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Location: Richmond, VA
Joined: 5/24/2010 | Posts: 7,691 | Points: 32,862
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Recently I received two messages from two different buyers. One here on CCL and the other on eBay.
The buyer here exclaimed at how happy they were by my grading. Said it's nice to see someone pay attention to detail.
The buyer from eBay said that I had no idea what I was doing, the book wasn't even close to being VF. (Side note: I had six of those books listed, all in the same condition. The other five sold to different buyers with no complaints).
To me, the hardest part of this job that I have chosen is grading comics. As we all know, that is a very subjective skill to master. Before I started selling comics and was just collecting them I really had no idea what the grades even meant. I mean, I knew what they were but didn't really know the minutiae behind them.
Once I got into the business I didn't have anything to do with grading as we had people for that. I did start to learn some of the basics back then even though I did have a bad teacher at one point who taught me some unfortunate habits that I have since abandoned. I eventually got a better instructor and have been refining my technique ever since.
When I first started my own store I made a lot of grading mistakes. At first the store was just a hobby but eventually it became a prime source of income and my grading habits became better as well. A couple of years ago I went through my inventory and delisted all of the Gold and Silver Age books that I had because I had been noticing some of the grades weren't exactly correct. Since then I have been slowly regrading and relisting them to be more accurate.
I have noticed that some were wildly off and I'm like, "What was I thinking?" but some were right on. The majority were close, either a grade to a grade and a half off, in either direction. I'm glad I did it even though I'm still not done because now at least I feel more comfortable with their grades.
I love pretty much everything about being in the comic book selling business. Give me a box or 12 of unsorted comics and I can whip right through them. Give me two or more sorted collections and I can merge them in no time flat. Heck, I even like putting bags and boards together. Grading however, gives me the heebie-jeebies.
That's definitely the reason why it takes me so long to list new comics, because I spend so much time trying to get the grade right. Sometimes I will agonize over a book, "Should I go with VF or VF-?". Then I usually go with the lower grade. I very rarely list anything in the NM range anymore because it makes me nervous. The book has to look spectacular for me to do that.
The process I use to grade is thus:
I always have a Grading Guide open just in case. I've read the descriptions hundreds of times but I still like to have it handy. Take the book out of the bag if it is in one. Get a first impression. Look at the front cover for creases, indentations, rips. Look at the corners, edges and spine for flaws. Turn to back cover and repeat. Flip through book taking notice of page color, dog ears, centerfold staples in particular. The entire time rounding my first impression either up or down.
I sit in a chair and have a lamp that hangs down so that the light shines just below eye level. That helps with determining glossiness, color breaks, etc. I try to take a break from grading at least once an hour. Get up, walk around, rub my eyes, get a glass of water, just relax a little. I try not to go too long. I find that if I sit here grading for 5-6 hours then I make more mistakes in the last hour than I should be. Also it starts taking longer because of fatigue, glazed eyes, neck pain.
Now obviously I'm not going to spend 10 minutes grading a dollar comic. I still look at it and try to be as accurate as possible but I'm not going to put as much time into it as something that I am going to sell for $100. Or $20. Or even $5. I still strive to be as precise as possible no matter the value.
Anyway, that's my spiel for now. I am always trying to improve and I think that I have. As always, if anyone has an issue with the grade of a comic that you purchased from me please let me know. I do accept constructive criticism and I want to know if I have made a mistake so that I can learn and grow from it.
Howie's Saying of the Week
Is it worse to be scared than to be bored, that is the question - Gertrude Stein
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