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How to Grade Comics

The CPG team has put together our grading standards based upon market standards in the hobby as well as included extensive research into CGC grading. Special thanks to our comic grading advisor Steve Borock, Heritage Auctions consignment Director and former CGC President/Primary Grader. The primary reason to grade a comic is that there is a direct correlation between the condition of the comic and the value of the book. The higher the grade of a comic book the higher the value.To grade a comic, you need to take in to consideration a number of factors before being able to assess the correct grade. One of the most important factors is first to count the interior pages. An incomplete book missing pages will have significantly less value then a complete counterpart. There are also a wide variety of possible other defects to the interior of a comic book. These can include missing pieces of pages, clipped coupons, tears, tape, glue, loose centerfold pages, insect damage, among other defects. Also, very important is the quality of the paper commonly referred to as “page quality”. The deterioration of the quality of the pages is due to aging and or incorrect storage. This can include pages color changing from its original color of white to cream colored pages or as severely degraded as tan pages with brittleness. The most desired are books with white pages. Most collectors will accept any page quality except for books with slightly brittle or brittle pages in a collectible comic.

When initially looking at a comic book the first thing one will notice is the cover of the book. The cover of a comic is what typically takes the most abuse. Any amount of wear to the cover of the book must be factored into the condition and grading of the comic. This can include abrasions, tears, creases, bent corners, spine splits, chips, tape, glue, as well as a multitude of other types of wear we will cover in the grades noted below. You will notice that tape is considered a defect and not restoration. This has been considered a hobby standard for a long time we at CPG do not recommend using any non-archival tape on comics.

MINT GRADES
GEM MINT: 10.0
MINT : 9.9

The best possible existing condition of a comic book. A near perfect book. It is very rare especially in older comic books pre-1990 to discover a comic in either Mint or Gem Mint condition. Books in this condition pre-1980 are virtually non-existent.

An extremely exceptional comic with only very minute printing or bindery defects. The books cover is flat and without surface wear. No autographs or writing is allowed on either the cover or interior pages. Cover inks are exceptionally bright with high gloss. The books corners are perfectly square and sharp. Interior pages must me white in color and supple to the touch.

NEAR MINT+/MINT GRADES
NEAR MINT / MINT : 9.8
NEAR MINT+ : 9.6This is close to mint with some minor defect.

  • A slight stress line by the staples.
  • The staples themselves are generally centered clean with no rust.
  • Maybe some of the color has chipped or flaked off the cover.
  • And again, the cover is flat with no surface wear; inks are bright with high reflectivity and very little fading. And those tricky corners are cut square and sharp with ever so slight blunting permitted.
  • You can tell that this comic has been stored properly and looks as new as the day it was printed.
  • All stress marks should be almost invisible and bindery tears must be less than 1/16 inch.
  • Only the most subtle binding and/or printing defects allowed.
  • Cover is fairly well centered and firmly secured to interior pages.
  • Paper is supple and like new.
  • Spine is tight and flat.
  • Unobtrusive date stamps or arrival dates in pencil or ink are acceptable.
  • Many pedigree collection comics have a notation on the cover or the interior of the comic and are considered a bonus to collectors as they help prove the provenance of the comic.
NEAR MINT/NEAR MINT- GRADES
NEAR MINT : 9.4
NEAR MINT – : 9.2

This book is an excellent copy with great eye appeal.
  • It is vibrant and clean with supple pages.
  • The spine may have a couple of very small stress lines at the most 1/4 inch the surface color around the line must not be noticeably broken.
  • The spine is almost completely flat.
  • The cover is relatively flat with almost no surface wear and the cover inks are generally bright with medium to high reflectivity.
  • The staples may show some discoloration, but it’s not too noticeable on first glance.
  • The inside pages and covers usually will be off-white to white, but can be creamy or slightly yellowish.
VERY FINE/NEAR MINT GRADES
VERY FINE/NEAR MINT : 9.0

Slightly better condition than VERY FINE +:8.5, but in lesser conditions than the grade above.

VERY FINE+ : 8.5
VERY FINE : 8.0
VERY FINE – : 7.5

A VERY FINE comic book appears to have been read a few times and has been handled with some care.
This one allows for some more defects.

  • Some of the above defects along with a small fold or crease in the cover.
  • Very few stress marks on spine.
  • A few small chips on the cover
  • The cover has some slight surface wear but still has its original gloss and there is nothing major wrong with it. Overall an exceptional, still very collectible.
FINE GRADES
FINE/VERY FINE: 7.0

Slightly better condition than FINE +: 6.5, but in lesser condition than the grade above.

