CGC vs CBCS: Who Should You Use When Grading Your Comics?
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
Grading can be tough these days with the difficult process of meticulously looking at a comic along with figuring out if it's worth sending to a third-party grading company based on the market. While market prices and analyzing the grade of a book can be confusing, we've created a guide to help you figure out which grading company to use when submitting your comics. Please note that this guide is only for those looking to use CGC or CBCS. We highly recommend keeping away from companies such as PGX as they have a horrible reputation in the comic community. There are many examples of an ungraded comic selling for more than a comic that's graded by PGX. Generally speaking, submitting books to them is like wasting your money. PGX also has done several questionable things in the past, so submit using them at your own risk. Don't let the lower prices and quick turnaround times fool you. PGX grading is generally not worth the risk.
That being said, if you're looking to use CGC or CBCS, this guide will give the pros and cons of both companies and provide a general conclusion. Note that this is strictly for entertainment purposes only and grading your comic books should be done on a case-by-case basis. Do your research before submitting any comics as there are many factors involved. If you need any general advice on the subject, please be sure to refer to our grading guide and guide on whether you should grade your comics. If you need any personal opinions on your comic collection (for entertainment purposes only), be sure to give us a call or email and we can provide any information you might need, free of charge. NOTE THAT WE WILL NOT GRADE YOUR COMICS FOR YOU, SO PLEASE DON'T ASK. ALSO, NOTE THAT THIS ARTICLE AND ANY PERSONAL OPINIONS WE GIVE ARE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. DO NOT USE THIS ARTICLE WHEN MAKING A FINANCIAL DECISION.
CGC and CBCS - The Similarities
While CGC is more popular with collectors, CBCS was founded by the same person who started CGC (Steve Borouck). This has led the two companies to have many similarities. For starters, CGC and CBCS both have very similar grading scales. They both start at 10 (Gem Mint) and work their way down. Both companies have the following comic grading scale:
10 - Gem Mint 9.9 - Mint 9.8 - Near Mint/Mint 9.6 - Near Mint+ 9.4 - Near Mint 9.2 - Near Mint- 9.0 - Very Fine/Near Mint 8.5 - Very Fine+ 8.0 - Very Fine 7.5 - Very Fine- 7.0 - Very Fine/Fine 6.5 - Fine+ 6.0 - Fine 5.5 - Fine- 5.0 - Very Good/Fine 4.5 - Very Good+ 4.0 - Very Good 3.5 - Very Good- 3.0 - Good/Very Good 2.5 - Good+ 2.0 - Good 1.8 - Good- 1.5 - Fair/Good 1.0 - Fair 0.5 - Poor
The slight differences come with the lowest grade comics. CGC coverless comics get an NG (no grade) and CBCS coverless comics get a grade of 0.3 or 0.1.
CGC and CBCS also have very similar grading standards when it comes to identifying flaws. The best way to explain this is that a comic that is graded by CGC will likely be the same grade if sent to CBCS. The slight differences are when you have lower-grade comics. CBCS seems to be a little less likely to give a grade of 0.5, if the comic is complete, while CGC will be more likely to give a 0.5, even if the comic has everything present. An example would be this comic pictured below.
CGC will give books that are referred to as remaindered (comics that are missing the upper portion of the cover), a grade of 0.5, while CBCS will give a 1.0.
CGC and CBCS also both have a similar signature program which requires a witness from either company to be present when a comic is signed or sketched to ensure authenticity (named the CGC Signature Series and CBCS Authentic Signature programs). The difference to that is that CBCS also offers a signature authentication service (named the Signature Verification Program) for books that weren't witnessed by them. This allows you to submit any old comics that you had signed years ago and you'll get a special verified label. CGC doesn't offer any kind of similar service.
For the most part, sending a comic to CGC and CBCS will get you the same grading and results. There are however many other differences that we are going to get into below, by analyzing the pros and cons of both companies.
CGC - The Pros
Comics graded by CGC generally sell for more than CBCS. The actual price differences may depend on the comic, but generally speaking, most comics graded by CGC will sell for higher prices than CBCS. This is mostly because CGC was around first and developed a reputation as the standard for grading comics. CBCS came around later and some buyers are not convinced that they are reliable. It's possible that over time, the gap closes, due to CBCS developing more of a reputation or collectors just wanting to try another company other than CGC.
