CGC Slab-Busters – X-Men #14

X-Men14 -01

I have mixed feelings about CGC.  I can understand that they have a place in the hobby.  For super-high-grade comics they’re fairly essential, it’s nice to have a 3rd part verify that something is a 9.8 instead of someone just claiming a book is that near-perfect.  Many people who collect CGC books like very high grades.  As a result, I’ve frequently been able to get books that are CGC’d as 4.0 or 4.5 for less than half guide price.  I’m not going up against much competition for these books, most of the people buying CGC books don’t want to clutter up their collection with books in a grade so low, but it’s in my “sweet spot”.  This is the grade most of the books I bought off the rack and read 1000 times as a kid are in, so buying back issues from the 60s in 4.0 to 4.5 means that they fit right in.

Now I’m weird in another way, well I’m weird in many ways, but one way in which I’m weird is that I like to read the comics I buy.  Particularly old comics.  I like to look at the old ads.  I like to read the letters page.  I like the smell of the old comics.  Smell is a huge sensory trigger for memories and it brings me back to those old newsprint comics I read when I started collecting.

Funny thing.  An old comic sealed away inside a slab of plastic is kind of hard to read.  Kind of hard to get a whiff of too.  So my general practice for years has been to “crack the slab” when I get an old comic in a CGC slab.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 – CGC’d 4.0.  CRACKED.

Showcase #22 (1st appearance of Green Lantern) – CGC’d 4.0.  CRACKED.

And many more…

So a friend of mine (Hi, Lisa!) recently became fascinated with the whole concept of CGC slabbed comics.  When I told her that I regularly cracked books out of the slab, she was insistent about seeing me do it.  So I picked a likely comic and set up a meet at the Saturday of the 2013 Comikaze Expo where I’d crack the slab.  The following pictures document me freeing X-Men #14 from it’s imprisonment on Saturday, November 2nd, 2013.  Sorry I’ve been dragging my feet for almost 3 months in getting this blog entry up!

I’ll also be describing a technique (with pictures) for safely cracking the slab that I’ve used 10s of times.

X-Men14 -02

To start, you need the right tools.  A flat, clean surface.  A sharp knife.  A flat head screwdriver with a fairly thin blade.  Personally, I’m using a Leatherman-type tool that combines both and has other useful things like pliers.

Step 1:  Using the knife slice through the label along the top edge of the CGC holder.  You’ll need clear access to the seam joining the 2 halves of the holder on all 4 sides

X-Men14 -03

Step 2: Using the flat blade screwdriver, work it into a seam (I usually start on the side) and give it a twist, near a corner, and you’ll hear that first CRACK.

X-Men14 -04

Step 3: Work your way around the seam, continuing to insert the flat edge of the screwdriver, followed by the twist.


Step 4: Once the slab is cracked on 3 sides you can generally just pry it apart (carefully!) and slide the sealed insert out of the exterior slab.

X-Men14-06 X-Men14-07

Congratulations!  You’ve completed Phase 1!


Step 5: Now you need to extricate the comic from the inner sealed packet.  Personally, I like to save the little printed label describing the comic’s condition, so I slide that out of the top of the packet.

X-Men14-09 X-Men14-10

Step 6: Now you need to get out your sharp knife.  BE CAREFUL.  I like to have a surface under the inner comic well packet as I do the cutting that I don’t mind scratching up.  The exterior slab makes a perfect surface to do your cutting on to protect your table.
NOTE: Theoretically you can pull the well apart with your hands, but I find that to be a bit tough to do & prefer a couple of precision cuts with a sharp knife.


Step 7: Now carefully slice along the top and side of the inner well.

X-Men14-12 X-Men14-13

Step 8: Typically, I’m able to remove the comic after cutting 2 sides.  You can cut a 3rd side, at your discretion, if you’d prefer.  Slide the book out carefully, you don’t want to damage it at this point, but at the same time, it’s a comic, it’s not made of glass!


Step 9: IT’S OUT!!!  Your comic can now breathe the clean sweet air of freedom.

Now read it!!!

X-Men14-15X-Men14-17NOTE: One thing that is cool about CGC slabbing is that they insert a piece of microchamber paper inside the front and rear covers of the comic.  I like to save these and keep them in the comic when I put it in it’s new home, a Mylar bag.
Microchamber paper absorbs and removes acids, aldehydes, ammonia, SO2, NOx, and oxidative gases, even in very low concentrations. It provides over 100 times the acid removal capacity of standard buffered boards.


That’s it!  Enjoy the unobstructed view of your newly freed comic!


Leave feedback if you liked seeing this!  I’ll do more of these (not the step-by step instructions, but photos of other books being freed from their CGC imprisonment.

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5 Responses to CGC Slab-Busters – X-Men #14

  1. Hank Johnson says:

    I have to admit, i cried a little inside reading this 😦

  2. Guy Vollen says:

    Very interesting, thanks for the step-by-step. I’m with you: comics are meant to be read.

  3. Jimmy V says:

    A low grade slab regains it freedom. Excellent. And slab packing is no longer a mystery.

  4. Pingback: Buying My Grail – Amazing Fantasy #15 | ComicSpectrum – Bob's Blog

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