User Tools

Site Tools


comics:paul_adams_grading_guide
From: Paul Adams <[p--l] at [ERC.MsState.Edu]>
Subject: [INFO] Grading Guide - Version 1.2
Date: Thu, 03 Oct 96 21:04:30 GMT
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.info




                            Grading Guide
                    _________________________________

                    Version    : 1.2
                    Date       : 1 May 1995
                    Written By : Paul Adams
                    e-mail     : [p--l] at [erc.msstate.edu]

   Confused about how to grade your comic books? What does "Mint" actually
mean and does it even exist?  Hopefully this post will help you out.
As David Schmidt has pointed out, there are some inconsistencies in the
grading guide.  Take this into account, and realize that this is a guide,
not something set in concrete.

Comments, constructive criticism, &c. are welcome.  Flames are ignored.

Paul Adams

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Changes since version 1.1 include :

Corrected error: Instead of "Odd-Center" it should have read "Off-Center".

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Table of Contents:

   I. Grading Procedure
  II. Nomenclature
 III. Polybagged Comics
  IV. Restored Comics
   V. Grading Golden/Silver Age Comics
  VI. Summary
 VII. Sources Consulted

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I. Grading Procedure
____________________


   Before delving into the nomenclature of grading, I first want to go
over the process or steps of grading.  First and foremost of all is to
remember that learning how to grade takes time and experience.  Before
grading a comic that you are thinking about buying, always ask the
permission of the seller at first or have the seller open the comic
for you.  This keeps you from being responsible if any damage does occur
and, more importantly, is polite.

   1. Take the comic book and lay it on a flat surface out of the bag
      that it is in.  Keep it away from fluorescent lights, sunlight,
      and smoke.  The area needs to well lit though.

   2. Look for defects on the front and back cover such as :
      a) condition of staples,
      b) any creases, folds or tears,
      c) the reflectivity of the cover, &c.
      Note any grade reductions that are needed, remembering that
      many collectors consider the cover the most important focal point.

   3. Look along the spine for damage.  Many collectors consider this
      the second most important focal point.

   4. Check the interior of the comic, but avoid opening the comic
      more than about 45 degrees to keep the stress on the spine
      minimal.  Specifically check for:
      a) the whiteness of the pages,
      b) any clipped coupons,
      c) to see if the centerfold is secure, &c.

After grading a prospective comic that you would like to buy, discuss
with the seller any differences of opinion that you might have with
them.  It never hurts to get a second opinion on the grade of a comic.


II. Nomenclature
_______________


   Their are eight nomenclature grades for comics.  Corresponding to each
grade there is a numeric range.  Remember that in grading a comic involves
grading the entire comics, not just its cover.  Consider _all_ defects.
A book in any of the grades must be in its original _unrestored_ condition.
Restored comics must be stated as such, and the conditions for grading them
are described in section III. Finally the key to correct grading is
objectivity.  Yes, it is subjective to a point, but subjective with
rules.  The difference between a F+ and a F may not be much and open
to opinion, but the difference between a F and VF is large since the
former has yellowish pages while the later has off-white pages.

   Following are the eight nomenclature grades.  Included alongside them
is a point rating system that is Overstreets' as well as a percentage for
the value of comic based on NM.  Briefly, the percentage point scale is
a guide as to how much one should expect to pay for a comic based on the
Near Mint price.  For example, a Fine copy of a comic should be worth
roughly half of what a Near Mint copy of that comics is worth.  The
point scale is (at best) a guesstimate since rarity, the demand for a
product, number of issues printed, &c. will affect the price.  For
example, who will want to pay for a VG copy of a recent copy when a
glut of NM copies exist.  On the other hand, a Fine copy of a really
hot comic may command a price of more than half what a Near Mint copy
of the same comic would command.  Remember, it is only a guide.  Cover
price is also not a bottom limit.  With the recent glut of comics,
I have found many VF to NM comics that are less than a year old in the
dollar to 50 cent bin.  Again, use it as a guide, not as an absolute.

As to Overstreet's point grading scale, called Overstreet Numerical
Equivalent or ONE, it is an attempt to assign a numeric grade as well
as the name grade (Mint, Near Mint, &c. ).  In the same fashion that
one might receive a grade of 95/A on a test, a comic might receive a
grade of NM95 according to Overstreet. In addition, a third grade by
Overstreet has been developed called Overstreet Whiteness Level (OWL).
The OWL grade is used to define the average whiteness of the pages of
a comic.  Thus a grade of NM95/10 means the comic is in Near Mint
condition, with a ONE of 95 and an OWL of 10.  A grade of FN60/7 means
the comic is in Fine condition, with a ONE of 60 and an OWL of 7.
Consult the book _The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide 1st edition_
for a better understanding of how to use these grading scales.  The
ONE scale is included here only for reference.

