Getting Your Comic Book Signed: Good Move or Bad Idea?

Collecting comics can be a pretty fun, if not costly hobby. It requires keeping up with current market prices as well as the know-how of what makes a quality book.

A lot of that weighs heavily on the cover. Having an original, un-restored version of the book cover is important, along with it having vibrant colours. Also having a cover fully intact improves the overall price of a book.

But what about when a creator signs a book? What happens then?

Surely if you have a copy of Captain America #1 signed by Jack Kirby, you’d be sitting on a goldmine, right? What about a copy of Showcase #22 featuring a signature from Gil Kane?

Chances are actually, the book would be worth less.

Before you start shouting at the screen or balling your eyes out, let’s find out why – and see if you can do anything about it.

A lot of this hooplah about the quality of the book degrading over a signature can be somewhat blamed on the company, the Certified Grading Company, or the CGC. For a more in depth synopsis of the CGC, check out what I wrote about them in the past.

CGC Hulk 340

But if you wish to keep reading, I’ll make it simple: the CGC is considered the best of the best when it comes to grading comic books, magazines, cards, and many other types of relatively-flat, printed collectibles. If you get your book graded by the CGC, chances are the price of your book can increase by a small or large margin.

Considering there are a lot of scams within the comic book collecting hobby, the CGC are considered the best place to go to get the “truth” behind a comic book. Through their grading process, they have experts in restoration check to make sure the book is in its original form. From there, they will go through the entire book to guarantee the book is up to par and not missing any pages. At the end of the evaluation, they assign a grade on the book from .5 (Poor), to 10 (Gem Mint).

The CGC will then put the book in a transparent case along with a coloured label to tell the viewer what kind of book they are looking at. Blues are the most common as they represent basic, graded books. A Purple banner means the book has been restored, while a Gold banner means it has an authentic signature.

While I could write different stories about the other banners (which you can read in the blog I made about them), it is the Gold banner we’ll be focusing on. The Gold banner stands for the “Signature Series.”

Because the CGC has become a staple in the grading process, the general comic collecting community has agreed (somewhat – but that’s also a whole other article for another day) that what the CGC says is authentic, and so the books should be sold as such.

For example, if you have a non-CGC graded book (or an “unslabbed” book), it may only be worth $50. However, if you get your book slabbed, it may suddenly be seen as $100, or even more. That’s great news, no?

But with signatures, it gets tricky.

If you say, have a copy of Captain America #1 signed by Jack Kirby before his death in 1994, you cannot submit it for a Gold banner to the CGC. Even if you have photos or video of the event happening, they will not consider it for the Signature Series. This is because a CGC representative was not present at the time of the signing.

To receive a Gold banner for the Signature Series, a CGC representative must be present to witness the signature. Nowadays, CGC goes to just about every major comic book convention. It’s great money for them to do it. If you get a book signed by Neal Adams or Stan Lee with CGC present, they’ll grant you the Signature Series banner. But CGC only began in 2000, with their Signature Series starting in 2001.

Any books prior to 2001 cannot be submitted for the Signature Series as a CGC representative, nor the company, would not have been present.

That being said, you can set up a CGC-approved witness for a signing by contacting the company.

CGC Buffy

So let’s get back to the slabbing of the book.

For unslabbed books with a signature, the books are considered – to many collectors – not valuable, solely because there is no guarantee who signed it. Even if you have videos, pictures, and a great story to go along with it, CGC set the standard to signature books. A collector may be hesitant to purchase a book even if you provide the proof. This is only because in their minds, they may be aware of the CGC “standards” of the comic collecting industry.

So if an unslabbed book is worth $50, and slabbed it’s $100, surely a Signature Series book will increase the value even more, right?

Yet again, I’m poised to say the answer is both yes and no.

Why it may increase in value: a signed book that is authenticated by the CGC is considered more valuable than a signed book that is not authenticated. The reason is that CGC guarantees the book was signed by the signer. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it. They guarantee to the buyer that the signature is real, and thus it would not depreciate the price of the book. They guarantee the signature is not just a “scribble.” It’s actually a signature by Jim Lee!

