Looking to get into comic grading? In this article, we will describe the basics of what comic book grading is, why you would get your comics graded, and the differences between the companies:
Writers Note: This article is meant as an introductory article to comic grading
What is comic grading?
Let’s start with the basics. Comic grading is the process of encasing a comic book in a plastic case. This plastic case “forever” seals your comic, unless you destroy the case to extract the comic. Why would you do this? For one, if you have a really valuable book, it offers a form of protection. Your comic is now protected against greasy hands, falls, and more as it is in a sturdy case. Comics that are graded are assigned a number based on how “nice” your comic is, and that neighbor is displayed on the interior label of the case. An absolutely perfect comic with zero imperfections would receive a 10.0, and that 10.0 would be displayed on the label. In reality, most “perfect” books receive a 9.8, as it is incredibly difficult to receive a 10.0 due to minor issues that happen during printing and/or shipping.
Another popular reason for grading comics is signature authentication. The comic book grading companies will offer witnesses, so a representative from the grading company will stand with you as you get a book signed. You then hand the book over to them, and it gets sent off to be graded. For books that have a signature witness, they are sealed with a special label detailing who signed it, where, on what date, etc. This is the only true way to know if a signed book is authentic, as it is impossible to swap out the book once it is sealed in the plastic case, and having an authorized witness stand with you is an ideal level of authenticity.
A final, less common, reason is to identify counterfeit comics. This happens rarely, but on occasion people purchase counterfeit comic books thinking they are the real deal. Comics that are sent to grading companies undergo a very detailed review, and counterfeits can be identified by the grading experts. If you are buying an expensive graded book, you can be assured knowing the book is authentic.
How much does grading cost?
The price for grading can vary, but including shipping, the price is in the realm of $35 per book. Extra charges are added for signature authentication, pressing (where you pay a company to try to smooth out any imperfections in your book in an attempt to achieve a higher grade), expedited service, and more. This brings up an important note. Many hobbyists grade comics in an attempt to invest value into their books. If your comic is never going to be worth more than $35, then it likely is not worth being graded as you will spend more money grading the book than you will making a profit.
How do I get my comics graded?
There are three main avenues for grading comics:
(1) you can drop them off at conventions, as grading companies are usually present at a table accepting books),
(2) you an mail them in yourself, and
(3) you can check to see if your local comic shop has an account with a grading company, as they may be able to mail your books in on your behalf at a discounted rate.
Which company is best?
This is the question among collectors. We are going to try to give you our unbiased opinion, but it is worth being honest to ensure you make the right decision. First, we recommend staying away from PGX. Several years ago, PGX had a large scandal where books were being given higher grades than in reality. There is a large distrust in the collecting community, so if you are going to spend the money to get a book graded, we recommend CGC or CBCS:
For a long time, CGC was the premier comic book grading company. There are very few complaints about CGC services. The product quality is great, there are a variety of labels that meet the conditions of different books, and their reputation is great. In summer 2016, there was a small issue of their plastic cases damaging some comics, but this issue was quickly resolved once identified. We do think it is important to note that the top dollar graded books are typically CGC, and CGC will normally fetch a slightly higher price at auction (only for books that are worth $1,000+).
CBCS has been rising in popularity as an alternative to CGC. The main attractant to CBCS is they offer signature verification services through CSA Comics. With this service, signed comic books signatures can be authenticated for their authenticity. For people who had books signed without a witness, this can be a great option. We should note that the label for comics that receive the verification service is different than the authentication service, but this is the only option non-witnessed signatures.
CBCS has an equally good reputation compared to CGC, so it mostly boils down to a matter of preference. The prices and turnaround times may be different, you may prefer one company’s label over the other, but all in all, CGA and CBCS both offer excellent services and great products.
We hope this helped explain some of the basics behind grading books! Let us know what you think in the comments below!