Comics Guaranty, LLCNumismatic Guaranty Corporation
May 2002  
  1. Welcome to the First Edition
  2. Comic Book Grading: The Hidden Science
  3. What About Grades Below 9.4?
      Buried treasure for the taking!
  4. Peek into the Gallery: Mystic Comics #9
  5. Modern Comics Adorn a New Look


May 10-12
Wizard World East

Pennsylvania Convention Center
Downtown Philadelphia, PA

May 17-19
Motor City Comic Con

Novi Expo Center
Novi, MI

July 5-7
Wizard World Chicago

Rosemont Exhibition Center
Chicago, IL

Welcome to the first edition of the CGC monthly E-newsletter!

Our newsletter is designed to keep you informed of important service changes, special promotions and general hobby news. In addition, you will find interesting feature articles written by the experts at CGC as well as thought-provoking articles by guest contributors.

We hope you enjoy this first edition of the CGC E-newsletter, and we look forward to your feedback.

Comic Book Grading: The Hidden Science

The thought of grading comic books is, to say the least, a difficult and opinion-based task. Grading a comic book, or any item for that matter, is rather subjective in nature. Some people tend to be strict, while others are liberal in their grading. Many collectors strive to find collectibles in the best condition possible, and grading without a doubt is an extremely important factor. If one were to purchase a low grade example of a comic in good condition it may be worth a hundred dollars. The same book in near mint condition would be valued at maybe a thousand!

For years, comics have been graded in many different ways. The early grading scale in the 1970s - when the hobby formally began - was rather simplistic in design. Over the years, this grading system has been altered and changed many times. The past 10 years brought professional grading to coins and sportscards. This has now entered the comic book market.

Recently, I sat down with Steve Borock, the Primary Grader at Comics Guaranty (CGC). We discussed the changes in the comic book marketplace and third party comic book grading.

Gordon: How did the concept of third party comic grading begin?
Borock: Third party grading has been around for a while. Our affiliate companies Numismatic Guaranty, LLC (NGC) and Sportscard Guaranty, LLC (SGC) have been around for a long time. We are all independent members of the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG). The concept of third party grading for comics came about because it was really needed. The comic hobby was at a lull because of undisclosed restoration and over-grading, mostly on the Internet. It was like the Wild West - anyone could put a comic book up for auction regardless if they knew how to grade or spot restoration. It was a becoming a haven for people who wanted to take advantage of the novice. Collectors were becoming scared to buy anything on the Internet. The principals of CCG saw this and, with the help of top comic book dealers and collectors, decided to open CGC.

I came on board after the decision to go ahead was made. Stephen Fishler, knowing my reputation in collecting for my integrity, professionalism, grading expertise and knowledge, introduced me to the founders of CGC. At first, not knowing anything about certification and third party grading, it sounded like a way to scam my fellow hobbyists - I was going to have no part in that. After hearing what they had to say and seeing how they operated their other two companies, I knew that these people were truly impartial, third party authenticators and graders. The feeling that I could protect novice and veteran collectors alike with a full restoration check and truly impartial grading, while helping the dealers sell their comic books, was like a dream come true. I had been doing this for years, taking new collectors under my wing and helping them learn about grading and restoration. Now I am getting paid for it. I have the greatest job in the world!

Gordon: How many books has CGC graded to date?
Borock: We have graded about 150,000 comics since opening our doors in January of 2000.

Gordon: Is there any competition from other companies currently?
Borock: Right now there is no competition. I think the reason is that opening a comic book certification service was much more work and much more expensive than anyone could have anticipated. I really give the principals of CGC credit for sticking with it; they could have opted out early on. No one knew if this was going to be successful or not. We had to hire specialists like Mark Haspel, formally of Comics on Parade, as a grader.

Mark is an expert in comic book history and has an incredible knowledge of pedigrees. We also hired Chris Friesen, formally of Renaissance Restoration, as our restoration detection expert. Chris has one of the best eyes in our hobby. Remember, a comic book is not a card or coin with only 2 sides and an edge. Comic books have to have pages counted and if the page count is correct, is it the right page? We have seen lots of restored comic books that have the centerfold of a different issue inserted just to make it look as if all the pages are there. It takes about 40 times the time to grade a comic book compared to a coin or card.

There is also the trust factor. We spent a lot of effort proving that we are truly expert, impartial and third party. Collectors were sending in comic books hoping that we would not find hard-to-detect defects such as very tiny color touches, an advertising page that does not affect story missing, replaced staples, a cover on a different interior, a married page, foreign editions and so on. The collectors saw that we would not play favorites. If the submitter sends in 1 comic or 200, all comics are treated the same.