Purple labels for books that are restored, and green for qualified comics. This is more of a preference for us, but having different color labels for restored and qualified comics can be pretty useful. This allows you to know right away that there's something you need to look for with the issue. CBCS doesn't give different color labels for restored or qualified books. This means you need to look closely before buying a comic that's graded by them to see any kind of problems noted. Generally, having green and purple labels can be especially useful when grading golden age comics, as those are the most likely to have problems. CGC also has a nice, gold label for comics that have a special pedigree (a pedigreed comic is usually something that comes from a special collection), which can make the comic feel special. CBCS doesn't provide any kind of special label for pedigreed comics.
Comic cases are sturdier when compared to CBCS. One major selling point for us when comparing the two companies is that CGC has a thicker and sturdier case when compared to CBCS. The CBCS cases are thin and feel like they might crack much easier than CGC cases. CGC also has a label that catches the eye much better than the CBCS label. The grade is much more prominent in the CGC case. While CGC cases are better, there have been issues with them in the past (ex: newton rings). Please note that the label is just our opinion, so take a look at both yourself and be the judge.
CGC - The Cons
Very questionable quality control. Quality control has been very questionable for CGC in the past few years. We understand that they're overwhelmed by the number of comics being submitted to them, but that's not an excuse to damage books. How has CGC been damaging comics? Please refer to our example above. We sent in a Moon Knight 1 (1980), that came back as a CGC 9.6. This would be completely fine, but upon close inspection, we noticed an issue; the top staple had been popped off. If the book had been graded accordingly, then it wouldn't have been a problem (although we would have noticed if it was missing a staple before submitting), but having a book that's missing a staple sitting in a CGC case that says it's a 9.6 can be very worrying, to say the least. There might be a few reasons for the drop in quality control such as rushing due to demand, or new hires not being properly trained.
Extremely inconsistent grading standards Please note that this is our observation and others might have a different opinion. CGC has hired new employees and has also been backed up due to the demand they have coming. This can lead to 2 possible problems: some comics will be very strictly graded, or some will be graded very loosely. This might lead to a comic that should be a 9.2 and a comic that should be a 9.8 both being graded at 9.6 and being valued the same. We noticed that CBCS is much more consistent in its grading. This is something to consider because you might have a comic undergraded (or overgraded) by CGC, which might affect the value, while CBCS will at least give a more consistent grade (ex: a comic that's a 9.8 will get a 9.8). Note that this is just our observation lately, and we are speaking from our experience only. We've received some books with much higher grades than expected (ex: a book we thought was a 9.0 comes back 9.6). On the opposite end, we've had a handful of comics graded very strictly (ex: 9.8s can sometimes be tougher than normal to get).
Any signed comic book (unwitnessed) will receive the dreaded green/qualified label. If you find something in your collection that you had signed years ago and now decide that you want to grade it, then you're really out of luck when using CGC, because you will get the dreaded green (qualified) label, which essentially treats that signature as a defect on your comic. It won't be verified as authentic and getting the green label will devalue your book, even if you got the issue signed in person. To receive the more desirable yellow, signature series label, CGC needs to have an authorized witness present when your comic has been signed.
CBCS - The Pros
Slightly lower grading prices for new comics. CGC recently just raised all their prices. This means that it will now cost a minimum of $24 to grade a modern comic book, and $35 to grade an older comic (anything before 1975). CBCS, on the other hand, charges lower fees for new comics. It costs $20 for a newer comic book (2001 and up), $24 for comics from 1975 thru 2000, and $40 for an older book (pre-1975). While the CBCS express services are more expensive, if time isn't an issue, then they are the more economical solution if you want to grade new comics. CBCS also charges $4 when prescreening comics (prescreening is when you submit a comic and tell the grading company to refrain from grading/encapsulating the book if it doesn't get the minimum grade you want through a screening process), while CGC charges $8.
Coverless comics get a 0.3 grade. This might be a personal preference, but getting a number on a comic that has no cover is something we like. CGC will generally grade comics that have no cover as NG (no grade), while CBCS will give them a 0.3, which we find to make more sense as the comic should receive some kind of number, even if it isn't complete. This can be useful if you have a high-dollar issue that's missing the cover and you want to make sure it's authentic.
