When Bob and I discussed the “To Slab or Not To Slab…” article last month, we listed some reasons as to why you would want to get something slabbed. Last month I attended the Wizard World Chicago show and brought quite a few books to be graded since CGC was doing on-site grading which is extremely convenient since you don’t have to worry about their long turn around times and the added shipping charges.
I wanted to recap the highs, the lows and provide a little insight, and in some cases warnings, when getting your books 3rd Party graded, starting with the process itself.
When I arrived at the show Thursday night, the lines were pretty short since it was the beginning of the show. It was my first stop so there wasn’t much of a rush. I brought a total of 20 books to be graded that ranged from Silver Age to Modern (Modern is considered 1975 and later). Grading Modern and Bronze books cost $30 each at the show, while the pre-1975 books were $50 each (15 of the 20 I brought books fell into this category). So you can see there’s a decent cash investment you’ll have to make when grading your books that you will need to add to what you already invested when making the initial purchase. If you plan on using CGC frequently, their services are cheaper when you become a member. They have individual pricing and three different membership plans to choose from that range in price from $39 up to $275 per year. Plans include discounts off the normal price and the higher tiers give a coupon for 4 “free” submissions. You can also find a list of submission centers as well as the how to’s on their website. I was able to save some money by submitting directly at the show, but although CGC does take submissions at most major conventions, they only do on-site grading at just a handful of shows each year, so keep in mind you will have to pay shipping charges as well.
I dropped off my books off Thursday night and most of them were ready Saturday which was a day earlier than promised so kudos to CGC for the quicker than expected return. Their customer service at the show was friendly and attentive, and they even corrected a mistake within 30 minutes, more on that in a bit. For now, let’s get into some of the books themselves. Let’s start with the bad…
I purchased a first appearance of Luke Cage in Hero for Hire, and a first appearance of The Falcon in Captain America. I paid $150 for the Hero for Hire and $100 for the Cap #117 Falcon appearance, both of them at the 2013 Wizard World Chicago show. Unfortunately they both came back in grades less than expected, and the Hero for Hire not only came back in a grade less than I thought, but also came back as having been restored!
When looking at the label you can see that it had a small amount of color touch, as well as a tear seal to the cover. This was of course sold to me unrestored, so after the cost of the book and the grading, trying to resell the book would result in a loss, and the purple label for a book of this age makes it less appealing to the eye. I recently purchased a 9.0 copy of this same book to have an unrestored and nicer book as part of my collection, not wanting to run the risk of purchasing a less than expected grade. I also know now to avoid this dealer at future shows as he had multiple copies of this issue last year, and I purchased what I thought was the nicest copy he had. Did this dealer purposely sell me a restored copy? Assuming positive intent I’m sure he didn’t as he may not have known himself, but when purchasing comics at prices above the $100 price point, not being able to spot restoration is a risk you can avoid by purchasing slabbed books, or by becoming a better grader and learning how to spot restoration yourself.
In regards to the Captain America number 117, I thought the book would grade somewhere between 7.0-8.0 and it regrettably came back as a 5.0. Now, CGC doesn’t tell you why the book graded as it did, and if you want to see the notes on why, there is an extra cost for that. The last CGC 5.0 Captain America #117 sold on e-Bay for less than the asking price of $115, so you can see that I lost money on both of these books and it shows just how 3rd Party Grading could be a gamble where you actually lose money. CGC does offer a pre-screening service where you can specify a minimum grade and they won’t slab anything below the specified grade. That said, it requires a minimum submission of 50 books, so is probably mostly useful for dealers trying to get a bunch of 9.8 books to re-sell.
Getting Cap #117 back at a 5.0 grade let me know that I’m not as skilled a grader as I thought I was. There’s plenty of resources out there to help you become a better grader, and before submitting to CGC, I’d encourage you to use some of those resources and try to be as discerning as possible when purchasing un-slabbed books if your intent is to eventually have them graded as high grade “investment” books.
In the next installment we’ll provide a little more insight into services, including pressing which I had done for the first time, accuracy of CGC’s grading, and the mix -up when it came to grading a first appearance of Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52.
Shawn Hoklas: firstname.lastname@example.org
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