HOW TO gradE your comic BOOKS
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When grading a comic, the first thing you need to do is look through the book and check for major defects. Is the book water damaged? Are the pages and cover all present? Are there any major stains, tears, or rips? This is the most important thing to check for, because if you see any of these, then the grade of the book drops drastically.
A comic book missing a page will automatically be reduced to a 0.5 grade, which is the lowest possible grade for a book. If it is missing the cover then it will not receive a grade and will be classified as coverless.
The book on the right is missing the top portion of the cover and is automatically reduced to a 0.5 grade, despite the rest of the book being in overall good condition. This reduces the book to a $15-20 comic, while a higher grade version of this same comic would sell for hundreds. A very high-grade copy of this that is graded by CGC would be worth a couple of thousand dollars.
The next thing you need to look for while grading your comic book is restoration. Restoration is common in all hobbies and comics are no different. If you have comic books from the 1930s thru the 1960s, then there is a chance that the books have some kind of amateur or professional restoration. If you have modern comics, then restoration is rare.
This is mostly for 2 reasons. Old comic books are more likely to be valuable. Also in past decades before comic collecting and grading were common, many people would attempt to fix their comic books with color touch and adding pieces without knowing how it would affect future value (yes, value is greatly affected).
There are many types of restoration: color touch (most common), pieces added, reinforcement, glue, etc. Tape is not considered restoration but does affect the grade greatly. Unfortunately, if you do not have experience detecting restoration it might be difficult. Amateur color touch might be easier to spot in some cases.
Now the next part we need to discuss is page quality for a comic book. Does your comic book have good quality pages? There are a few different designations for this: white, off-white, cream, tan, slightly brittle, brittle. It's possible to get a designation that has a combination of two (ex: off-white to white).
Now, page quality depends on how the comics were stored. If the books were stored properly in a room of average temperature (and possibly in bags), then the pages will remain good. Please note, that page quality does not directly affect grade unless the pages are in the brittle range. If they are brittle or slightly brittle, then the grade drops drastically (even if the rest of the book is near mint).
Please note that page quality in most newer comic books will almost always be off-white or better (most will be white). The books to consider page quality with are mostly the older ones (the 1960s and older). Those are older and are more likely to have issues with long-term storage.
Now, your book is all complete, but you see that it has some of the defects mentioned above. It has big tears, or stains, or water damage, or the spine is splitting, or possibly all of the above. How do you grade it?
A comic that has all of those defects and looks like the book pictured would receive a 1.0 to 1.5 grade from CGC or CBCS, even if it is complete.
If you have only one of those problems mentioned, then the severity of the defect would be what affects the grade most. If there is only a spine split to your comic, then the grade will depend on how big the split is. If you are missing a small piece, then it depends on how big the piece is.
The best way to understand how a defect affects the grade is to look at examples online. The variety of grades you can receive is hugely dependent on the sum of the defects.
So your book has none of the major defects mentioned above? Now, we move on to less impactful defects. We will start by understanding the effect of folds in a book. Many older books have creases and folds and the amount you have can greatly affect a grade. One small fold of 2" from an otherwise flawless comic would most likely drop it to 6.5 (at best).
If your comic has a number of folds present but has no other major defect, then it is likely going to be in the 3.0 to 5.0 range. Folds and creases are common in older books, and the vast majority of books from the 1950s to the 1960s fall into this grade range.
If your book has one smaller crease like pictured on the right, then it still has a chance of being a higher grade book, if the rest of the book is in good shape. The book will not get a 9.8, but still has a chance at an 8.0 or better depending on what the rest looks like.
Your comic is crease-free with nothing else mentioned above. This means there's a chance your book is high grade. Many modern comics are likely to be in 8.0 or better condition, so you need to start looking for small defects, such as spine stress lines and corners.
We will focus on corners first. These can be tricky, because many corners in modern books may have tiny tears, which are referred to as bindery tears. These are not considered defects, but manufacturing, so you can still get a 9.8 if you have small bindery tears on the corners of your book.
It can be difficult to spot the difference between bindery tears and actual defects, so we would advise that you look up examples online. We consider the example pictured to be a bindery tear that was worsened over time, so it is not a high grade. The bottom of the book also has a small ding if you look closely. Based on these two defects alone, the book would grade at a 9.2 at best.
The final defect is the most important thing to look for because it is the most common. They are spine stress lines. If you have a book that looks clean, then this is what you need to look closely for. Spine stress lines are usually white horizontal lines along the spine.
Sometimes spine stress lines cannot be viewed under normal light and you need to use a flashlight and angle the book in a certain way to see. If you see white on the spine then, the grade is reduced based on the number of stress lines. A 9.8 is possible on a book with 1 very tiny spine stress line and perfect corners, but there are no guarantees.
A book with 1-3 small stress lines is reduced to a 9.6 or 9.4. A comic with 4-5 stress lines is reduced to a 9.4 or 9.2. These are completely dependent on how big the lines are and there are no guarantees on grade. Stress lines that don't break color (no white) can possibly be pressed with a dry mount press (call us for a referral).
SubZero Comics is an authorized dealer for CGC and CBCS (the two top comic book grading companies). We have been grading comics for many years and have a great deal of experience when it comes to the matter.
When sending comics to CGC or CBCS, you must ask yourself a very important question, "IS THIS COMIC WORTH GRADING?" This is extremely important as grading a comic book is not a cheap process and if you decide to grade a few comics, it might cost you hundreds of dollars.
If you spend hundreds of dollars on grading, one would hope that it would make your comics more valuable, but that is not always the case, which is why it is important to figure out if your comic(s) would be worth grading.
SubZero Comics does not guarantee any grade, and the advice given here should not be your sole means of grading your comic books. Have your comics analyzed by a professional in person, before submitting or grading books. If you need us to help grade your comics, we can give you our best opinion. We normally submit comic books to CBCS and CGC for customers, however, due to backups, we are not currently accepting submissions.