Comic grading seems to be difficult for some people. At least, doing it in a way that doesn’t make those around you raise their eyebrows at you seems difficult for some. Last weekend, at Detroit Fanfare (see my review of the show here) I twice was talking to someone about a particular issue they had and heard them describe the issue as “at least a 9.8”. Really? At least? Now I realize that there’s a very good chance these people didn’t fully realize what that term means, like pretty much any time someone uses the word “literally”. But then again, there’s also the chance that these people legitimately thought that they had a 9.9-10.0 grade issue.
Look, I realize that such issues exist. They really do, they’re out there and if you look long enough you’ll find them. But they’re rare. Really rare. And odds are you don’t have one. Just like a person I talked to at another show recently insisted that he had a rare bronze age 9.9 issue. He then proceeded to pull out a comic that, on a generous day, would get a 9.2
Grading isn’t a science. We should get that clear right from the start. As I type this, I’m looking at 5 Fantastic Four #67s all graded at 9.0. These issues are all pretty close in shape, but they’re not all exactly the same, which is what happens when real life humans look things over. You get little variances in the grades, which means that some days an 8.5 issue will come back with a 9.2, and some days it might come back as a 7.5. We’ve all see issues with a grade that left us scratching our heads, and that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. That being said, getting a good idea of the grade of your issue is easier than you think.
You Have The Internet, You Can Learn Comic Grading At Home
Now we’re not going to get into a lesson on how to grade here. There are plenty of comic grading tutorials out there for that, and Overstreet makes a pretty comprehensive book on just that subject. What we are going to do here is reprimand people who either are trying to sell something as Near Mint when it’s clearly Vine, or trying to describe something they’re about to buy as Very Good in order to get the price down, when everyone involved knows that it’s really Fine+.
Over grading is easy to do. We find an issue we like, it looks pretty nice, emotion sometimes gets involved. But at the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to play devil’s advocate with your personal grading and assume that those tiny little flaws you overlooked probably matter to other people. If you walk around presenting comics with blunted corners and spine ticks as 9.8s, pretty soon no one is going to take you seriously.
An Easy Way To Grade On Your Own
When trying to figure out the grade of your comic, there’s an easy trick to be a little more accurate and communicate its condition better to others. First, in your mind figure out what grade you think it is. Like what your knee jerk reaction to seeing it is. You’d like to be holding a 9.8? Okay, that’s fine. Now, take that number and subtract 4 grades. So in this example, that would be 9.0. Now assume that someone just walked up to you and stated that they believe the issue you’re holding is that lower grade. Well, it’s up to you to convince them otherwise. So start going over the issue millimeter by millimeter. Ask why that imaginary person just told you that they think the comic is a whole 4 grades lower than what you originally thought. Are the corners not quite as square as you thought? Is that a crease near the top staple? Are those colors just a little bit faded? If you can absolutely sell this imaginary person that all the faults they thought they saw aren’t there, then yes, you may have a 9.8. But odds are, you and your imaginary friend are going to settle somewhere in the middle, maybe a 9.4.
This gets easier when dealing with mid-grade issues, as you start to see how much difference there is between a 4.0 and a 6.0. A terrific help is to pick up a few graded comics of various grades. For some reason, there are lower grade cheap issues available everywhere, and just having a set of 3.0-6.0 issues laying around as references can really help if you’re serious about representing your issues the right way. Keep in mind though that these would just be rough guides, and that even CGC has quite a bit of variance in how their grading comes out.
So all in all, as we said before it’s not a science. One man’s 9.4 is another man’s 9.6. But don’t be the guy who tells someone you have a comic that’s “at least a 9.8”. Tell people you have one that’s probably a 9.8, and realize that a 9.8 is really really nice. Literally two steps away from perfect. And don’t pick up a comic at a dealers booth and say “well, that’s probably a 2.0, so I’ll give you this much for it”, because frankly 2.0s are bad enough that you’ll know them when you see them. As with so many other things in life, the real answer is more often than not somewhere in the middle.