Finally, no in-between or combination grades, such as VF/NM, are given.
There are several reasons for this.  First is that comic can either be
VF+ or NM-, but not both at the same time.  Second, such a pseudo-grade
could be used by the seller to mean that such a comic could be classified
by the buyer - depending on the buyers point-of-view - as either a VF+ or
a NM-.  The problem is that this makes everything subject to the buyer's
point-of-view and makes the seller look like a poor grader.  Third, most
comics graded as VF/NM usually end up being really VF to VF+ instead of
NM.  Fourth, some may say that that it is an expansion of the 8 point
grading scale to one with 14 point scale and thus more accurate.  If
accuracy is desired, then I recommend using the Overstreet Numerical
Equivalent scale instead of the in-between grades which can be confusing.
This is not meant to be taken as an attack against those who use these
grades.  It is just my opinion that they are confusing.  Even if they
were not, it would be difficult to describe what flaws would put a comic
in that grade.  Your opinions may differ.  Feedback either for or against
these views is welcome.


MINT  ( M or MT : 125% ~ 150% ; Overstreet 100-98 )

Near perfect in every way.  Only the most subtle bindery or printing
defects are allowed.  Cover is flat with no surface wear.  Cover inks
are bright with high reflectivity and minimal fading.  Corners are cut
square and sharp.  Staples are generally centered and clean with no
rust.  Cover is generally centered and firmly secured to interior pages.
Paper is supple and fresh.  Spine is tight and flat.  Yes, comics in
this grade do exist, but they are extremely rare for one simple reason
- this is the most subjective of all the grades.  What qualifies as
Mint to one person may have a small, almost unnoticeable flaw that
downgrades it to Near Mint for someone else.  Your typical comic in
the pull file or on the newsstand is _not_ in mint condition, but is
instead in near mint condition because of these extremely minor flaws.


NEAR MINT  ( NM :100% , NM- : 90%; Overstreet 97-90 )

Nearly perfect.  Cover is flat with no surface wear.  Cover inks are
bright with high reflectivity and with a minimum of fading.  Corners
are cut square and sharp with ever so slight blunting permitted.
Staples are generally centered and clean with no rust.  Cover is well
centered and firmly secured to interior pages.  Paper is supple and
like new.  Spine is tight and flat.

Tears               : None allowed.
Corner Bends        : Only allowed if hardly noticeable.
Spine Stress Marks  : Only allowed if hardly noticeable.
Staples             : Tight, clean, no rust, and centered.
Writing             : None allowed with the exception of autographs.
Rubber Stamps       : None allowed.
Tape                : None allowed.
Pieces Missing      : None allowed with the exception of tips of pages
                      nicked during the production process.
Fingerprints        : When noticeable they drop the comic down to Fine.
Water stains        : None allowed.
Browning Paper      : None allowed except in the instance of older
                      comics (such as a 12 cent comic) that may have
                      oxidized due to their extreme age.  Even then,
                      it must be hardly noticeable.
Spine Rolling       : None allowed.
Off-Center Printing : Only allowed if hardly noticeable.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Only allowed if hardly noticeable.


VERY FINE  ( VF+ :80% , VF : 70% , VF- : 60%; Overstreet 89-75 )

An excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal.  Sharp, bright and
clean with supple pages.  Pages and covers can be yellowish/tannish
(at the most) but not brown and will usually be off-white to white.
Light spine wear is permissible.  Most comics from the past ten years
or so that have been well taken care of will fall somewhere is this
category.

Tears               : Only very minor tears allowed - 1/8 inch.
Corner Bends        : Slightly noticeable bends allowed.
Spine Stress Marks  : Slightly noticeable ones allowed.
Staples             : Clean, no rust, centered, but may be a bit loose.
Writing             : None allowed with the exception of autographs.
Rubber Stamps       : None allowed.
Tape                : None allowed.
Pieces Missing      : None allowed with the exception of tips of pages
                      nicked during the production process.
Fingerprints        : When noticeable they drop the comic down a grade.
                      Solid color cover books or ones with a highly
                      reflective cover have problems with this.
Water stains        : None allowed.
Browning Paper      : None allowed except in the instance of older
                      comics (such as a 12 cent comic) that may have
                      oxidized due to their extreme age.  Even then,
                      it must be hardly noticeable.
Spine Rolling       : None allowed.
Off-Center Printing : Very slight deviance is allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Only allowed if hardly noticeable.


FINE ( F or FN, F+ : 55% , F : 50% , F- 45%; Overstreet 74-55 )

An exceptional, above average copy that shows minor wear but still
relatively flat, clean and glossy with no subscription crease or brown
margins.  Typical defects include: light spine wear, minor surface
wear, a light crease, minor yellowing/tanning to interior pages.
Compared to a VF, cover inks are beginning to show a significant
reduction in reflectivity but is till highly collectable and desirable.