On why it’s not increased in value: sometimes you get buyers who do not want a signature on a book – that it “ruins” the artwork on the cover. Even if CGC authorized the signature, it still may not be what the buyer wants. Effectively, that signature may have just shunned away a potential buyer.

Personally, I hesitate to buy an already signed CGC book solely because I wasn’t there to have the story of its signing. While yes, there would be provenance through the CGC, the provenance is not mine. Therefore I would second guess the purchase and probably buy the book without a signature. Sale lost!

Keep this all in mind if you’re a collector and are considering having someone sign your comic book.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Sound off below! Or you can hit me up on Twitter and Instagram! And indeed, keep on Space Truckin’!

Six Tips to Buying Comics at a Comic Book Convention

Comic collecting can be a very demanding hobby. Not only is it difficult to keep up with prices and to find the best deal, but it’s important to know that you’re not getting ripped off. When in a comic book convention especially, things can seem hectic and you can feel pressured into something you did not feel comfortable with in the first place. Here’s a personal, if not, embarrassing story that happened to me when I first started collecting.

I saw X-Men #66 – the last issue of the series before it went into reprints – for a meager $20 at a local Comic Convention. The Comic Book Price Guide suggested a near mint (graded at a 9.2) copy of the book would go for $240.

I asked the retailer to take the book down and give it to me. I looked over the cover in the bag and couldn’t believe the price. The quality of the book was pristine. But there was no mistaking it as there was a big two inch by two inch $20 sticker right on the front of the bag the book was in.

X-Men 66

Realizing the great deal I was getting, I paid the man for the book and went on my way. It wasn’t until I got home did I see what had happened.

Had I opened the bag and pulled the book out I would have noticed that behind the large $20 sticker was a corner of the book that was obviously torn off and taped back on by the retailer. The sticker was covering up the defect! I was had! Or was I?

Let’s just say I had learned my lesson. As the years went on, I picked up on some other tricks about collecting comics at conventions. Here’s how you can guarantee to not fall under the same trap I fell into.

1. Open the Bag

Reading my story, it’s obvious that opening the bag should be the number one thing you do when you’re checking a book for quality. Whether it’s in a bargain bin or on the retailer’s wall, open the bag up and look at the cover. Check for defects and make sure the cover is all in one piece. Look at the staples, look at the vibrancy of the cover, and check for creases, tears, or touch ups. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask the retailer to open the bag for you for you to look at.

They’re trying to make a sale, so they are more than willing to let you nitpick over the book. You want to make sure that you’re paying for what you’re getting. Even ask them questions about that book’s history: who owned it beforehand? Was it touched up? Are all of the pages intact?

2. Open the Book

Another early collecting story of mine is when I picked up a copy of Fantastic Four #45 – the first appearance of the Inhumans and Black Bolt. The cover was in good shape. I purchased the book and went through it later when I was at home. As I looked inside, there were clippings from the mail-away advertisements missing. While the cover makes up the majority of the price, the interior of the book must also be in good condition to really seal the value. While you have the book out of the bag, by all means, flip through the pages of your potential investment.

House of Secrets 92

3. Don’t be a Booth Bum

Most Comic Conventions have more than one retailer. By all means, look at them all before you purchase your book. You can save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by being vigilant and checking/comparing prices from the various vendors. I usually scour the convention floor first before I buy anything, just to get a feel for what vendors seem to have the most reasonable prices.

4. Know What You’re Looking For

Go to these conventions with a goal in mind. If you’re looking for House of Secrets #92 featuring the first appearance of Swamp-Thing, know what the general prices are before going into the convention. Check out the Comic Book Price Guide and try to memorize the numbers. The book is often considered as the Bible to what book prices should be. You should never aim to pay more than what the book is asking.

Alternatively, you can use it as a reference guide to pricing and to help you find the version of the book in your budget. A good quality (CGC 2.0) version of House of Secrets #92 goes for around $50 according to the Guide. However, a near mint copy can start around $1200. However, you may find a vendor only asking $1000 for a 9.2 graded copy of the book – or maybe they’re asking $1300. The purchase is your call. Haggling, of course, is always an option.