Gordon: What is the process for grading a comic book?
Borock: The process of grading a comic book takes a long time. When comic books come into CGC, they first go to the receiving department where the packages are opened and checked against the invoice it is sent with. All comics over a certain value, for insurance purposes, are then scanned under a video camera. The comics are then put into new mylars with a backing board. The comic books are entered into a computer and each is given its own barcode and corresponding number on a sticker, which is carefully placed on the mylar so that each comic can be tracked no matter where it is in the building.

The comics are then put into a box labeled with the invoice number and put in our safe where it waits until it is up for the restoration check. After the restoration check has been performed and the information about any restoration that has been detected has been put in the computer, the box goes back to the safe. When it is time for the comic books to be graded, a pre-grader will count the pages, take notes and give the comic book a grade. It then goes to a senior grader who does the exact same thing except he does not need to count the pages because that information is already in the computer. The next step is that the comic books are graded by a Finalizer. After the Finalizer decides the grade and page quality that he wants to give the comic book, he then checks what the other graders have given it. If it matches, he moves on to the next comic book. If the two senior graders' grades don't match, they discuss it, figure out the best grade, finalize it and move on.

The comic books then go to encapsulation, where they have two pieces of archival safe paper put between the covers and first and last page to help stop the deterioration of the paper. It is then sealed in an archivaly safe well and a label is put on stating the grade, paper quality and any pertinent information about the grade or the comic book's history. It then gets put into the CGC state of the art, tamper-evident holder. The next step is called the QC (quality control). We take a final look at each and every comic book before it leaves CGC to make sure that the grade is correct, the comic matches the label it has been given, and the comic book is set correctly in the holder. It is then shipped out by either USPS, UP, or FedEx.

Gordon: Approximately how many hours a week do you work?
Borock: The demand for CGC has been so great that I am working about 70 hours a week.

Gordon: What type of individual purchases graded comics?
Borock: There is no one type of person who purchases CGC comic books. I first thought it would only be the person who is buying expensive comic books, but I see people buying $25 comics just to have a great holder for it.

Gordon: Do you see more high grade vs. low grade books graded?
Borock: I was very surprised by this. The number of high grade comic books we get in are only about 15% more compared to lower grade books.

Gordon: What era of books do you see graded the most?
Borock: Marvel Silver Age (1961-1968) are the most prevalent. Spider-Man seems to be the most popular comic book out there. We are also seeing a large number of brand new modern books.

Gordon: How successful has professional grading been in the comic book hobby?
Borock: From the look of things, it is very successful. I get phone calls and e-mails all the time from collectors and dealers alike, thanking us for the great job we are doing. It makes me feel great to know that we are moving the comic book industry to a safer and brighter future.

Steve Borock is the Primary Grader at Comics Guaranty (CGC)

What About Grades Below 9.4?

Guest article written by Mark Wilson owner of Professionally Graded Comics Mint

Marvel Comics_What About Grades Below 9.4?Many collectors, especially investor - collectors, are reluctant to buy in the lower grades because they assume that a better copy of a particular issue they want will eventually come their way. However, the idea that there is an NM 9.4 or higher example of every Golden Age or Silver Age book is pure nonsense. That is FAR from the truth. As more books are professionally graded, the Census report will clearly show that many of the Highest Recorded Grades of a specific issue will be in the Very Fine to Near Mint range (VF 8.0 - VF/NM 9.0). This is especially true with the Golden Age books and some of the early Silver Age books. And believe it or not, several of the best existing will be in the Fine range (6.0 - 7.0). Are these books a good deal? You bet! The bottom line is this: if it is the best existing of a kind, it WILL command a premium. Granted, it would be nice if it possessed that magic formula of NM status, along with being the highest recorded grade, but the fact remains that if it is THE Best, how can you do better?

Remember, that as we look into other professionally graded collectibles hobbies, many of the most valuable pieces are NOT always in the highest grade but are the most rare of a kind. True, popularity of a character weighs heavily into the pricing structure, as does cover content, but having one of the very top copies is a smart move. I say "one of" because you don't always have to have the Very Best copy for your purchase to be a good investment.

Let's talk about this for a moment. Not everyone can afford, or have access to the best existing copy of a particular book. Some fantastic opportunities exist in going after one of the top ten or even top twenty of a given book. Why? First of all, it is still one of the best and would be considered rare. Secondly, especially if it is a popular series (like Batman or Spider-Man for instance), understand that there are thousands of collectors worldwide who may be interested in that book, so the demand is there or will be there. And finally, the price would be much easier on your pocket book, yet they will increase in value as the supply is stressed.

