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.
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.
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.
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.
Shawn Hoklas: firstname.lastname@example.org
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