5. The Guide is NOT the Bible

Allow me to be contradictory for a moment. According to the Comic Book Price Guide, a near mint version of The Walking Dead #1 should be $800. However, it has been recorded beyond the Guide that the book can easily sell for $1500 or more.

While the Guide offers a great reference point to both retailers and collectors, the market can fluctuate the prices of books dramatically. For example: if someone wanted to pay $1500 for that quality copy of The Walking Dead, chances are the next book will sell for $1600, or $1700! Maybe even $2000! It’s important to do some additional research before you jump into the thick of collecting. You may just be in for a surprise when the book you want is surprisingly out of reach.

Iron Man 55

6. Plan Ahead

Think about a book and WHY it should increase in value. For example, at the time of writing, we are already two Thor movies in with a third Thor film on the way. While a villain for the third film hasn’t been announced yet, it’s been rumoured for years that The Enchantress will be making an appearance in the Thor series.

It’s probably best to buy Journey Into Mystery #103 where she makes her first appearance BEFORE she gets put into a movie. What if she never gets put into the film? The book will rarely ever depreciate in value, so it’s best to get a head start before everyone else.

I’ve always wanted to buy Iron Man #55 as I love Thanos. Iron Man #55 has his first appearance and before The Avengers movie hit theaters, it was heavily rumoured that Thanos was going to appear.

I’ve always stalled on buying the book – where a near mint copy would go anywhere from $20-$75 before the film was released. Once it came out, the book skyrocketed to over $800 at some conventions. A missed opportunity there.

Lessons Learned

You’ll never be 100% flawless from buying comics at conventions. There will be some point where you’ll get burned on price or realize the book you should’ve bought was at another vendor for a better price: it’s part of the comic collecting experience! It’s important to learn from your past mistakes, much like I have and blogged about that X-Men #66 experience before.

Nowadays, I do my best to stay vigilant and look for certain opportunities when they arrive! I once grabbed a near-mint copy of Uncanny X-Men #266 – the first full appearance of Gambit – in a dollar bin! The book could’ve easily went for $60+. But I knew what I was looking for and knew the prices. Not all vendors are perfect, you know! However, if it seems like too good of a deal – it may just be that price for a reason (but that Uncanny X-Men #266 went to me for $5 and it was sincerely in near mint condition – the retailer’s fault)!

So the moral of the story is to be prepared when going to a Comic Convention! If you do have any questions about collecting, ask away or you can hit me up on Twitter and Instagram! And keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Special: Comics, Covers, and Barcodes!

I usually use my Classic Comics feature to review a comic book. However, I’m going to do something different and talk comic book barcodes. What are comic book barcodes for? Why do some have pictures of Spider-Man’s head instead of the barcode? How and why did they affect comic book covers of Marvel and DC from the late 70s and early 80s? Let’s delve in.

Barcode Strikeouts

What are those? Let’s take a look!

For comics coming out at a time when technology didn’t move so fast, there had to be assurances for companies like Marvel and DC. But more on that soon.

Here’s my copy of X-Men #126 from October of 1979. By all means, I invite you to click on the image to see it larger. Please pardon the quality of my old camera.

XMen

Let’s take a closer look at the bottom-left corner of the comic.

BarcodeStrike

I remember when I first started collecting, I had no idea why someone would put black strikes through the barcodes. Eventually, it dawned on me how the strikes only seemed to have affected a particular era of comics. In fact, the strikes they weren’t drawn on but actually printed over top of the barcode. I wanted to know what it meant (and I’m sure you do too)!

Three of the following X-Men comics I have featured strikes up until X-Men #130, from February of 1980.

XMen

Then issue #131 – a month later – it didn’t have a barcode at all!

XMen

Instead of a barcode, I see. . . a picture of Spider-Man? But I’ve seen issues of X-Men #131 with a barcode! What happened?!

Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition

A crossed out barcode means the comic book is a Direct Edition. So what’s that?

In a nutshell, there are two “types” of editions: Direct and Newsstand. A Direct Edition is sent to the comic book store and sold there. A Newsstand Edition is something which a newsstand would carry (seems obvious, right)? However, this was not just exclusive to newsstands, as malls, convenience stores, and drugstores could also receive Newsstand Editions.