FINE + : 6.5
FINE: 6.0
FINE – : 5.5

This comic is definitely a well-read copy, but can still be a very desirable copy.

  • This could have one major defect like a larger piece out of the cover (1/4 inch to 1/8 inch) or a one-inch plus tear.
  • It has stress lines around the staples and creases from the opening and closing of the cover.
  • The whiteness of the pages has been changed to off-white to yellowish color.
  • This could have a reading or subscription crease or a rolled spine, but is not damaged enough to reduce eye appeal dramatically.
  • Some discoloration, fading in colors and even minor soiling is allowed.
  • The cover and/or inside pages could have minor tears and/or folds
  • Cover can be loose from one staple, but cover cannot be completely detached from interior.
  • Pages and inside covers could be brown but not brittle.
  • Depending on the grade of the copy certain amounts are available in this grade. i.e a book that looks 8.0 with a piece of tape on the interior cover is acceptable in this grade.
VERY GOOD GRADES
VERY GOOD/FINE: 5.0
VERY GOOD+ : 4.5
VERY GOOD : 4.0
VERY GOOD – :3.5

  • Book is complete, but with major creases and or a spine roll.
  • There is almost low cover gloss or at most times none at all.
  • The inside paper quality is not good and yellow and small pieces of them may be missing.
  • If there is a piece missing from the cover, it should be no larger than a 1/2″ to 1/4″.
  • Books in this grade are almost always creased, scuffed, abraded and soiled, but completely readable.
  • Tape on the comic is considered a defect in this grade.
GOOD GRADE
GOOD/VERY GOOD: 3.0
GOOD + : 2.5
GOOD: 2.0
GOOD – : 1.8

Good is really a misnomer, but one that is still readable with numerous defects.

  • All the defects of a VG comic plus more.
  • There is almost low cover gloss or most times none at all.
  • The inside paper quality is not good and yellow and small pieces of them may be missing.
  • If there is a piece missing from the cover, it should be no larger than a 1/2″ to 1/4″.
  • Books in this grade are almost always creased, scuffed, abraded and soiled, but completely readable.
  • Book is complete, but with no missing pages and is still in a “collectible” grade.
FAIR GRADE
FAIR/GOOD : 1.5
FAIR : 1.0

This book has seen much better days and tends to be heavily worn and tattered.

  • A copy of a comic in this grade has all pages and most of the covers.
  • A book in this condition is worn, ragged and unattractive.
  • Heavy creases and folds are prevalent
  • paper quality can be very low
  • The spine and/or cover may be completely split.
  • Staples may be missing.
  • Corners are rounded.
  • Coupons cut from cover and or inside pages. Panels can be clipped out.
  • Parts of the front cover may be missing.
  • Soiling, staining, tears, markings or chunks missing will interfere with reading.
  • Brittleness maybe a factor.
  • Moderate to extensive amounts of tape is acceptable on the comic in this grade.
POOR GRADE
POOR : .5

It has major defects to the point that there is almost no collector value.

  • Copies in this grade typically will have pages and/or around 1/3 or more of the front cover missing.
  • They may have severe strains, mildew or heavy cover abrasion to the point where cover inks are gone.
  • Heavy defacing with paints, varnishes, glues, oil, indelible markers or dyes, etc.
  • The inside pages can be extreme brittleness.
NO GRADE
(Coverless/Covers/Pages or Single Wrap)

This designation is only used for the purpose of authentication. Numerous collectors and comic fans will purchase coverless comics to either read or to obtain a filler copy of a book for their collection. Coverless books will typically sell for a percentage of the good condition value. Rare and key comic books that are coverless in many cases may sell for a percentage of guide value depending on the specific comic title and issue number. Typically lower then the .5 value, but can fluctuate based on market value.

  • Book can been coverless or be an incomplete partial comic (i.e. wraps).
  • Copies in this designation typically will in most cases be beyond collectibility to the majority of the hobby.
  • Rare key comics and incomplete pages i.e. centerfolds are considered to be valuable for either restoration purposes or for individuals who just wish to own a piece of comic history.

Key Factors
It’s important to remember that the condition of the comic is just one of several key factors when buying, selling, or trading comics.

