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Comic book grading is the process of determining the grade or condition of a book, which directly influences its value. When shopping, it is an excellent idea to learn about comic book grading so that you can determine a book’s grade for yourself.
This comic book grading scale has been used for several decades, during which time the scale has been expanded to more accurately describe a book’s condition. Next is the use of plus (+) and minus (-) to denote that a book is slightly above or below a grade.
This 10-point comic book grading scale is widely used now and you will often see people grade by simply putting the number value on the book with the classic descriptive grade. In order to properly view a book, you need to view it outside of the bag and you will use several of your senses (not just sight, but touch and smell). Most books are bagged to protect the book and the bag is usually secured with a piece of tape. Make sure you have a clean, dry surface that is free of anything that could damage the book. Moving the book at different angles under the light not only allows you to view the gloss, but also look for defects. As you open the book, be especially careful if you know you are dealing with one that is old and potentially brittle, or if you fear the staples are not firm. Inspect the staple areas as good as you can from the inside to determine if they are nice and firm, pulled or even completely separated from the cover or any of the pages.
As you did with the book closed, make use of the light, viewing the book at different angles.
It always amazes me at the conventions how quickly someone will arrive at an opinion of a grade simply by viewing the book in the bag, by looking solely at the cover and spine.
I’ve seen a number of comic book grading guides that list out a lot of detail for each grade.
To help with this approach, here’s my take on what each grade looks like first with an overall description then some examples of the degree of attributes for each grade. A book in this grade should also look near perfect at a glance but may have very subtle defects such as corners that are not perfectly square or printing that is slightly misaligned or very slight off-white pages.
A book in this grade may not look like it was just printed but will definitely be a very attractive and obviously well taken care of book. The cover will have minor wear but will still have a lot of gloss and should be free of dirt.
The pages can be off-white to even slightly yellow but should still be attractive and should still feel nice. Often the degree of any small defects will make the difference between a VF or a VF+, for example. The pages may no longer be off-white – they be yellowish or light tan but still not showing too much age. The spine may have some visible stress lines or possibly a mild roll as long is it doesn’t misalign the book too much. The pages may be yellowish, tan or even light brown but should still feel okay to the touch. The spine may be split a bit or detached from a one staple but the cover must still be attached. Major defects are acceptable provided they do not detract from your enjoyment of looking at the book and reading it.
A book in this grade can still be somewhat attractive and collectible but will have problems that are more severe or numerous than with a Very Good, to the point where you are at least a little distracted by them. The pages may have some tears or a small pieces missing but the book must still be readable.
The pages will be fairly poor in quality, whether it is poor paper quality, or simply worn and aged with soiling, staining and chunks missing. A few weeks ago, I attended a local comic convention here in Vancouver and I heard about the new company Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS).
CBCS charges $15 to grade a modern comic book with 15 business day turn-around and $29 per book for a comic valued up to $400 (any year). PGX charges $13 to grade a modern comic book with 20 business days turn-around and $20 for a book published pre 1978 with 20 business days turn-around.
CGC charges $18 to grade a modern comic book (maximum value of $200) with 20 business days turn-around and $60 for a book with a maximum value of $1000 with 15 business days turn-around.
Each company does different tiers and levels so it’s difficult to make exact price comparisons.
I’ve got lots of complaints towards CGC myself and I support healthy competition, but I stopped buying PGX books simply because they fetch less for the equivalent grade, even if the book itself seemed to be fairly graded. CGC fans tend to be extremely loyal (blindly so I would add) and they’ve caught PGX being unethical several times. Still, using greed from Bell and Rogers as a prime example of what could happen to a market without competition, I’m all for CBCS and hope they can make some serious in roads. You can discuss any and all of the third party grading companies, buy, sell and display third party graded books as well. Yes the Halo are more expensive, but with what is saved on post it works out cheaper for Australians. We Canadians have to wait 6-7 months as well and there’s not ocean between our two countries.
I’ve never used any of the grading companies before, so I am interested to know what, um, unethical things graders might do with your comics.