A Direct Edition comic is crossed out due to a variety of things. One is because it tracks sales for the publisher, while another reason is to stop the store owner from returning the comics they did not sell. A crossed out barcode means the barcode could not be scanned into inventory for the publisher to accept as a return.

Obviously, that means the Newsstand Editions could be returned back to the publisher.

Arguably, Direct Edition comics are more sought-after because they would have been treated more carefully. They were less likely to have been placed in spinner racks, for example, and more likely to have been bagged and boarded. Direct Editions were also bought by the dealer at a lower price presenting another reason why dealers were unable to return them.

That being said, do you remember The Amazing Spider-Man #36? It was called the “Black Issue” as it was a tribute to the events of 9/11. I personally own a copy of that comic. Comic book dealers would have received one without a barcode on the cover at all. I bought mine at a local variety store which did have a barcode on the cover.

Believe it or not, if you have a good quality copy of that book WITH a barcode, it’s actually WORTH MORE because it is considered rare to find good-quality copies of Newsstand Edition comics. That “rule” really only applies to key issues of books, for the most part. Ultimately, it depends on the buyer.

Interestingly enough, Direct Edition dealers/comic book store owners were usually unable to scan the comics they brought in as most Direct Edition carriers did not have scanners for barcodes at the time. The technology simply wasn’t there yet or was too expensive for the comic shop owner to take on!

Due to the lack of technology from many of the comic dealers, Marvel replaced the Direct Edition barcodes with things like the Spider-Man head, or DC with Batman. On top of that, it was a way to promote extra little tidbits. Who doesn’t remember “50 Years of Captain America”, or “Spider-Man’s 35th Anniversary”? It was printed on every comic where the barcode should be. It made more sense to put those on Direct Edition books anyway as the readers would be more familiar with what’s happening in their comic book universe rather than a random person purchasing a book at a corner store.

Nowadays, since everyone is mostly on par with technology, barcodes have returned and comics just state whether or not they are Direct Editions. For example, here is a picture of Uncanny X-Force #1 from October of 2010. What does it say right next to the barcode?

Until next time folks, keep on Space Truckin’! If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!



UPDATE May 18th, 2020 – What if there’s LITERALLY NOTHING to go on?

This barcode blog has certainly been one of the most-viewed pages on my site. I’ve had many people message me both on here or through private messages to help find information on their books and clarify the understanding of barcodes. However, a recent inquiry piqued my interest and prompted me to update this post.

I completely forgot about the comic books that do NOT have barcodes. And no, I don’t mean the Spider-Man head barcodes.

I had Benn from the UK message me. He sent me a couple of photos of his book and its lack of a barcode – and lack of a back page, of all things!

His issue was Spider-Man #3 – from Todd McFarlane’s run. This issue was “Torment Part 3” from 1990.

Looking at the cover, there’s red flags abound! There’s no barcode, no pricing, and no issue number! The information on the book’s cover are entirely stripped away. To make matters even stranger, the background colours are also different.

Benn also sent me a photo of the back of the book:

There’s no tearing or obvious removal of a back cover. The staples are intact. If you look closer, the cover actually wraps around to the back page. The book simply didn’t come with a back cover!

What gives? Benn’s book instantly reminded me of a Spider-Man giveaway series we saw here in Canada back in the early nineties.

I personally had Spider-Man’s “Chaos in Calgary” and “Hard Ball” issues. They were part of a five-issue Spider-Man promo/giveaway from Marvel which was targeted to Canadians to have them read more Spidey books. Unlike Benn’s book, these books had both their prices and issue number on them. However, there was no barcode at all, let alone a spot for one on the cover.

Based on my prior experience on a few books without barcodes, and because Benn’s book featured a colour variant, I have to assume it was a reprint of some sort. Due to a lack of barcode, it must not have been scanned into stores – similar to the Direct Edition Spidey-head barcodes. I also could not find any information in the Overstreet Guide or Comics Price Guide, as if Benn’s book wasn’t actual “comic books” per se. Without a barcode, if Benn’s book was free or offered as a promotion like “Chaos in Calgary,” it would not get scanned into inventory at all – tracking wasn’t important because the book would have had no inherent value at the time.