Rarity

Rarity is one significant factor which can affect the value of a comic. How unusual or how easily replaced the comic might be. Collectors will be typically less inclined to part with a rare book easily. While rarity can significantly affect a book in a positive manner it is not the only factor in helping to assess value. If a rare book is not in demand within the comic collecting community no amount of this factor will help support the value of the book on its own.

Marketability

Marketability is the demand for the book and also is their potential buyers interested in your comic? Comics with classic covers, first appearances, noted artists, and other types of strong interest from the collectors market will have more marketability then a common book that has no historical significance. The Internet has changed the marketability of books in the comic book market. Prior to the internet collectors had to purchase their comics either directly from comic dealers at conventions, retail stores, through private transactions, or through mail-order catalogs. In some instances comics that were once viewed as scarce or rare on a local level are now more readily available via the internet. Today, online comic auctions and consignment sites allow comics to be offered and have a more significant presence with a larger pool of potential buyers. Note that the marketability of any comic book can change based on time, the popularity of the character or characters, collector demand, etc.

Restoration

Restoration is the treatment that returns a comic book to a known or assumed state through the addition of non-original material for aesthetic enhancement.

CPG has researched the definitions and terminology used in our hobby and determined that CGC’s standards on restoration are the most concise and the mainstay of the hobby. With the permission of CGC we are using their standards.

Restoration is the treatment that returns a comic book to a known or assumed state through the addition of non-original material for aesthetic enhancement.

Repairing comic books has been around in our hobby since the first comics were sold to the public. It is natural for people to want their books to look as new as possible or to remain intact so that they can continue to be read. Early in fandom history, simple and crude repairs were performed by the owner of the comic for these reasons. For example, a couple of pieces of tape were used to hold on the cover, a dab of Dad’s wood glue was used to close a tear, some crayon made the cover look better, etc. As the hobby grew and comics became more expensive, the need to define and describe various repairs became apparent. Some repairs remained acceptable to collectors and were “grandfathered,” such as tape. Most repairs, however, were defined as restoration.

Restoration can be broken down into two main types: treatments intended to prolong the existence of the comic book and treatments done for aesthetics. Both types of restoration involve the introduction of non-original material to create or facilitate a desired effect.

Examples of restoration include:
Color touch. Using pigment to hide color flecks, color flakes, and larger areas of missing color. Examples of pigments may include paint (acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc.), pencil crayon, pastel, pen, marker, white-out, etc. Color touch is sometimes called inpainting.

Pieces added (piece replacement). Added pieces to replace areas of missing paper. Piece replacement material can be non-original paper such as wood or cotton fiber papers, married from a donor comic book, or color-copied pieces. This process is sometimes called infilling.

Tear seals. Sealing a tear using an adhesive. An adhesive may be cellulose, chemical, or protein-based glues as well as anything that acts as an adhesive, such as saliva.

Spine split seals. Sealing a spine split using adhesive (adhesives are described above under “tear seals”).

Reinforcement. A process by which a weak or split page or cover is reinforced with adhesive and reinforcement paper. Reinforcement papers are commonly wood or cotton fiber papers.

Cleaned (lightened). An aqueous process to lighten the paper color or remove soluble acids, often using chemical oxidation, solvents, or water. This process is sometimes called cleaned and pressed or C&P. Common chemicals used to lighten paper include benzene, acetone, xylene, sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, chloramine-T, chlorine dioxide, sodium borohydrate, etc.

Re-glossed. Enhancing the cover gloss, typically through the application of canned re-glossing/art fixodent spray.

Non-additive processes such as dry cleaning (non-aqueous removal of dirt, soot, or other non-original surface material), pressing (removal or reduction of bends and creases), and tape removal, are not considered restoration by CPG. In accordance with hobby standards, the addition of tape is not considered restoration but sellers should always note tape to potential buyers.

While we believe that tape should never be used on a comic book for any reason, our hobby has accepted that people used tape to keep comic books from falling apart. This measure was taken even before comics became collectibles. In the early days of fandom, some sellers stated that tape was not a defect and some collectors even accepted tape on mid grades. CPG downgrades for tape, as we consider it a defect no matter why or when it was added.

Restoration has become a controversial issue in the comic book hobby because it is not always disclosed by sellers, but can dramatically affect the value of a comic book. In some cases, restoration is not readily detectible to novices or individuals lacking expertise in restoration detection. Even experienced hobbyists miss restoration when grading comic books.

CPG would like to thank CGC for the use of their standards regarding restoration and their definition of restoration.

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