Most current investors of CGC books understand that a NM 9.2 (for instance) commands double Price Guide value. That is the multiple that it settled into over the past year or so. However, this is probably the BEST grade to buy in right now because the price is based on a flawed formula, especially for Golden Age and early Silver Age books. It is an accurate formula for books that have a strong supply of copies in the 9.2 grade, but is ridiculous where only a handful (or less) exist in that grade. Mark my words, you will see tremendous growth for many of the NM 9.2 books over the next year.

This is a time where you need to do your homework and not get too caught up in the popularity battle. Because right now, there are some incredible opportunities out there if you know what to go after. Look through the Overstreet Price Guide for historic data on a given book, but keep in mind that the prices do not accurately reflect the current value of a professionally graded book. This will help eliminate the frustration of seeing that the assigned Guide value is far lower than the price of the book you are considering purchasing.

If you know anything about coins, you can compare the Overstreet Guide to the Red Book of coins. Both of these annual publications are designed to give accurate information about their respective hobbies and are truly a wealth of information. However, both annuals do not give up-to-date prices on the professionally graded segment of their hobbies, nor offer a census as to how many exist and in what grade. So also keep your eyes on the CGC Census Report as you make your purchases.

I am reminded of a friend of mine who went against the trends in the early 1990s and bought up a large amount of the average grade 1930s and early 1940s baseball cards. The PSA grading service was fairly new and all of the "smart" collectors were passing on the non-NM graded cards, thinking that there would be several NM cards to come from that era. Well, as the years passed, it turns out that his "average grade" cards are worth several times what he paid because no hoards of NM cards ever did surface. So get your shovels out and start digging into this hobby! You may turn up some real treasure where no one else is looking.


A New Place to Meet and Talk with Collectors

The Collectors' Society has added discussion forums that are an exciting part of our community. If you're not familiar with the idea, this is a bit like an online bulletin board where collectors can post messages about comics they're looking for, or their opinions on events in the collecting world. Other collectors will read those comments and reply with their views. It sounds simple, but the boards can be a tremendous source of knowledge about collecting. It's also just plain fun to be able to share your collecting passion from your own home with other people who know exactly what you're talking about.

You can access the boards through the new "Forums" link in the menus at the top of the Collectors' Society or the CGC home page. These boards are for the use and enjoyment of the members of the Certified Collectors' Society, as well as all collectors in general. It's free to participate, just register a name and join in!

Peek into the Gallery

Mystic Comics #9_Peek into the GalleryMystic Comics #9

In the early 1940s, the world was facing a struggle unlike anything it had ever known. All of Europe was engulfed in war. The U.S. was officially neutral, but many knew that they would soon be drawn into the war. Like many social and political issues, this feeling of foreboding was apparent in the comic books of the time. Mystic Comics #9 came out in May 1941, more than 6 months before the U.S. entered the war. On the cover is an image that is most certainly not one of neutrality. The Destroyer is punching a Japanese soldier and punching Adolf Hitler himself while saving a woman from being tortured by a Nazi torture machine. Mystic Comics only ran 10 issues, but is recognized as having some of the best war covers from the period before the U.S. entered the war. Most recognize Mystic Comics #9 as being the best cover from this very desirable run by Timely.

To see more great comic book images visit the new Gallery at the CGC website.

Modern Comics Adorn a New Look

By Shawn Caffrey

Mystic Comics #9_Peek into the GalleryComic book collectors and fans alike, who have wandered away from the hobby over the years, are finding themselves drawn back by modernized returns of their favorite classics characters. Marvel's popular Ultimate line, for example, has opened the door with characters like Spider-Man, Captain America and the X-Men. These titles maintain the classic ideas of origin, but are mixed with present pop culture and updated dialogue, making the stories read fresh and realistic. With stories ranging from teenagers with mutant abilities to hired hit men that read like a comedy, characters now deal with a wide variety of real life issues while battling the classic villains that everyone has grown to love.

Of all of the Ultimate titles, Ultimate Spider-Man is presently recognized as the most popular. A classic story of a young man bitten by a radioactive spider turned superhero, retold in an updated style that appeals to all new audiences, especially the younger generations. Plus, with the Spider-Man movie nearing it's release, new readers are being drawn in, as are older fans.

As with Marvel's approach to drawing in new readers, other companies are right along side for the ride of change. Companies such as Image, Top Cow, Dark Horse, and D.C. Comics are all taking the same approach. From new costumes to entirely new faces behind the masks, the industries top writers are making quite a stir. Such a stir, in fact, that Hollywood is beginning to take notice, signing some of the top titles to be produced as major motion pictures.

This only leaves one question: will the modern market bring in a new generation of collecting fans and bring back the ones that left? The fans, future and past, can only give that answer.

How do I submit my comics for grading? Click here to find out.

Want to discuss your collection with fellow comic book collectors? Or do you have a question you need answered? Chat with other collectors in our online Discussion Forums.

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