To Slab or Not to Slab…

 CGC BooksThere are great reasons to slab a comic (slabbing is slang for getting a comic professionally graded and encased in an un-openable hard plastic shell from CGC, PGX, or CBCS).  We’ll do a subsequent blog talking about the merits of the various companies that offer grading/slabbing services, but for right now, let’s concentrate on the general concept of slabbing your comics.

If you’re purely interested in protecting your comics, mylar and acid free boards will protect the books just fine.   Have a look at the Blog entry on bags & boards for more info on this.  If you want to go the extra mile, stick your mylar bag into a top loader.  This will provide really sound protection for your comic for considerably less than you will pay to have it slabbed.

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Shawn purchased Avengers #58 slabbed because there are often accuracy issues with grading a cover with a lot of white

On the other hand, if you are buying an expensive comic over the internet and want a 3rd party graded copy to ensure you that you’re getting what you’re paying for, getting a slabbed book is a way to ensure that.  Third party grading will alleviate any worries about misrepresented grades and restoration.  However, you will often pay for that privilege.  High-grade slabbed books will frequently sell for multiples of what an unslabbed (also called “raw”) book will sell for.  In fact prices can vary quite a lot in the Near Mint to Mint Range.  The Overstreet Price guide doesn’t assign price values to books over 9.2 stating that prices in these grades are “frequently considered extremely volatile”.

When buying over the internet, slabbed books are protection against the non-professional graders out there (even among dealers) who have a wide variety of skill on grading in the fine, very fine and near mint categories.  Each grading point can sometimes amount to a non-trivial increase in price so a misgraded book can cost a buyer some money.  Slabbing is a benefit in the internet age not only for the buyer since almost everyone can become a potential dealer; slabbed books are more ‘liquid’ and are generally easier to sell .

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Bob bought this slabbed variant cover because (1) it’s a really cool homage to the classic Green Lantern #76 – and- (2) He wanted to have a perfect “Gem Mint” comic in his collection

What about if you want a “perfect comic”?  If you do you’d better get 3rd party verification.  If you’re a stickler for 9.8 or higher, you NEED 3rd party verification.  The differences in grade are so minor at the very top end of the grading scale that the slightest flaw can change the grade.  Once you get a really high grade verified by a 3rd party, you never want to physically touch that book again.  Any kind of handling could easily drop a grade to 9.6 or lower.  That’s why slabbed books cannot be opened and slabbing will turn your comic into something that just can be displayed (or stored away).  Opening the slab (also called ‘cracking the slab’) invalidates the grade and it will need to be re-submitted to get it re-slabbed.

So, lots of reasons to buy books that are slabbed.  What about slabbing your own books? Slabbing your own books can be done for a variety of reasons;

  1. You are interested in preserving the book (see above, use mylar if this is your only motivation)
  2. You are interested in re-selling the book down the line (having the book slabbed will make it easier to re-sell, but not necessarily at a premium)
  3. You want the opinion of a 3rd party grading service
  4. You want 3rd party assurance that your comics are a certain grade or above (you want a certified “high grade” collection)
  5. You think slabbed books are “just cool

Be very careful when deciding what to have slabbed.  High grade books are great candidates, as are “keys” (e.g. a #1 comic, a 1st appearance, death, or other significant event).  Slabbing a random non-key book is often not likely to pay off in increased value, nor will slabbing books under 6.0, after grading costs you may in fact lose money if ever attempting to resell lower grade non-keys.  As with anything, slabbing lots of books make the “per each” cost less.  A dealer that sends in a whole bunch of stuff is going to get a better price than a collector who slabs a couple of books every now and again.

Our philosophy on slabbing below 6.0 is “Do it if that plastic case makes you feel happy, because it’s not necessarily going to make you $$$.”  If it makes you happy, no one can take that away from you.


Bob bought this Cerebus #12 for about 75% of guide value (shipping included), even though it was graded 9.4

Many people interested in buying slabbed books are primarily interested in buying higher grade books.  Lower grade slabs seem to be a buyer’s market on many books.  Bob knows from the personal experience of buying CGC’d 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 books significantly BELOW guide prices (including keys like Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Showcase #22) that slabbing books that are not considered “investment grade” will often not pay off from a resale point of view.  This is not to say that they are not worth money, or that you may not be able to find some buyer somewhere willing to pay full guide or even a bit more for that slabbed book in 4.5.   In fact, depending on the age price and significance, some lower grade books may pay off for you if slabbed, it’s just not as much a sure thing as a slabbed high grade comic. Keep in mind that if you need to sell, those lower grade books may not be worth MORE if they are slabbed but will likely sell quicker since they buyer has an assurance as to the grade.

For recent books, the market is even more volatile if you don’t get that 9.8 (or the ever elusive 9.9 or 10.0).  We’ve seen books from the past few years in 9.6, 9.4, and 9.2 selling for less than what a regular collector not getting bulk dealer pricing would pay to get them slabbed.  This is where having some really strong advice on pre-grading books that are submitted could save you big bucks.  Anything from the past 10 years that is not a “super-key” book should be as high a grade as possible  if you are slabbing it as an investment.

So, To Slab or Not to Slab?   The answer is “it depends”.
If you do it for the right reasons it can be fun and enhance your collecting and/or re-sale experience.  Hopefully you’ll have enough knowledge going in to make the right choice.

Read Part 2 here:

Bob Bretall: -and-
Shawn Hoklas: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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3 Responses to To Slab or Not to Slab…

  1. Pingback: Guest Blog: To Slab or Not to Slab Part 2 – CGC at Cons | ComicSpectrum – Bob's Blog

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

  3. Denis F. Oliver says:

    This is a very informative article. Thank you.

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