HOW TO GRADE COMIC BOOKS
"...that is the question,
and don't forget there's no easy answer, cause I'm looking at you through the glass, don't know how much time has passed, although it feels like forever..." an excerpt from a Stone Sour song that just seems fitting for the topic and question
When I first started selling comic books in any quantity back in the early '90's, grading was relaxed compared to today's grading standards.
I realized this recently when I sold a collection for a friend of mine on eBay. Out of 117 books only 9 were returned, but the collectors who returned them were obviously much more serious about the material they would include in thier collection than the other 30 or so buyers who were happy with thier comics.
The books were pre-graded by the owner before I got them using an 11 year-old "Comics Value Guide" from 1995, which included a grading scale of the era in a chapter called "Making the Grade". (More on that later.)
For certain reasons listed below I feel this is a very important point to all interested in the comic book industry in general.
It seems as though the grades assumed by the owner, from the information he obtained from this older guide, was more than suitable for most of the buyers because of the feedback they left, which was simply the comments of happy collectors who felt they got what they paid for, if not more.
The 3 who returned books stated that the books were "grossly over-graded" in some instances by "2 or 3 full grade-points".
That's a very large descrepency looking at this scenario in these very basic terms.
But, if you look at it in a geographical sense, it makes much more sence.
The 3 who returned the 9 books were for the most part all from large metropolitan areas.
The 30 or so who were happy lived in more rural areas of the States, or overseas, as far away as Australia, France, Canada, and England, not to mention our great State of Hawaii.
Imagine the sheer distances from any one of these countries to the East Coast of the United States, and then imagine how far away, and rare anything is for them from here? Especially something as "dispensible" as a vintage comic book?
Remember: Something "common" in the States, probably is very rare, and hard-to-find, elsewhere!
One of the satisfied bidders, who was contacted by one of the buyers who returned books, said the comics were "a little over-rated" but was "keeping them" simply because he was "happy with them". (He bought 29 books - over 25% of the entire collection - and spent several hundred dollars on them, and was from Canada.) Not one of them who returned thier books were ever rude, and all were easy to deal with. These are the collectors you show your best stuff to obviously, and ironically the people who "turned me back on" to the industry. At least as far as the most recent grading standards are concerned.
The other 30 or so were just plain happy to get thier hands on the books themselves and came from not only the U.S., and Hawaii, but Canada, Australia, England, and France - Which again, is the moral to this post: Grading is subjective, and depends SOLELY on the prefrences of the individual, a lot of which could have to do where they live, and the availability of what they seek. Plain and simple.
This is where I feel a mistake is being made in "grading" comic books.
As the old cliche' goes ... beauty is only in the eye of the beholder ...
I propose that instead of grading a comic book, why not simply describe any defects that are visable upon inspection of the book, and let the collector determine the grade (at least in the case of non-CGC graded comics) or,
Grade the collectors themselves.
The quick lesson I learned from eBay is that there are people all around the globe that want American comic books, and because of thier geographical position on earth, are willing to pay more than the average domestic collector for the same issue, in the same grade, and as far as we know, this same philosophy may apply to overseas dealers as well (and what are THEY getting for that same issue of..?).
The East Coast of the United States holds most of the planet's high-priced collectibles simply because they were produced here. And that's a fact.
Like any commodity: supply equals demand, and demand must equal supply. When demand surpasses supply, well...
This is why many collectors throughout the United States are willing to pay higher prices for vintage comic books: They know there is more competition on a global basis.
It all boils down to one question: Is the buyer purchasing a comic book for investment purposes, or are they buying it simply because they enjoy it?
i.e. Say CCL divided listings into sections (or "searches") according to a customer's budgit (wether trading, buying, or selling):
1. Poor to Good.
2. Very Good to Fine.
3. Very Fine to Mint.
If something like this were stressed globally it could do the industry some good. At least in my humble opinion, because it could drive prices abroad up, while keeping them down domestically, simply because of the cost of postage.
If you think about it, we're now in a global competition for anything and everything collectible from automobiles to zippos.