Comic Grading 101 – CGC vs. CBCS vs. PGX

Posted: January 9, 2017 by Ian Gaudreau in Comicology - Comic Books
Tags: , , , , , ,


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 in its sturdy case. Comics that are graded are assigned a number based on how “nice” your comic is, and that number is displayed on the interior label of the case. An absolutely perfect comic with zero imperfections would receive a 10, and that 10 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 $25-30, 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 has been 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 (e.g., signature series, restored, etc.), and they have a long standing positive reputation. 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 (formerly through CSA Comics, but this has been absorbed into CBCS). 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, both CGC and CBCS both offer excellent services and great products.

We hope this helped explain some of the basics behind grading books! Let us know your thoughts and experiences using these companies in the comments below!
  1. Tammy says:

    Thank you for explaining the differences of the 3 companies. I read your article because fan expo in toronto started offering cdc/cbcs witnessed signings for jim lee and other top talent artists. Of course this comes at a bigger cost and this article helped me decide whether or not to pursue the higher priced package.

  2. Markus says:

    Stay away from CBCS Comics! They opened 3 comics to be graded – value more than 4000$ – and sent them back without sleeves. This is a complete loss for us. Probably we have to call a lawyer now. This is horrible. We sent them many request to return the sleeves, but no response. I’m sure they lost them. Very unprofessional. Stay away from them!

    • Sheila Carpenter says:

      Anyone know how much a “miss-staple” would affect the grade of comic? The staple is on front of cover and not the spine, but doesn’t affect ability to read.

  3. Ken P says:

    You indicate that CGC has few complaints. Where does one go to actually offer a complaint whereby it would be recognized by the industry? My problem is that CGC seems to have blanketed the market to some degree, and when there are issues that would be important for other collectors to know about, there is no unbiased, impartial forum to share these experiences. I’ve had many books over the past 2 years come back from CGC with blatant errors, forcing me to return them for correction on my dime, only to receive them again with different errors. They NEVER meet their stated turn-around times, yet the customer has absolutely no recourse for holding them accountable. CGC is absolutely NOT the quality standard they would like customers to think. BTW – I have over 1000 graded books and therefore make these claims with quite of bit of experience.

    • Ian Gaudreau says:

      The complaints alluded to in the article are mostly YouTube Videos, CGC Forums, Reddit Forums, etc. where the discussion is intended to be objective and showcase examples of problems. I’m sorry to hear you have had a difficult experience, I do personally believe that CGC and CBCS both hold a high standard among collectors and do good work.

  4. Robert K. says:

    I have used both CGC and CBCS with good results on both. Prices and turn-around times are comparable. One “issue” I have with CGC is this: I live in the Vegas area and our local comic book store (Torpedo Comics) is hosting a year-long signing event to rival most Comic Cons. CGC will have representatives there so you can have your signed comics “witnessed” and given to them for slabbing. Unfortunately, many of the high-end comics I am having signed multiple times, in some cases, are separated by months . . .some as long as 12-months! I was hoping that CGC would issue COA’s in cases like this, but was told no. In speaking to CGC reps, I was told that CGC doesn’t “authenticate” signatures, but “authenticates the process. So in cases such as this I was told to get the comic slabbed after the first signature, then have it “cracked” or unslabbed before the next signature, then repeat the slabbing process again, for the slabbing cost. I have some comics that could receive up to 6 signatures! Very expensive situation.

    I would go with CBCS as they offer signature authentication services, but that would be on a per-signature basis, so still expensive. Also, it seems that the anecdotal evidence is in and CGC graded comics are still bringing more money at sale than CBCS. The upside to CBCS is avoiding the constant slabbing and unslabbing and possibility of damaging the comic book in the process.

    My conclusion is that in a perfect world, CGC would either offer COA’s (which I would pay for) or step up and offer signature authentication as the perceived leader in the industry.

    • Ian Gaudreau says:

      I understand your concern, however, the multiple signature argument isn’t a fair criticism for CGC, as CBCS would give you the same answer. The Signature Authentication program (red label) that CBCS has is entirely different than their Signature Series program (yellow label). To qualify for authentic yellow label signatures, you would have to use the slab cracking process for both companies. It’s the only way to ensure a signature was truly witnessed.

      • Robert K. says:

        Thanks for your reply. It wouldn’t be the same answer as CBCS offers unwitnessed verification while CGC does not.
        Should you get a comic graded that has a signature on it that wasn’t done in their presence, you will get a green label that states there is name written on cover in marker. From my follow up on that matter a green label is worse than no label. Lesson learned.

  5. Joseph Panetta says:

    I had a bad experience at the big apple comic con in April 18 with CGC. I turned around and went right to cbcs and had my book done with them. I won’t use Cgc again and like cbcs customer service much better. I also like the fact that Newton’s rings are not visible due to the better slab.

  6. Kevin Wiener says:

    I love this CBCS ad

  7. johndadbag says:

    I am new to collecting comics, The Stranger Things books are really the only thing I am really interested in right now. I am collecting all the different cover variations of the four issue run. My question is, are these going to be valuable enough to warrant getting them graded? I had never heard of Dark Horse comics before and I didn’t know if the comics themselves were too common to justify spending literally hundreds of dollars getting them graded, and I know that both of these things will affect their future value.

    • Ian Gaudreau says:

      Sorry for the response delay. There is no way to possibly predict a book’s value. Grading will not increase the value of a book. Grading will only *preserve and protect* the value of an already-valuable book. If they Stranger Things books are not valued at $100+ in their current ungraded state, I would not recommend grading. You could always grade them if the value increases several years from now.

  8. David Salaski says:

    I wanted to have Batman #251 certified. This comic has been in the family since the late 1970’s. Was purchased for less than $10 back then, maybe even $1. Now it can sell for $500 on eBay certified.

    I chose to go with CGC because of their stellar reputation. Took five weeks and they gave it a 7.0 and certified it as restored.

    I filed a complaint with them about the certification explaining the history of this comic and assuring them that there was no way it had ever been restored. And, that just putting the bogus statement of “restored” on this comic makes it completely worthless.

    They said I could send it back in to have it re-graded for another fee, of course. I didn’t choose that option. Why should I pay them again to the job they didn’t do, in the first place?

    So, I busted the CGC case open, removed the comic, and sent it to CBCS for a new certification. They took two week and gave it a 7.5 with no mention of it being restored.

    My opinion is that Certified Collectibles (CGC) cannot be trust to do the professional job, and should be avoided, always.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s