I've been meaning to post this for a while; thanks to @Point Five for giving me the springboard to finally get this down in writing:
I really agree with this. Plus, as I mention every year when we do Andy's contest, the overall scores are skewed because they are tightly bunched together -- everyone here is a good grader. In this particular contest, the lower scores 'look' low but they still roughly mean you're in the ballpark with CGC's grading on 3 (or 4!) out of the 4 books. For the average collector, that is pretty f'n hard to do.
I don't think it's possible to overstate this. It gets to the very heart of why third party grading is so important. For those of you who weren't collecting before the advent of CGC, it was really, really, reaaaaallllly, really the bad old days. I had a good solid decade to deal with rampant and horrific overgrading and undisclosed restoration, and I'm incredibly thankful that I didn't have a lot of money to buy "big books." There are a lot of people who had to deal with it a lot longer than I did.
As books got more and more expensive, and buyers were willing to pay more and more for them, the temptation to "fiddle" with books and overstate their condition...by a little or a lot...became much too great for much too many people. There are people that, to this very day, have not recovered the value of what they paid in, say, the mid 90s for a super key book that ended up being restored. One can be grateful that comics weren't *that* expensive in the 70s and 80s, but things were ramping up pretty hard in the 90s...$50,000 sales for key GA books were not uncommon, and five figure sales for Silver Keys were becoming common, too.
And just because you bought from a "nationally known and respected dealer" didn't make you immune. The guys with impeccable credentials...well deserved, I might add...occasionally got stung themselves, unknowingly, and unknowingly passed those on to their customers. And there were (and still are) a LOT of frauds and cheats out there, like Gerry Ross, Danny Dupcak, and Daniel Patterson (the "esteemed" owner of PGX.)
We are so very, very spoiled to have had a third party grading service...CGC...that has taken their job seriously, and their consistency over time has made the entire industry a far, FAR safer place to spend your money. Not only are there direct benefits in properly graded and restoration checked books, but indirect benefits, such that it's made everyone tighten up their own grading to a degree that we now quibble over QUARTER grades ("I think this is a 9.0." "Nah, that's no better than an 8.5!") You should see the brawls I used to get into with eBay sellers who sold me "mint" books that wouldn't grade higher than 6.0, or my Batman #11 (yes, THAT one) that was graded "VG/F" only to show up with every single page detached from every other page, with every page crumbling to pieces they were so brittle.
We no longer have to have 10,000 separate grading systems, like in the past, and sellers are much less likely to play the "well, *I* think it's Near Mint!" game on 7.0 books. Everyone has a reasonable standard by which to judge, a benchmark, a foundation from which to start. "CGC says this is an 8.0. Ok, I see how they arrived at that." You don't necessarily have to agree...that's the important part...but at least you have a third party, unrelated to the buying or selling of the book, without a "horse in the race", that gives their unbiased opinion as to what the book you've got in front of you is...and that it is either complete, or does, or does not, have restoration. And you're not likely to hear the once common "NM?? You're nuts, that thing's no better than a Fine!", and vice versa, ringing through the halls of your local convention.
It's forced everyone...willingly or not, happily or not...to become better graders, whether you're dealing with slabs, or raws, or both. And those who have refused, those who completely poo-poo CGC and third party grading in general, have been, rightfully I think, left behind.
No, we are so far beyond the bad old days, it's like we went from living in caves to Metropolis, all in the span of 20 years. And for that, I am very, VERY grateful...and maybe everyone who buys or sells comics as collectibles should be, too.