In the last comic book values post we talked about the description. In this post I’ll continue with the rest of the comic book description – the grade.
What is the grade? For the new readers out there it is the condition of the comic book. Like any other collectible, the condition, or grade, is an important determinant of final value or price. In comic books just a slight increase in grade can mean literally thousands of dollars in the value.
The comic book grading scale runs from Mint down to Poor/Incomplete with several steps in between. A couple of key steps are Near Mint, which is nearly perfect in every way and Very Good, which is an average well-read comic books with several defects.
The common mistake for people new to comic books is to over grade. What I’ve noticed over the years is that many folks will tell me their comic is like new or perfect, thinking it is Near Mint. Usually, it is not. Comic book collectors are picky, and since there is so much money at stake at the higher grades, even the almost imperceptible flaw takes away from the condition. Most novice “near mints” end up being Very Fine at best.
If you are serious about learning how to grade comics, I have to recommend the Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide.
The Grading Guide is a complete resource for beginners to serious collectors. I use it all the time to double check my grading. The guide starts with articles on the evolution of grading, how to preserve and store your comics, a very basic section about how to grade, and information on restoration.
The most important part of the grading guide is not the articles, it’s the examples. Every grade in the 10 point scale is broken down by basic description and allowable defects. The text is then followed with color photos of several comic books in each grade. The book allows you to see the differences in grades in one easily accessible place.
I do have one word of warning. Some of the pictures have defects that aren’t allowed in the grade described. An example is not allowing for any bindery tears in 9.8, but showing a book in the 9.8 section with a bindery tear. This is very important. Most of the photos are great examples, but if you see such a mistake, ignore the picture and refer to the text description of the grade. This should keep you out of trouble if you are planning on selling your comics. It does show how there is definitely a “subjective” area of comic book grading.
All points considered, I highly recommend the Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide. It is a must have resource for novice to advanced collectors and is part of my library.