What Benn’s book reminds me of are the Comic Packs of the 90s. I remember one in particular which clearly had no barcode on the cover:

The Shadows of the Empire comic from Dark Horse all but confirms to me Benn’s book would have been part of a toy pack. Like Benn’s book, there’s no issue number, barcode, or price. Unlike Benn’s book however, the Shadows of the Empire book wasn’t necessarily a reprint because it hadn’t been published before. Benn’s book is a reprint for sure, but considering it to be from a toy pack, it may explain the lack of a back cover as the back would have been more expensive to print. The book would not have had a barcode because the barcode was on the packaging of the toy, not the book. It may also explain why I could not find any information of the “book” in either the Overstreet Guide or Comics Price Guide – because this may – and I’m using this term very loosely here – be labelled as a “toy” not a comic.

Personally, I’m not sure what it could be labelled as. Due to COVID-19, I certainly cannot go to any comic book or toy conventions to ask the dealers there.

Benn’s book leaves a lot of unanswered questions with it: was the book actually part of a toy or just a giveaway? Benn’s from the UK and certainly distribution and rules for it would have been different than in the Americas – does that play a factor to why there’s no numbering on it? Would you classify the book as a “toy?” If so, would “Chaos in Calgary” get a pass? Does packaging define the product? I’d argue Benn’s book is a comic book. Looking into the Overstreet guide, it doesn’t recognize Dark Horse’s Shadows of the Empire toy pack books. However, the Comics Price Guide does.

Unfortunately I am unable to offer Benn a true answer to his book. It certainly is a unique piece though! If you know of any action figures that may have sold with Benn’s Torment #3, please let me know!

Happy collecting, everyone!

Porno, Crooks, and Comic Books

I’ve been aware of Marvel artist, Greg Land, for quite a few years. He has a very particular style of drawing – especially when it comes to facial expressions and body positions. He is currently working on X-Men-related stories, but has worked on Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Ultimate Power mini-series. Land also has a long history working with DC books, such as Nightwing and Birds of Prey. He also had a long run with the CrossGen’s series, Sojourn. Needless to say, Land has a great amount of experience with his short-time being in the comic drawing business.

PornFace

However, it does not take a rocket scientist to see Land’s work as questionable.

But let’s backtrack slightly for a little bit of comic book art history and law suits.

You may notice the likeliness of other celebrities in things, such as Arnold Swarchenegger in the newest rendition of Terminator: Salvation, or Carrie Fisher as a pez dispenser as Princess Leia. Needless to say, the celebrities do not have a problem with this because the movie studios and a few others own the rights to the likeliness of their characters. The celebrities “look” in those movies, for those specific franchises, are owned. It’s like Warner Brothers owning the rights to Batman movies. Fox cannot make a movie with even a hint of Batman in it because Warner Brothers own Batman and most things related to him. It sounds pretty standard and easy-peasy.

When looking at comics, it has been well-documented that artists have used other photographs, as well as celebrities, commercials, movies, and so on, as photo references. It has been done for decades in comic books. One book in particular dealt with a lawsuit, being Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #15, where the likeliness of Christian musician, Amy Grant was used on the cover. The lawsuit ended with “a US District Court seal[ing] an out-of-court settlement between Grant and Marvel in early 1991, with a consent decree that Marvel did not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.”

The question is, how far can this go? Enter: Greg Land.

I’ll start right off-the-bat, stating that I am not accusing Greg Land of anything. I am just simply providing material which has been found via the internet. What I would like to bring forward, is the accusatory remarks placed on Land about his work. He has been accused by folks on the internet for copying other artists’ work, as well as his own. He is also known for presumably taking a lot of images from pornography, which even you may believe with the images provided, such as the many orgasm-esque shots women give (ie. the one above). Why he would trace his own work, I can assume is for one of two things: First is with the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” argument, while the second is that he is lazy. You can read about the controversies with Land’s work here and here.

