original parts. With that schema, Colone knew adding painting and trimming cards didn’t make sense and devalued cards.
In another video, Colone shows how to minimize a pinhole on a 1958 Topps Ron Jackson card.
But he felt that cleaning dirt off cards, taking off wax buildup, and smoothing creases were all part of restoring cards - as natural as car restoration.
He then took car detailing products and removed the ingredients that could damage cards.
“Let’s pull out all the stuff that is fine for a vehicle but not for a little, small Michael Jordan card,” Colone said. “I pulled out all the heavy oils, fragrances, abrasive materials like aluminum that will break down a card, colors that stain, and soaps. It took me a while, but I started really working on making my formulas, and then I’m getting 9s and 9.5s.”
After a while, his work became known in the Detroit area. He started cleaning and restoring cards as a side business in 2012. This may be a stunning revelation to some, considering that Colone has only recently gone viral.
But Colone has been cleaning and restoring cards on his own for over 20 years. Some of the biggest group submitters in the hobby have consulted him since 2018 on prepping cards for submissions.
In one video, Colone restores a 1938 Goudey Joe DiMaggio.
Colone had a steady base of about 20 customers when the COVID pandemic in 2020 sent his card cleaning business into overdrive. At the same time, his full-time gig as a DJ, and booking other DJs and singers for events dried up.
“When the pandemic came, every party crashed. All of our bookings were canceled and we didn’t know when we were going to be doing gigs or make any money,” Colone said. “At the same exact time as my business is failing, the card market was on fire and more and more people were asking to send their cards to me.”
That’s when Colone pivoted to working on cards full-time. At one point, he was working on cards from what he estimates to be around 35 collectors, encompassing thousands of cards. But the work became overwhelming, and the demands went beyond reasonable.
“I would get people telling me, ‘It’s gotta be a 10, it’s gotta be a 10,’ Colone says. “I don’t care if someone cleans their cards and gets a 10, but when that overrides logic, that drives me nuts.”
With more cards than ever to clean and what Colone describes as some customers’ lack of rationality, he was on the verge of quitting from burnout. He realized he was sending his customers 20-minute videos to teach them how to clean their cards.
In another a-ha moment, he figured he could teach many more people by putting his videos online. In 2020, he posted his videos on Instagram unsure of the reception he would receive. Three years later, he has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram and more than 7,000 subscribers on YouTube.
“I either was going to quit, or I was going to teach other collectors how to clean their cards,” Colone says. “I know how to do this, and I want to share this. Sometimes, I can make a card drastically better in 20 minutes. Who wouldn’t want to know how to do this? It was one of the most positive changes I ever made in my life.”
In 2021, Colone established Kurt’s Card Care, putting his products in branded packaging and using videos to promote the business. Colone uses the videos to show how to use his products and the results they can get. His most popular product is Kurt’s Care Kit, which sells for $50 and includes a polish, spray, a corner/edge tool, applicators, and wipe cloths.
Kurt’s Card Care Kit includes a polish and cleaning solution.
How Safe Are The Products?
One of the biggest criticisms of Kurt’s Card Care is that no one knows what his cleaning solutions might do to a card years down the road.
“Chemical reactions don’t happen 10 or 15 years later,” Colone counters. “It’s just fear-mongering. The two things that will ruin a card are sunlight and water. My products are not meant to stay on the card. They’re meant to be put on the card and cleaned off.”
Another criticism is that his polish doesn't remove print lines often found in Chrome products but hides them.
Colone says heavy print lines, called valleys, are tears in the plastic visible under a microscope. The polish can wipe away some of the residue of the plastic particulate, but the scratch won’t go away. For trace lines - print lines created by extra residue - Colone says his polish effectively wipes them off.
“Kurt’s Card Care was made with cards in mind,” Colone says. “I built this stuff for cards, not, ‘This stuff happens to work for cards.’”
For Colone, his passion stems from the support he receives from his community.
“If you have a client base of collectors and you’re good to them, you’re not going to find more loyal people,” Colone said. “Look at what Panini does. They sell cases for thousands and thousands to people trying to make a living, and these cards are all [messed] up. They treat their customers like [crap].”
Colone mentions some customers have started their successful side businesses cleaning cards thanks to his videos and products. He also happily mentions customers that get a high rate of Gem Mint grades that write back to thank him.
“It’s your’s, it’s yours,” Colone says, referring to people’s cards. “These grading companies weren’t around 20 years ago. You don’t need to ask PSA for permission to fix your cards.”
Colone is aware of detractors who look down on what he does, but he says he gets little, if any, negativity. The positive stories and his excitement to show others what he does keep him going.
"I look at collectors as brothers and sisters," Colone says. "It's a huge blessing, being able to do a business you like to do but also having customers you like and have something in common with.”