The grade or condition of a comic book is the most important determination of value outside of the actual title and issue number. The grade can literally mean a gain or loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a particular issue. For instance, take a look at a recently featured comic book, Action Comics 1. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists this for $750,000 in NM- condition. The same comic is Good (2.0) condition lists for $45,000. This is an extreme example, but the percentages are very similar across the board.
To help you figure out the condition of your comic books, here is a simple guide to get you “in the ballpark.” This list is not exhaustive, but it will show you the main grades a novice should know. Below is an excerpt from our Comic Book Value and Selling Secrets Guide:
The first major grade you need to know is Near Mint. Near Mint (or NM for short) is a nearly perfect copy with only the smallest flaws. If a comic book is graded 9.4, you know it is a wonderful copy and newsstand fresh. You will need to look at it very closely to find a flaw.
The next major grade you need to know is Very Fine(VF). A very fine comic book is considered “high grade” for older books (not modern comics). It has just enough small flaws to drop it out of the Near Mint category. People who are new to the hobby often mistakenly grade their Very Fine books as Near Mint. Be careful of this.
Next is Fine. A nice copy with an accumulation of small defects, usually stress marks on the spine or a very small corner crease. No major problems.
Very Good – This is your average old comic book. It has creases, looks worn, but is complete and structurally intact, bound correctly by the staples, and readable.
Good comic books are showing some serious problems. They are complete, but may have a loose staple or unbound (staples are gone). Expect to see some major creasing.
Finally we have fair and poor. Many of these comic books are not worth collecting because they can be incomplete and could be brittle. They have to be handled with the utmost care or they will fall apart!
If you’re a serious collector or have a lot of comic books you are learning to sell, it will pay to become efficient and accurate at grading your comic books. The one place to see tons of examples, the written criteria for each grade, and picture examples is the Overstreet Grading Guide. You can pick up a copy from the link below (and help support Comic Book Secrets – Thank you!)