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Tyler Hitt
Tyler Hitt, founder and CEO of Hybrid Grading Approach, says an Upshur County-based branch of HGA will bring more than 100 new jobs to the area. / Submitted photo

Trading card business plans to bring more than 100 jobs to Buckhannon

BUCKHANNON – A new business plans to bring approximately 120 new jobs and an influx of outside dollars to Upshur County.

Buckhannon native Tyler Hitt, founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Hybrid Grading Approach, said a new branch of his company will be housed at HGA’s new Upshur County location, 879 South Route 20 in Tennerton across from Alfredo’s Restaurant. Hitt recently explained exactly what his company does and how his interest in card-grading developed and flourished.

“We’re a sports card and trading card game grading company, so we grade the condition of trading and sports cards. We measure, we look at the edges, corners, surface and centering of the card, and assign it a numerical value, grade, and then we encapsulate it,” Hitt said. “Then, we seal it and ship it back to the customer.”

HGA is based in Knoxville, Tennessee, but Hitt said he wanted to bring back more opportunities to his hometown.

“I’m trying to bring jobs back to the community because that’s where I’m from,” Hitt said. “It’s a solid job; it brings in outside money that’s not just recirculating in the area. We do a lot – almost all of our business – through our website and online orders, so people just ship their cards, which is money coming in from outside sources, bringing in new money to the area.”

He plans to hire about 120 people for newly created jobs at the Buckhannon location, and their first job fair is slated for this Monday, Aug. 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 10 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Anyone interested in a position should bring a resume or check out HGA’s Facebook page for more information.)

“If they have any TCG (Trading Card Game) knowledge, it’s helpful,” Hitt said. “I am relocating a few people up from Knoxville and from California who we have already interviewed, and they will be coming there for research and ID and grading. Besides that, the rest of the positions are completely trainable. We just look for somebody willing to learn a new trade or new skill and a new position.”

The Buckhannon location will specialize in grading trading card games such as Pokémon.

“I came to a crossroads where I could either start our next spot down here and handle TCG or I could move my second location and the TCG into a better place and I just thought it’d be a great time to try to bring something back to Buckhannon,” Hitt said.

HGA officially opened last January and currently has about 350 employees.

“As a kid I collected cards, and it was a treat to be able to get a couple of Jordan cards or something as a kid, and when I was 18 my whole card collection got stolen so I quit for quite a while, but a couple years ago, I started collecting again,” Hitt said. “When I started submitting cards for grading, I realized there was a lack of consistency as these scores were given out.”

To battle that inconsistency, Hitt developed an AI designed to evaluate cards.

“I dumped a couple million dollars into an AI, Computer Vision Program, and we’ve been developing it, so we use scanning technology, and then a computer vision neural network technology that allows us to do more precise, accurate and consistent grading,” Hitt said. “Then we do have two graders that will check each card just to make sure that the computer picked up everything and make sure it wasn’t overly picky about something.”

Hitt said the collectible market grew during the pandemic, and people may own cards they don’t even know are valuable.

“I had a guy send me a box with his cards and it was like almost a million dollars’ worth of Pokémon cards, and he literally did not know that they were worth anything. He said, ‘Hey, just let me know if there’s anything in here, I have been collecting since I was a kid,’ but he had almost a million dollars’ worth of cards in a box that sat in his his closet for years,” Hitt said. “It’s clear the collectible market really exploded during COVID.”

Hybrid Grading Approach’s Facebook page describes the company as “an innovative card grading service that uses high-level technology combined with the opinion of our trusted expertise.”

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