Does it Pay to Grade Your Comic Books?
Updated: Nov 1
Thinking of grading your comic(s)? There needs to be a good amount of consideration before grading your comics using a third party. Here we will provide a point-by-point guide on what needs to be looked at prior to sending your comics to CGC or CBCS.
How does the comic look? Use our grading guide for help. In most cases, comics will hide small flaws that most people won't notice when looking at them. If you don't have a good amount of grading experience, then there's a good chance you'll miss something. Make sure to look at all areas of the comic book using a light. Check areas of the spine for small indentations. Check the corners for tears and dings. Corner bindery tears are not always considered to be defects. Make sure to research them as they can be tricky. The one in the picture would deduct from the grade.
Is the comic old or modern? Our comic age guide will help if you need to find out. This is important because in many cases it's not worth grading a modern comic (the 1980s and up). Most comics from the 80s are overprinted and are really easy to find, even in high grades. If your modern comic looks like a 9.6 or worse, then chances are that it isn't worth sending to get graded. You would need to get a 9.8 from CGC on most newer books in order to make them worth your time and money. There are obviously exceptions to this rule (see our next tip). If the book is from the 1960s, then there's a much higher chance that it'll be worth grading, depending on the grade and significance of the issue. Comic books from the 1930s to 1950s are even more likely to be worth grading, as many of them are harder to find, and grading those issues will assure buyers that the book is complete and without restoration.
Is the comic book of any significance? This might be one of the more important things to consider before sending your comics to CGC or CBCS. If you want to grade a comic book, you first need to know if it has any kind of significance. Does it feature the first appearance of an important character? Is it a classic or desired cover? Amazing Spider-Man 300 was published in the 1980s and is a really common book, but it features the first full appearance of Venom as well as a classic cover from Todd McFarlane, so it sells for a good amount in most grades. Sending it to CGC is usually a good idea (unless it's in very low grade). On the other hand, an Amazing Spider-Man 297 has no significance and wouldn't be worth sending to CGC unless you have a 9.8 copy. This also applies to vintage comics. An Avengers 57 (1st appearance of Vision) will sell for hundreds in most grades (thousands in higher grades), while an Avengers 56 will only sell for reasonable amounts in really high grades.
If you don't get the grade you want, will it still be worth selling this comic? This is neglected by even the most experienced graders. If you send a comic to CGC that comes back a few grades lower than you expected, will it still be worth your time? Let's use Star Wars 1 (1977) as an example. You take a look and think the comic you have will be a 9.0 or better if sent to CGC ($500+). However, you don't check the interior of the book and there's a large tear on one of the pages, which lowers the comic to a CGC 3.0. The book in that grade will sell for about $100, which is significantly less than a 9.0. If you originally spent $100 on the comic, and grading costs $40, then you will have done yourself a disservice sending it to CGC. You especially need to keep this tip in mind when grading vintage comic books (the 1930s-1960s) as they can have restoration, pages missing, or coupons clipped that can be missed if you aren't thorough or experienced in grading.
Are there many copies on the CGC census? How many are there for sale online? If you're on the fence about sending to CGC or CBCS for grading, then try this tip. Let's use Flash Comics 67 as an example of this. You have an ungraded copy that is in 3.5-4.0 condition, and you're not sure if it's worth grading through CGC, so you do some research and realize that there aren't any copies for sale on eBay, Heritage Auctions, Comiclink, or anywhere else. You also see that the CGC and CBCS census/population for this particular comic both have only 70 graded issues in total. This makes the decision to send it to CGC easier as you would have something that might sell due to lack of supply. Please note that with modern comic books this rule might not work as there are many 1980s and 1990s comics that have low census numbers because they aren't worth grading.