UncannyFiveThirty

From a MyCup o’ Joe interview with Joe Quesada, he discusses Land’s work: “What’s happened with Greg is that it’s become a witch hunt and way too many people are having way too good a time hurting a tremendous artist’s reputation when he isn’t doing anything that is any different than any of us. Every line he draws now comes under scrutiny and in so many cases, people are ‘seeing’ things where are none.” Quesada also goes on to state: “I could go on and on about how many times Greg has bailed us out from some very bad deadline crunches.”

Comic critic Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources, states about Land’s work on Uncanny X-Men #510: “People speak often about the ethical issues of someone copying a drawing directly from an image, and those concerns are likely fair enough, but when I think of Greg Land, my problems are not so much ethical ones, but the fact that his process results in terrible art and particularly terrible storytelling. When you only have a certain amount of poses to work with, you just can’t tell the story the correct way. And when the characters all look more or less the same (as they’re all based on the same small set of models/”actresses”), it just makes the book that much more incoherent.”

Needless to say, we have two well-established comic book people arguing two different points. One says what he does is okay, while the other suggests that he is blatantly copying other images and recycling older sketches.

I will leave you with these images pulled from many of his comics. I do not know all of the “authors” that made some of the GIF or JPEG images, but thank you. I did however, use some of the photos (most notably, the X-Men #500 ones) from an awesome blog named JimSmash. His blog is hilarious and well thought-out, so go there now! (Or after you finish reading this one). He also gave me great permission to use his photos. So thank you, Jim! He also referenced me to the 4th Letter.net blog, where they came up with an animated GIF image of the Uncanny X-Men #500 cover you’ll see below. As for the rest of the pictures, I found them through various Google searches leading to message boards. There are more photos like these too – I just have not uploaded them all.

Also look at ComicVine here, for more examples.

As for Land, you can assume what you will. Is it coincidence, actual recycling, or are people looking too far into his art?

If you do believe he is recycling or copying – is he being lazy, or is it because the drawing works so well on many different levels? If you don’t, then why not?

View the pictures here and sound off below. If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

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Uncanny X-Men #500 Variant Cover

UncannyA

UncannyB

UncannyC

UncannyD

UncannyE

UncannyF

Is Sandra Bullock Psylocke?

Psylocke

Photo Tracing and Recycling?

One

Two

Sports

MaybeTheSame

The many faces of The Thing

What pose is this, anyway?

Tracing

An “Oh” Face and Some Recycling.

OhFace

Is Jessica Alba a Trace or from Photo Reference?

FirstAlba

Black Canary?

Other Celebrity Coincidences
On the left, think of a young Neal McDonough, while Ben Afleck on the right. Beneath them, it is suggested that it is Topher Grace.

PerhapsMcDonoughandAfleck

PerhapsTopherGrace

Are You an Oakland Raider’s Fan?
From Uncanny X-Men #509.

Raiders

Enjoy Starbucks

Starbucks

Possibly a Pornography Image?

Shameless

Hugh Jackman is Still Wolverine

Wolverine

Updated, Sept 2020

The internet is making the rounds over a new accusation against Land. Artist Tristan Jones has found he has been “Landed” regarding Land’s new cover for an Alien Omnibus coming out. . .

Let’s see Jones’ case:

Hmm. We’ll see where this goes.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

What’s a CGC?

Hey, folks! First I’d like to say I’ll be a few days late on my Wednesday reviews because I’ll be off to Toronto for the evening. I apologize for any inconvenience this may or may not cause.

Secondly, as promised, here is my explanation of the CGC!

I was fortunate enough to be able to deal with the CGC when I met Stan Lee in Toronto last August for Hobbystar’s FanExpo event. In a nutshell, it’s Canada’s version of the San Diego ComicCon (or SDCC).

I was one of the first people in line to have something signed by Stan Lee – that being my copy of X-Men #15 from December of 1965. It was a dream come true – to meet my childhood idol AND to have him sign something he actually created.

While in line, CGC had a sign there stating that they would be taking submissions for their signature series. Someone from CGC (actually it was someone who was licensed by the CGC, Desert Wind Comics) was present to witness the signing.

Here’s where you ask, “Wait. How can you prove the book is signed? Why does it matter?” Enter the CGC.

What is the CGC?

