05th Oct2018

eBuying Comics: Week 4

by Ian Wells


I have been collecting comics for nearly twenty years now and I still can’t decide where I stand on ‘slab’ comics. A ‘slab’ comic is a comic that has been encased in thick plastic and given a numeric grade. The leading company in this field is Comics Guaranty (CGC). The numeric grading system introduced by CGC in 2000 is pretty much the norm for grading comics now even for none ‘slab’ ones, taking up from the G/VFG/NM ect we all know. You can have a guess at an eBay sellers age by seeing what grading system they use on their listings. I just want to look at the pros and cons of the ‘slab’ culture. I will admit now and don’t know the full ins and outs of CGC and a like comics. I could have researched them before writing. But I wanted to present this as an honest opinion from my existing knowledge. The more I learn and the more pros and cons I hear I will revisit this subject in the future.

In my opinion ‘slab’ comics are for the collector. On the more negative side you could argue they are for the shall we say more opportunistic seller. Someone looking for a high end profit. Opportunistic sellers are going to become more frequent the more popular comics become in the mainstream. Of course not everyone who deals in CGC books is not an opportunistic seller. Sellers who specialize in CGC books are cropping up with my frequency at conventions now. It would be interesting to know if these specialist sellers are buying ready ‘slabbed’ comics or going out and searching for gems to send off and get graded and given the ‘slab’ treatment. The latter is a more respectable business model in my opinion. It requires hard work and knowledge of the industry. Firstly knowledge of key issues and what makes them key. But also they have to be able to read the market place. A certain issue may increase in desirability because of an attachment to the latest movie. Then there is the case of money and time. Hunting down the issues for the right price and in good condition. Submitting comics for the CGC process is itself a pricey undertaking. Especially if you live the wrong side of the pond. You could leave your comics in the risky fate of the postal service. But they have to get there and back in one piece! You may post them in one grade and have them returned something very different. Another way is to take your comics to a convention. I myself have never seen CGC or any similar company at a UK convention. It is this hard work and expenditure that justifies these sellers asking a premium for graded ‘slab’ comics. What I can’t justify are the quick flippers on eBay. I often have to ask myself out loud “Is that comic worth that much because it has been given a professional grade and been sealed in plastic?” Just because it carries a professional grade the price has to been determined by someone looking to make a quick and easy profit. As I have said before on here a comics grade is subjective. The difference between a 7 or a 8 could depend on which member of staff graded your comic. Does the grade and the plastic tomb justify the big discrepancy in value on eBay between itself and a none graded comic? Using Giant Size X-Men #1 as my example as it is a holy grail comic that still eludes me. I was able to find several CGC listings and a few regular listing for this issue. The highest CGC on offer was an 8.5 noted for having off white pages, priced at £2000 all but a pound and a penny. The second CGC listing on offer was graded 6 with no additional notes on condition and was priced at £700. So already we have a big difference in price for just two and a half grade levels. The same company as the 8.5 also have a none CGC listing for Giant Size X-Men #1. They have graded it a 4. But too look at the picture it looks fine, I’d be happy with this copy in my collection. It is listed  for £450. That is a £1550 difference for a difference of 4 grades.

My biggest pet hate when it comes to CGC comics in eBay is that newer titles out weigh older ones. It kind of takes the prestige of owning older issues away. Is it fair a comic released last month and given a grade of 9 is more expensive than a key issue from the bronze age that hasn’t had the CGC treatment? There are ways of gaining a better grade comic, by a process known as pressing. I hate seeing people boast about a new comic getting such a high grade from CGC. Of course they went to their LCS on new comic book day scoured through the new releases looking for a clean copy. Took it home didn’t read it kept it near mint and sent it to CGC or submitted it by hand. That to me doesn’t scream comic book fan/reader! I haven’t done many pros yet have I? Obviously I can see the appeal of keeping a key issue pristine. The CGC plastic case gives the comic a nice size that is perfect for mounting on a wall. If you have a autographed comic I too can see the positives in having it encased in a slab. You wouldn’t want to have a signed copy of a key issue as your reading issue too. If your at a convention where CGC is in attendance you can kill two birds with one stone. If you are getting a comic signed by a creator you can get a CGC member of staff to be witness and therefore authenticate the signature and then submit the comic for grading. I assume if you submit a signed comic without authentication it will just be down graded as the signature tarnishes the quality of the comic. On the other hand again the CGC process isn’t cheap or convenient. If you are looking to display a key issue or a autographed issue do you need the grade to go with? There are plenty of cheaper, reliable and aesthetically pleasing ways to display a comic.

I started this piece by saying I have been collecting comics for nearly twenty years. What I meant to say was first and foremost I am a reader of comics. Yes I bag and board them, file them away in boxes and keep them neat and tidy. But I buy comics to read. If I brought a Giant Size X-Men #1 tomorrow of any grade I would read it! That might sound sacrilegious to many but comics are meant to be enjoyed. Maybe I would only read it once but whatever the price, whatever the grade no one is stopping me reading it. Equally if I came across a bargain of one of my holy grail comics in CGC I would seriously have to consider it. Would it break the seal? I honestly can’t say. Part of me often wonders what grade my comics are in now after a few reads. I’m lucky in a way that the characters I collect predominantly Wolverine and Daredevil haven’t broken the bank so far. They were both at their peek in he 80’s so twenty years ago when I started they weren’t that old. I paid £35 and under for the original Wolverine mini series and Wolverine #1. I got Frank Miller’s entire run on Daredevil from anywhere between £4-£30. I am now finding issues under #100 more expensive as his popularity increases. At this moment in time CGC comics aren’t for me. I want to read and take them in. The smell is part of it right? If I wanted to maintain and display some key issues my first thought would be Ikea not CGC.

For Sale

I just added some further Avengers related trade paperback and some comics sets to my existing listings from last week:

  • Marvels TPB Alex Ross & Kurt Busiek Marvel Comics – Buy Now £5 + £3.50 P+P
  • Comic Set Ultimate Avengers Vol. 1 #1-6 Marvel Comics – Starting Price £3 + £3 P+P
  • Comic Set Avengers vs New Ultimates (Death of Spider-Man) #1-6 Marvel Comics -Starting Price £3 + £3 P+P



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