Are the CGC grading fees and wait times worth it? This is the final tip, but arguably the most significant of all. It's not cheap to send comics to CGC. CBCS is slightly cheaper with grading fees, but it's still generally expensive to send comics to them, especially if you want to send a lot of books. CGC charges a minimum of $22 for a modern book and $33 for vintage comics (1974 and older). CBCS charges a minimum of $16 for a modern comic book and $27 for an older comic. While CBCS seems like a better option due to their lower grading fees, their graded comics generally sell for less than CGC. Please note that much more than the base grading fee goes into the cost of grading a comic. Some comics require a press from a professional. CGC can press your comic books for $15 extra using their CCS comic pressing service (CBCS charges $12). In some cases pressing a comic can help the book receive a slightly higher grade as it gets rid of any flaws that don't break color (ex: the book was rolled up, but not folded). Please don't think of pressing as a magic fix for comics that have major flaws or flaws that break color (ex: a spine tick that is breaking color). Pressing a comic isn't always guaranteed to improve the grade. You also need to add the shipping to CGC along with shipping back to you. Depending on which service you use it can be quite costly. If you don't have your own FedEx account, then CGC will ship your books using their FedEx service which isn't exactly cheap. Also note, that CGC and CBCS are notorious for taking months to grade a comic, so if you want to reduce the turnaround time, you need to pay an extra $15 per book to CGC for their fast track (or $12 to CBCS). If you add all these fees, then it will cost about $40 for a modern comic without a fast track ($55 with) or $53 for an older comic without a fast track ($68 with). If you have anything of higher value refer to CGC's and CBCS's pricing charts as the fees can be higher.
Now you need to factor all the tips we've provided into whether it's worth grading your comic book(s). If you feel like it's still worth sending your comics to CGC, then we can provide any personal advice you might need (or a free appraisal). We are an authorized CGC and CBCS dealer and have been grading comics for over 10 years. Below you'll find some more insight into the comic grading industry as a whole.
A Quick History of Comic Book Grading
Comic books have been around since the early 1930s and they started as a compilation of newspaper strips. Eventually, they became a medium of their own when the superhero genre took off in the late 1930s. Comics would be printed for decades and were considered a media that was mainly for kids and younger adults who read and enjoyed them.
The 1970s started to see a rise in the collector of comics. For the first time, comic books were no longer a medium that was only meant to be read, but it was something that could be valuable/collected or sold for a profit. Despite this, there would not be comic book grading until the turn of the century when CGC was formed.
CGC started as a grading company in Parsippany, New Jersey, and accepted submissions at local NYC comic book conventions when first starting. It was a new venture and people were unfamiliar with grading. As time went by, people started to realize that a standardized third-party opinion made perfect sense when collecting something that could be expensive. This led CGC to experience healthy growth in the next 20 years. They would eventually move to Florida and today they grade millions of comics every year.
The owner of CGC sold the company early on, but eventually went on to found CBCS, which is now partnered with Beckett (card grading). Today comic book grading is extremely common and popular.
What Does Comic Grading Look Like Today?
You may be asking yourself. All of these comic books being graded today, it must be worth grading mine. Well, the answer is yes and no. Comic grading was extremely selective for a long time. If you had a modern comic book that was of minor significance, then it was only worth grading if the book was a 9.8 (a lot of times a 9.6 wouldn't even be worth grading).
Today, it seems to be changing, and collectors are paying more money for significant graded comics that are 9.4 or 9.6. This is partly the reason why CGC and CBCS have become extremely backed up in their services. In the past, modern comic books weren't worth grading, so there weren't many sent to the grading companies, as it would be a waste of time and money.
Older comic books have certainly followed suit with the changing times. Many older comic books weren't worth grading if they were in the standard, VG grade range, however, things have changed. A book of minor significance has a higher demand, so it may be worth grading.
Please note, that while it may be worth grading books currently, the future remains uncertain. CGC and CBCS are extremely backed up. CGC had to open a new grading facility to keep up with the work. This may be a bad sign if you're thinking of sending anything for grading, as a massive influx of supply (mostly modern comics) is expected to hit the market, which may affect prices.
Keep in mind, comic books operate like any other collectible. There needs to be a good correlation between supply and demand. If the supply is high then the demand needs to keep up. If there are going to be hundreds of a particular book in 9.8, then there need to be even more people who want it. If the demand doesn't keep up with the supply, then the prices will quickly drop. With all the books that will be graded in the next year, the supply will go up greatly. Will the demand keep up to at least keep prices stable? Only time will tell.