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Grading Comic Books 101: How to Grade Comic Books Yourself

How do you grade comic books? A comic book is given a grade depending on its condition. An easy way to think of this grade is that it is much like one you would receive in school. An “A” would be considered “mint” while an “F” would be given the grade “Poor.” A comic with torn pages and a bent cover is unlikely to get a very good grade. This knowledge is important to have when you’re considering selling your comics. So let’s take a look at some things you should know when grading your own comics.

Two Types of Grading

There a couple types of grades that you’ll see in the secondary comic book selling market. You can send your comics off to a professional grading company like CGC, or you can grade it for yourself.

What is CGC Grading?

The Comics Guaranty Company, or CGC, is a business that grades collectible comic books for a fee. They grade comic books on a scale of 1-10. Here’s how it works. First you mail your comics to them. Then they grade them and return them to you in a sealed bag with an official score. Or, if they are coming to a convention near you, they’ll do it in person. The sealed CGC bag proves that you got an official opinion about the condition of your book. Because of this, CGC comic books usually have a higher value on the secondary market. Grading comics is very subjective so the CGC gives a prospective buyer more faith in their purchase.

Are Comic Book Grades Necessary?

All this being said, having your comic graded by CGC is a transaction. They charge for each comic graded. Not all comics will be worth the cost of the grading, especially if you have a large collection. It may be better to find your best quality issues and have those graded professionally, and for the others doing the grading yourself.

Grading your own Comic Books

When you’re grading your own comic books, the first step is to just look at it. Are the pages creased at all? If so, it automatically drops from mint. Is there a fold on the cover, even a slight one? Did you spill coffee on it? Is there foxing on any of the internal pages? All of these things can lessen the value of your comic books. When selling comic books online or in person, keep the comic book grading scale in mind. Now, ;et’s look at what some of the grades entail.

Mint Comic Books

This is the rarest grade for comic books, and the highest grade on the comic book grading scale. To decide if your comic book is in “mint condition” take a look at it and decide if it fits these criteria:

  • The cover should have none of the following: creases, fading (it should look like new), and it should lie flat.
  • The spine should be completely straight and the staple should not have any rusting.
  • The pages should have no discoloration or fading. They should be intact with no tears of cuts. Autographs from the creators are acceptable.
  • Essentially it should look like it is fresh off the shelf at a comic book store.

Near Mint Comic Books

  • The cover should have no creases or fading and should lie completely flat.
  • The spine should be straight and staples like new. Minor binding tears, less that 1/16th of an inch, can be considered acceptable.
  • The internal pages should have no stains or marks, but minor fading is allowed. There should also be no tears.
  • Overall the comic should look new.

Very Fine Comic Books

  • Cover is almost flat with almost imperceptible wear. Bindery defects almost non-existent.
  • Spine is almost completely flat with a possible minor color break. Staples may show some discoloration.
  • Minor interior tears at the margin are acceptable.
  • Overall the comic must be in great condition.

Fine Comic Books

  • Minor cover wear is acceptable and may include minor creases.
  • Page edges may be blunted with minor fading, but should still be readable.
  •  Very minor interior tears may be present.

Very Good Comics

  • Comic Book is well used, an accumulation of defects is acceptable.
  • Minor to moderate wear on cover and interior.
  • Blunted pages are more acceptable.
  • Minor interior tears may be present.

Good Comics

  • Substantial wear present.
  • Cover shows significant wear and may even be detached.
  • Interior tears common.

Fair Comics

  • Shows heavy wear.
  • Often considered the lowest collectable grade because lesser conditions are often incomplete.
  • Creases and tears common.
  • Soiling or staining common.

Poor Comics

  • This is the lowest grade on the comic book grading scale.
  • Cover or interior pages torn or missing.
  • Incomplete story present.
  • Major tears or stains present.

Knowing the Grade

It’s important to remember that grading comic books is very subjective. Something that one person considers mint may be considered less so by another. When you’re buying a comic book be sure that you know which term fits the condition of the piece.

If you’re selling a comic, be sure that you grade it with a critical eye. If you consider the book to be mint and the person who buys it considers it fine you may face some serious backlash from online auction users. Some of these disputes have even resulted in lawsuits.

Whats Next?

Understanding comic grading goes a long way. It will aid you in auctions, both as a seller and as a buyer. It will also help you to build up your collection as it rises in number and value. With a graded collection, you have the most reliable assessment of your comics’ value. From there, you can sell, trade, and collect with confidence.

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