To Slab or Not to Slab Part 3 – Small Details Can Make Big Difference

Shawn got these four books graded at WW Chicago 2014

Shawn got these four books graded at WW Chicago 2014

In part two of  To Slab or Not to Slab we discussed the consequences of my admitted inability to accurately determine the grade of certain back issues. Since I don’t do this full-time, I try to rely on knowledge gained over the years, and resources like the Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide or this 10 Point Grading Tutorial on Heritage’s Auction site. Being able to accurately grade could help you avoid some of the situations I ran into from last time, or help you in spotting the differences from one grade to another.  But another thing to consider, given the subjectivity of grading, is whether CGC is the perfect “end all” authority on grading or not.  Read on and see what you think based on the experiences I had with this round of grading.

In this installment, let’s take a look at some more of the books that I got graded at the WizardWorld Chicago Show as this illustrates some of the points made above.

With the second Avengers movie coming out next year, I decided to get my two copies of Avengers #55 graded. On these two I was much closer in my estimation of the grades, but I assumed one would come back a 7.0 and the other an 8.0, but they both came back as 7.5’s and both had Off White to White Pages. Let’s take a closer look.

The same grades…but one LOOKS better.

The same grades…but one LOOKS better.

You can see the rough edges and little marker dots in the left hand corner.

You can see the rough edges and little marker dots in the left hand corner.

Notice the dinged left hand corner as well as well, all on the same book but the grades came back the same.

Notice the dinged left hand corner as well as well, all on the same book but the grades came back the same.

You’ll notice the top of the cover has some marker dots and although you may not be able to tell as well from the pictures, there is some tanning along the edges of the book which is noticeable with the all white cover. The corners of the book are also not as sharp as the other, and the bottom left hand corner looks dinged. Overall looking at these two books, one is noticeably better looking in my opinion, although not dramatically better looking, than the other despite both receiving the same grade. It’s another example of just how strict the grading can be, and how our own level of grading may not always be accurate.  It’s important to note that grading does go much deeper than just cover, but looking at these two, I definitely assumed one would come back higher graded than the other.

Notice the missing piece on the corner of the 9.4?  The 9.2 has better corners, and the same coloring and both had WHITE pages.

Notice the missing piece on the corner of the 9.4? The 9.2 has better corners, and the same coloring and both had WHITE pages.

Notice the missing piece, and the left hand corner ding.  But it came back at a 9.4, better than the other 9.2.

Notice the missing piece, and the left hand corner ding. But it came back at a 9.4, better than the other 9.2.

In the second example, again with the popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy I decided to have my two copies of Incredible Hulk #271 graded as it’s the first “comic book” appearance of Rocket Raccoon.  Now with these I assumed, since they’ve been sitting in my collection for a while and I bought them on the cheap ($3.00 each) years ago that they’d both come back around 9.0 or 9.2.  Surprisingly one came back in 9.4, but not the one I thought had the better grading.  In fact they both looked the same to me, but the one graded 9.4 has a tiny piece missing on the bottom right hand corner, as well as a ding in the bottom left hand corner!  Again, the one I thought would come back worse, actually came back higher than expected, and again I was somewhat confused about how the CGC graders had decided one was better than the other.

Although the labels got mixed up by CGC, they were quick to fix the issue by swapping them and getting them back to me in under 30 minutes.

Although the labels got mixed up by CGC, they were quick to fix the issue by swapping them and getting them back to me in under 30 minutes.

Finally, I got my first appearance of Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52 and his 2nd Appearance in #53 graded and when I went to pick up the books, I didn’t even notice until I got home that the labels on the books were swapped (#52 was in the slab labeled #53, #53 was in the #52 slab). Not knowing how they’d handle it, I went back first thing Sunday morning, informed them of the mix up and they got both books back to me in less than 30 minutes.  Their customer service response at the show was great.

Looking at all these examples really causes me to question CGC’s attention to detail given the amount of books going through their grading set-up over a short time over the course of the convention weekend.  From the really obvious mix-up of putting a book in the slab with an incorrect label to the variations in grading I have pictured above, it really causes me to wonder if CGC is the perfect authority on grading that many consider them to be.  They’re only human, after all.  Mistakes can be made and just because a book has a certain grade on a plastic slab doesn’t necessarily make that the definitive authoritative grade.

The moral of the story for me is to take a close look at the next slabbed book you’re going to buy and see if you agree that the book inside the slab is really the grade printed on the label.  If you don’t agree with the grade, walk away.  There will always be another comic to buy and you should be happy with your purchase whether it’s a “raw” unslabbed book or one that has been professionally graded. 

Coming up next in the 4th and final installment of this Blog will be a comparison of the different slabbing services out there: CGC, PGX, and CBCS.

Shawn Hoklas: shawn@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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5 Responses to To Slab or Not to Slab Part 3 – Small Details Can Make Big Difference

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

  2. hugomarink says:

    I don’t have a lot of experience with CGC as I’ve always preferred to buy raw books. But lately I’ve delved into buying some modern slabs and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how CGC comes up with their criteria for grading. I’ve seen such inconsistencies! I understand that they do provide grader’s notes for an additional cost. Does anybody know what they charge for that? I think they should provide grader’s notes as PART of their service as it’s the only way to demonstrate that their service isn’t just a complete crapshoot. And that goes for all grading services, not just CGC. They should explain why that brand new comic got a 9.4 while an almost identical copy gets a 9.8.

    • CGC grader notes cost between $5 & 15 per book for regular people, cheaper for Dealer & Elite members.
      http://www.cgccomics.com/grading/cgc-grader-notes.aspx

    • Hello hugomarink 🙂 I don’t disagree with you on providing notes for the grading service. That may happen with popularity of CBCS and competition (I doubt any time soon though). That being said the inconsistencies a lot of times come from looking at the WHOLE book. Many times you see dealers or sellers look at the front cover and back and guess the grade, but you have to look at each page, internal flaws, etc…for example a water stain that hits the cover, and then goes on into each page will significantly affect the grade of a book. You may not really see it while in a case, but the damage is there.

      • hugomarink says:

        Sure, I understand that the whole book has to be graded. And for older comics it’s definitely more of a crapshoot when slabbing because you may have restoration issues to deal with along with interior defects you may not notice on a cursory evaluation. But with modern books that may look identical between copies graded at 9.2, .9.4, 9.6, and 9.8 I think it would be really interesting to see how the graders determined those grades. For example, I have a Silk #1, which is basically a brand new book, that is a CGC 9.8. I ordered it on eBay. When I got it I could plainly see there are two small nicks, one each the top and bottom of the spine. I couldn’t believe it! I would expect a CGC 9.8 to not have any noticeable blemishes. And I have a Valiant Shadowman #1 retailer incentive black cover in CGC 9.0 and, for the life of me, I can’t see anything wrong with the book. Yes, there probably was something wrong in the interior for it to get that 9.0 grade, but what was the issue? Given the premium that goes with a book graded CGC 9.8 I think CGC needs to be transparent about how they arrive at those grades because even in my limited experience with slabbed books I’ve seen noticeable inconsistencies.

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