CGC ruined the market for themselves – terrible customer service, awful, cheap plastic cases and ridiculous pricing schemes. I always have this question in mind but I have no idea who could give an honest answer to it. I keep hearing about some incidents which happened to the PGX partners (or ex partners), which incidentally caused the slip in their rep sometime back.
I can understand how some people would treat something they greatly support like a religion (for example, a football club), and if I had stepped on your tail unknowingly, I do apologise.
I don’t have to show you the amount of PGX slabs I have in my collection to let you understand why I am concern. Just about to submit my first and actually very substantial pile of books to cgc for grading. As with grading all collectibles, there is a degree of subjectivity as there are many factors to consider and all of them must be weighed to determine an overall grade.
This should give you peace of mind to know that you are getting a good value if your grade agrees with the seller’s.
It is best to completely remove the tape from the bag and place it somewhere where the book has no chance of coming in contact with it. One of the most common mistakes is having a drink or food nearby that could spill or drip on the book, causing a stain. You will be able to see light creases or folds, stains, dimples or other types of damage to the cover. Also check to see if the staples are original – they should be flat on the inside of the book rather than crimped like most staplers you find in an home are.
Paper can be cleaned in order to make it look white and traces of the chemicals used such as bleach will still be present. Look not only for obvious problems such as writing, tears or creases, but also for ones that have been hidden like pencil writing that has been erased.
While this can be very helpful, I’d encourage you to practice developing a quick opinion of a rough grade (or range of grades) first then either reward or discount the grade by applying each of the attributes you noticed about the book during its evaluation. Keep in mind this is by no means complete and you also need to learn to weigh all of the attributes together to arrive at a final grade. If upon examining the book, you have the opinion that it is really nice and close to a NM, then you are probably thinking of a range of grades from VF+ to NM-. This can mean the difference between a surface tear where some of the interior paper of the cover is visible and a clean one where you can barely tell there is a tear until you open the book. But it will still be fairly good looking to a collector, especially someone that is collecting an expensive, older book that may be hard to find in this grade.
This means a piece missing mustn’t interrupt the story, no pages can be missing and the pages cannot be too fragile to turn. The problems will likely be a focus, drawing your  attention away from at least some of the beauty of the book. The problems with a book in this grade can be so severe that it may no longer have any collector value.
This company was started by Steve Borock, the former president of CGC so he definitely has some clout in the industry.
I’ve talked to collectors about “slabbing” comics and it seems there is a lot of discontent out there, directed primarily towards CGC. Now, I’m not gullible enough to think such practices do not exist at CGC or any of the auction houses.
Unless you enjoy paying the highest cell phone prices in the world with a government seemingly unable to do anything about it.
Their CGC census and collector community is hard to replicate, and these are some reasons that serious collectors use CGC.
The site is not associated with any grading company and is totally uncensored in that respect.
Backroom deals are made at all companies, even at the highest level of Church and government. They are dead to me and Vault and just recently CBCS has gotten my business and will continue to. Competition is needed in the grading industry to make it more honest and open to the public… and to throw a good dose of cold water on CGC hysteria. Different people may place different weight on each factor and thus, may grade the book differently than others. Most reputable dealers will strive to grade accurately or even a bit conservative in order to satisfy their customers. Accidentally allowing the tape to come in contact with the book may result in damage, possibly as severe as a tear. You should be able to gather an opinion about the gloss of the cover by how the light reflects on it. Often minor defects such as a light crease where the paper has not been broken may be difficult to see without a good light, especially inside a bag.
Books that have seen water damage or just even some humidity may have staples that are corroding and causing the paper to turn color.
Be aware that staples are often misaligned which makes it a lot easier to cause damage as either the front or back cover will pull on the staple.
Water damaged books will have a very strong musty smell but you will likely see the stains long before you notice the smell.
You can detect this by seeing less dirt in the erased spot and even the indentation of the writing in the paper from how the light reflects.

A complete and thorough viewing of a book in ideal conditions is the best way to properly evaluate and grade a book. A book that would otherwise grade VF may have been downgraded due to a defect like a spine split, tear or very inconspicuous writing.
There may be multiple or even a couple of major creases or a small piece missing but overall, the cover should still look attractive and complete.
The complaints towards CGC include poor service, long waits to get your comics graded, poorly graded comics, and of course CGC’s prices have steadily increased over the years. If guys like Doug Schmell was disgraced as a lawyer, why would his comic practice be any different?
The main reason our market was needing an Australian based service was the way that CGC was treating us like the poor cousin. I looked at Halo Certification and the prices are pretty expensive, but their product seems decent and at least you don’t have to wait. And since nobody really uses PGX, I could probably get my comics PGX-slabbed without waiting too long.
CBCS look very much like CGCs and I completely agree with you CGC try to suck every dollar out of you – they are thieves and the CGC site are a filthy pack of unwashed shills.
They even have Doug Schmells law certificate and the official document that details how and why he was disbarred.
Head Nazi Doosh Architect has poorly moderated the boards and CGC wonders why they are slowly losing market position to CBCS! It’s just a genuine question, which I hope someone could hep shine the light with some real information. Would be interested in submitting duplicate issues to both companies to see how they operate. The main thing you need to do here is prevent dirt, oil or substances that be on your hands from getting on the book. You will also be looking for tears or even separation of the cover or pages from the staple. It is actually quite rare to describe any book from the Silver Age or earlier in this grade, simply due to the natural degradation of ink and paper. It will take a close examination and any defects present will be very minor and difficult to notice. Minor tears are okay, but should be very few and only in the margin – they should not extend in to the frame of the page. There may be heavy stains, mildew or other problems that prevent one from enjoying the book to any degree. Collectors grumble and many feel forced to use CGC because it is the dominant player and it seems like the “only game in town”. I have also seen a demonstration where a Halo was dropped onto a hard floor and did not crack. Canada Post has a system so that people don’t walk off with a sheet of stamps and the Royal Mint has it for obvious reasons.
Books with wear have lost some or all of their gloss and the degree of gloss remaining is one of the main factors in grading. Very Good is where a lot of the picky collectors draw the line unless it is a very expensive book. Sure, you can go with PGX or Vault Grading services, but no one else comes close to the prestige and recognition of a CGC-graded comic, and CGC-graded comic books sell for better prices than other grading services. But I am getting to the point that I want to submit some of my Silver Age Marvels for grading, but I still can’t decide on which one to use. They said it was because of a backlog of orders and yet they could speed it up for a little more money.
I think that you would get a better turn around from Halo even though they are in Australia, but with shipping you would find it more expensive.
CGC may not be at that level but those grades that they hand out have cash value so I think they could be tighter about the process.
Very old paper may even be brittle but you typically should not see this unless you are dealing with Victorian Age books.
If the tear is obvious and impacts the design and appeal of the cover, for example, it must be downgraded. CGC was faced with a law suit a couple times and instead of standing firm, they quickly changed the grade in order to avoid litigation. CGC also slabs taped books in universal slabs as opposed to calling them what they are: RESTORED. If you cannot comment properly or unwilling to share, perhaps you could leave that to someone else. PGX has a higher standard of grading and charges a fair price without forcing one to join a club or get a permission slip from a pre-screener as CGC does. If your X-Men #1 is high grade…you would definitely want to get it graded for a sale. But it will take a while as CGC is living off a reputation which has been sold out and in my opinion tainted to the point that I would not give them ANY business.

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