Anyway... I look at AFA as a crutch for a lot of people. I'd be disappointed in myself as a collector if I relied on AFA's word over my own educated judgment. Harsh opinion perhaps, but I just wonder when it was that this hobby got filled with people unwilling to learn about it themselves. AFA's probably saved some people the aggrevation of buying a fraudulent piece, but I think it's done much more harm than good.
Let me tell you what it was... don't blame the AFA... blame the people willingly to lie, con, and steal from others. That's whats been ruining this hobby and that's why the AFA is here with us today.
I've been collecting vintage Star Wars Action figures for decades. Before the www came along us collector's had to rely mostly on dealers for information about the hobby (who was collecting what, variations, etc). Back then it was rare to find dealers who weren't in it because they loved the hobby, most were collectors to some degree themselves. You could actually trust a dealer, especially if you dealt with them face to face, without them having to post their 'positive feedback' on their foreheads.
Now it's rare to find a dealer that loves the hobby more than they love raking in cash. It's rare to find a dealer that collects at all. Guys like me became sick of the repro crap that flooded the market and the dealers willing to alter figures or sell custom pieces as genuine.
I say the AFA is a natural step in the evolution of this hobby. Sure they screw up alot. But that's because they aren't collectors themselves and rely on us to tip them off to mistakes etc. Although the AFA people are not collectors and claim this makes them objective, you still have to remember that they are a business, they make money casing and grading figures. So yes it's true that they can't be trusted to serve as the only 'authority' in this hobby.
What this hobby needs is both the AFA and an AFA watchdog... a group made up of collectors who are ready to report AFA mistakes and hold them accountable for those mistakes. I think the AFA would be much more careful about their grading practices if they knew that the ones that slipped by were going to be posted to a website where everyone could see their mistake. I am seriously considering starting something like this myself.
Today I've saw a loose AFA graded red snag with a stormtrooper blaster, despite the fact the figure was originally packaged with a 'Han Solo' type blaster. I emailed the AFA about it. The other day it was an AFA graded Chewie MOC with a NM+ and totally yellow bubble. Upon checking the AFA report it was supposed to be labelled Y-NM+. I contacted the AFA and they admitted their error in misprinting the label. But get this... they were also going to contact the seller to arrange to have it fixed. I'm guessing they would have to offer something to the seller as an incentive, perhaps discounted or free grading. In any case I was impressed they would make the attempt. So I don't think they're all bad... I just think they need help from the people who really know this hobby.. the collectors.
As for the tearing up of cards and Kenner baggies. Come on... seriously... Collectors have been doing this themselves for decades. I've been doing it for decades. At least the AFA U grading gives some assurance that the now loose figure came straight from the package into the case. In the ol days we had to rely on the word of whoever was selling the figure that it was uncirculated and not just touched up. I just paid big bucks for an AFA graded U85 Blue Snag and I didn't bat an eyelash. I think its the greatest thing since sliced bread. For me it's not about the money. It's about having and enjoying. If not for the AFA that Blue Snag would have either remained sealed in a Kenner Baggie (which was never designed or intended to keep the figure for that long) or it would have been ripped open and handled. Now at least I can enjoy the figure more and still keep it 'uncirculated'. I likey.