The Certified Guaranty Company, also known as the CGC, is a company dedicated to the grading, acting, consistency and commitment to comic books and their collectors. They are, by all means, the largest unofficial-official “authority” in comic book collecting. But more on that later.

What does the CGC do?

The CGC will grade your comic book with a scale from .5 to 10.0. To be fair, it also goes through three stages of grading. The Restoration Detection Expert, the Pre-Grader, and the Grading Finalizer. Hefty, eh? Each person does their own job and makes notes about the grading. Once all three graders have finished grading, they will “average” out the scores they give to make a final score. If there are disagreements, they will be discussed until a final answer is made.

CGC Labels
Have you ever been to a comic book store or a comic book convention and witnessed books in plastic with numbers above them? That’s totally CGC’s fault. But what do they mean?

Let’s explain the label first. Here’s a CGC graded copy of Avengers #4 I pulled from the world wide web. Click on it for a larger view or open it in a new window.

Firstly, notice the big 9.8 on the left. That is the grade which CGC gives the book for its quality. Following to the right, we see the book information. So Stan Lee wrote the story, followed by the artists, Jack Kirby and George Roussos. In the middle, we have the name of the book and the date. If there were any “problems” with the book, such as the discolouration over time, it may say “Cream to off-white pages” or something under the date.

To the right of the date we will see if there is any relevance to the story at all. For this, we see that this is the first issue appearance of “Silver Age Captain America” and “Sub-Mariner appearance.” To the far right is a holo-foil CGC label.

The barcode in the center is the CGC Certification number. You can plug that into their website to see some information/verify your book.

That’s not all to the grading process. There’s still colours!

Blue (Universal): Much like that issue of Marvel Premiere #3 above, the colour blue is the most common of the gradings. Blue means it is a standard book. Any book you would hand in, whether it be brand new or from the 1930’s, will be given a blue label.

Purple (Restored): This colour means the book has been restored in some way or another. It is noted how the quality of the restoration is done as well, where A is amateur and P is professional. Next to those, it will suggest if the restoration was slight, moderate, or extreme – telling how much restoration has been done. It will also say what was done underneath the date of the book.

Green (Qualified): A green colour means there is a defect in the book which must be noted – under the date on the label. This comes into play where a signature may not be authenticated or a price sticker has been placed over the book. A book can still reach a high grade with a sticker on it, so it still does not hurt to get it graded.

Yellow (Signature Series): It is simply a book which has been signed a notable person, has not been restored, and the signature was witnessed by an employee of the CGC. One thing to note is that if the signature is by someone who did not write the book, it will still get a yellow tag – as long as the name is authenticated by a member of CGC. Unfortunately, that means comics you may have signed by legends like Jack Kirby or Carmine Infantino will never be able to be authenticated. Recording devices, testimonials, pictures, etc, do not count. Only CGC approved staff does. The date of the signature will be noted underneath the date the book was published.

Yellow/Purple (Signature Series/Restored): I think this one is pretty self explanatory.

Does it Change the Price?

Since getting my X-Men #15 signed and graded at a 4.0, the NUMBER ONE thing I’ve been asked is, “How much is it worth now?”
The answer: It varies.

Why?

Some people like to collect comics without them “harmed,” regardless of the signature. Although, arguably, an authentically signed comic should be worth more, that does not always reflect how much someone will pay for it. For example, in my eyes, I could not put a value on that comic. If I did, it would be astronomical in price. This goes with absolutely every comic signed everywhere.

Let’s take an example here:
Going from the comic book database Comics Price Guide, Fantastic Four #5 – the first appearance of Dr. Doom – with an assumed 9.4 grade from its seller would go for $16,000. However, currently based on the site, a 9.4 CGC grade should go for $40,000. Yet, a CGC 9.4 sold for $47,977 a couple of years before in 2008. Is the price guide wrong? Would someone be ripped off buying the book for $40,000 instead of $47,000? If it was signed, does it become more expensive or less because the cover was “ruined” with a signature?

Problems with the CGC

Although they are known world-wide for their reviews, of course some may differ on opinions. Take for example a professionally restored comic with a purple label. Arguably, that would be the comic restored in its original form. However, to some, that would destroy the quality of the comic – much like a signature series would be looked at. Thus, would a purple label diminish the comic quality for the owner?