A signature verification program. While CGC only has the signature series program for autographs, CBCS has much more. CBCS offers a signature verification service if you have any comics in your collection that are already signed. This can be extremely useful if you have a signature from a big name (ex: Stan Lee) and would like to have it verified. The service costs $25 and is worth every penny. Note that CBCS also has a witnessed signature program, similar to CGC.
CBCS - The Cons
Comics graded by CBCS generally sell for less. CBCS is a newer company, so it makes sense that their comics sell for less than CGC. We find that CBCS comics sell for about 10-20% less than CGC comics on average. While they're a newer company the founder of CBCS is the same founder of CGC (Steve Borouck), who sold CGC several years ago. CBCS may just need more time to prove itself, which would cause prices to go up as well.
The customer service phone number takes you to an off-site call center. While this is common in many businesses, it can be very frustrating to get a call center when you have an immediate question about your submission. Please note that while customer service over the phone isn't as good as CGC (barely), CBCS is much easier to submit to at conventions when compared to CGC. We've found CBCS employees at conventions to be very friendly and easy to talk to, and they're always very open to helping any new customers with any questions. CGC employees, on the other hand, can be very rude and treat things like a chaotic assembly line. And while CBCS has a call center for their customer service line, the people on the line can be much more willing to help when compared to the CGC customer service representatives.
CBCS doesn't grade magazines. If you have any kind of magazines and want to get them graded, then CGC is your only option. CBCS does not grade any kind of magazines, even if the magazines are published by Marvel/DC. They do have a special raw grade program (your comic will not be put into a case, but will get a sticker for the grade) that will grade oversized comics, but we don't recommend that program as is it quick and doesn't check for restoration.
So now, let's get to the question you've been waiting for: which company should I use to grade my comics; CGC or CBCS? And the answer will depend on what you're submitting.
Let's answer this question based on what you're looking to submit.
If you're looking to send in books of higher value, then CGC is the easy choice, as their books almost always sell for more money. Just note, that quality control for CGC has been very questionable lately and while it's rare, a comic sent to them has a chance of being damaged. Please keep this in mind when sending anything to them.
If you want to submit anything that's already signed, then CBCS is the better choice, especially if you have a big name signature on the comic (ex: Jack Kirby). It's also important if you have an expensive book that's already signed (ex: Fantastic Four 1), as you want to avoid that green label, due to the stigma involved in the comic collecting community (many call it the green label of death). What if you have some new, cheaper comic books that you want to submit through the prescreen process because you're somewhat on the fence about the grades? This one is a little tough, as CBCS will only charge you $4 if the book fails the prescreen (doesn't get the minimum grade you wanted), and CGC will charge you $8 if you fail the prescreen. We feel that if you're prescreening newer, lower-value books, then it might be better to use CBCS, while CGC might be better for higher-value books. Failing prescreen on a good amount of lower-value books can become wasteful, but if you have more expensive comics, then it doesn't hurt as much.
What if you have newer comics that aren't so expensive? Maybe you found your comic collection from when you were a kid and want to grade it for personal reasons. The collection consists of mostly modern comics (2001 and up) valued at $5-50. If you're just looking to grade newer comics that are low value, then CBCS will be the better route to take. Their pricing structure is much more economical and is a good way to save money, especially if you're looking to submit a bunch of lower-value comics, as the savings can add up.
In general, if you're looking to submit comics that are worth even a few hundred dollars, then CGC will be the better route. If you have anything newer and cheaper then CBCS might be a good choice. Please note that both companies are having their share of issues due to volume, and if you're looking to submit any of your comics to either one of them, then you should do a good amount of research as prices can vary based on what you're submitting and turnaround times can be extremely long. If you have something hot at the moment and would like to grade and sell it for the maximum price, then make sure the comic will hold in value. If you feel like the comic is going to drop quickly, then it might be a good idea to use the 2-day program with CBCS or CGC's fast track program (both will set you back a good amount of money).
This article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be your sole means of submitting comics for grading. Please consult with multiple experts before submitting any books to CGC or CBCS (or making any financial decisions).
NOTE THAT THIS ARTICLE IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. DO NOT USE OUR WEBSITE WHEN MAKING ANY FINANCIAL DECISIONS.