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.
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.
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?
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’!