Then of course you have opinions. While the example of the Fantastic Four #5 is one, you may also consider that your comic quality is still better than what CGC grades it. I had a discussion with my local comic book shop owner, and we both agreed that it does boil down to opinion. Although they are “official,” they are still a self-created grading company with their own in-house professionals. Much like the Watchmen, who oversees the CGC? Or are we all complicit for them to make the decisions for us?

Conclusion

Given all you have read here, you may find yourself asking, “do the CGC seem qualified or unqualified to be doing what they’re doing?”

As for some other general questions to think about, ask yourself: Does a signature, even by a comic great ruin the quality of the book? Are restored comics worth less, despite more money being put into them to make them better? Do CGC gradings make comic prices unfairly inflated?

Generally speaking, the comic book collecting community (CBCC?) is fine with how CGC does their reviews and grading. Most conventions use CGC as their go-to grader. Other companies like PGX Comic Grading Services also provide a nice alternative to CGC.

If there are any other questions you have, feel free to comment below. I’d love to generate some discussion based off of this. Also check out the CGC and Comics Price Guide websites off to the right of this blog for more information.

Until then, keep on Space Truckin’!

Try Before You Buy

Hey folks!

Yesterday, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was off to Toronto for the ComicCon held at the Convention Center.

Needless to say, I had a great time and fun was presumably had by all.

Numerous vendors set up with fantastic deals for comics of all-sorts. Not to mention, artists such as Jamal Igle from Supergirl, and Alex Milne from Transformers were there. Although I never did introduce myself to them, it was awfully neat to see them sketch out various characters throughout the day. A lot of artists were also offering commissions. However, I opted out.

Xmen66

It was held in a fairly decent-sized room – enough for about three-hundred people to fit in some-what comfortably. I picked up around eighty back-issues, plus some nice rarities, such as She-Hulk #1, and X-Men #66 (the final issue of the series).

But that will bring me to why I titled this blog “lesson learned.”
Without mentioning any names, when I found X-Men #66, it literally was in great condition. The price was a bit steep, but I mean, it was really in great shape. It was in its plastic, boarded, and had three stickers on the plastic bag – on the top right. The stickers, about one inch in both width and height, were going down the bag. One said “Sal Buscema art,” the other, “Last Issue in Series,” and the final one with the price.

Given the quality of the comic and the price (which was pretty much on par with its quality), I decided to purchase it. I went up to the dealer and he told me, “I just got this book recently. It’s a great book (as I’m sure all the dealers say) and I’ll give it to you for a good price.” Needless to say, he gave me the book for half of what the sticker price was. I figured it was a great deal. So I enjoyed the rest of the con.

Getting home, I of course, peeled off the stickers on the plastic. Unbeknown to me though, was that they were covering some “irregularities” on the cover. The top right cover of the book was torn and taped back together by scotch tape. Although it wasn’t too noticeable, it would explain the discount I was given.

Admittedly, had I of known about the damage, I would have still purchased the book. Also, the dealer clearly knew of the problem, and saved himself grief later on by giving me a discount.

What the lesson I learned was is check comics before you buy!

I usually do, however, I have no excuse for this one. I was also lucky to get a “deal” with it – while others may not be so fortunate. So I came up with a few guidelines which others, including myself, should follow.

– Do not hesitate to open up the comic package and look over.

– If you’re nervous about damaging the comic yourself, go ahead and ask the dealer if you can. I’ve been to enough conventions to know that they will be more-than-happy to show you the comic, plus talk about the history of the book.

– Check price guides! A website I have linked on my blog to the right here, Comics Price Guide, is a great source of prices for comics. That is to say, print off a list of what you want, and when you see it, judge the quality for the price. I know I paid the right price for my “damaged” issue of X-Men #66, so I am not too upset about the problem. Regardless, I had a price guide with me to know when a comic was too over-priced.

– Do not just look at one dealer. Often times, you can find the same book of equal or even better quality – cheaper – than where you first saw it. Scour the con grounds first, then buy!

So until then folks, keep on Space Truckin’!