Tears               : Only very minor tears allowed - 1/4 inch.
Corner Bends        : Minor noticeable bends allowed.
Spine Stress Marks  : Minor noticeable ones allowed.
Staples             : Clean, no rust, centered, but may be a bit loose.
Writing             : Very neat, small penciled prices on the interior
                      page of a comic allowed.  Otherwise, not allowed.
Rubber Stamps       : Allowed only in the case of international price
                      stamps or small blue star which shows that it
                      was sold at a Stars & Stripes newsstand at a
                      military base.
Tape                : None allowed.
Pieces Missing      : Only if less than 1/8 inch square.
Fingerprints        : Fingerprints are allowed, but excessive or ugly
                      fingerprints can drop the grade to Very Good.
Water stains        : None allowed with the exception of stains on the
                      back cover due to high humidity.  No wrinkling or
                      warping allowed.
Browning Paper      : Very light browning is allowed, but no brittleness.
Spine Rolling       : Allowed only if very minor.
Off-Center Printing : Slight deviance is allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Light scuffing is allowed, but is minor.  This
                      shows up mostly on comics with dark covers.


VERY GOOD  ( VG+ : 40% , VG : 35% , VG- 30%; Overstreet 54-35 )

The average used comic book, that has not been taken care of by proper
handling and bag & boarding, most commonly found.  The comic shows
moderate wear but eye appeal has not been reduced to the point that it
is not desirable.  One or two minor markings on the cover or minor
spine roll are allowed.  Lightly creased along spine or extremities,
subscription crease, loose centerfold, or minor chip or piece missing
allowed.

Tears               : Several minor tears or one major tear allowed.
Corner Bends        : Allowed.
Spine Stress Marks  : Always allowed and is very evident.
Staples             : Clean, no rust, centered, but may be loose, but
                      still must be joined to all the pages.  No
                      tearing allowed.
Writing             : Very neat, small penciled prices on the interior
                      page or cover of a comic allowed.  Otherwise, not
                      allowed.
Rubber Stamps       : International price stamps and small blue star
                      stamps are allowed.  Name and store stamps are
                      allowed only if on back cover and done neatly.
                      Crooked stamps drop it a grade.
Tape                : None allowed.
Pieces Missing      : Allowed if smaller than the size of a postage
                      stamp and the comic is not too worn.  Otherwise
                      a worn comic with a piece that size missing would
                      be Good.
Fingerprints        : Fingerprints are allowed, except in the case that
                      they are caused by an external agent such as oil
                      on someones fingers.
Water stains        : Only a small, single drop, water stain allowed
                      and only then if hardly noticeable.
Browning Paper      : Browning is allowed, but no brittleness.
Spine Rolling       : Allowed only if very minor.
Folds               : The cover may have some folds, but the comic must
                      not have been bent in half.
Off-Center Printing : Allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Allowed, but is minor.


GOOD  ( G+ : 25% , G : 20% , G- : 15%; Overstreet 34-15 )

This comic has all pages and covers, although there may be small rips
or tears.  Commonly creased, scuffed, abraded, and soiled, but books
in this grade are completely readable.  Paper quality is low, but not
brittle.

Tears               : Tears are allowed short of the cover being torn
                      in half.
Corner Bends        : Evident.
Spine Stress Marks  : Spine can have some tears, usually around the
                      staples.  Tears must be less than 1/4 inch.
Staples             : Loose staples with some rust allowed.
Writing             : All writing allowed except in excessive cases
                      where large magic markers are used or if it
                      detracts from the story in some way.
Rubber Stamps       : Allowed unless excessive.
Tape                : Allowed unless excessive such as duct tape.
Pieces Missing      : 2 inch square pieces on cover, 3 inch square on
                      back, and 1 inch square from interior corners
                      allowed.  Clipped coupons from back cover allowed,
                      but not from interior.  Note, this is not the same
                      as coupons used to redeem "free" comic books.
Fingerprints        : Allowed.
Water stains        : Allowed unless excessive.
Browning Paper      : Browning is allowed, and slightly brittle.
Spine Rolling       : Allowed.
Folds               : Allowed.
Off-Center Printing : Allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Allowed.


FAIR  ( FR : 10%; Overstreet 14- 5 )

Very heavily read and soiled, but still complete.  Damaged beyond
collectability for most collectors, brings 30 to 50 percent of the
good price.

Tears               : Tears are allowed short of the cover being torn
                      in half.
Corner Bends        : Evident.
Spine Stress Marks  : Spine can have tears, usually around the
                      staples.  Tears must be less than 1 inch.
Staples             : Loose staples with rust allowed.
Writing             : All writing allowed except in excessive cases
                      where large magic markers are used or if it
                      detracts from the story in some way.
Rubber Stamps       : Allowed unless excessive.
Tape                : Allowed unless excessive such as duct tape.
Pieces Missing      : Missing pieces allowed, but the story is still
                      readable.  Clipped coupons allowed.
Fingerprints        : Allowed.
Water stains        : Allowed unless excessive.
Browning Paper      : Browning and brittleness allowed.
Spine Rolling       : Allowed.
Folds               : Allowed.
Off-Center Printing : Allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Allowed.


POOR  ( PR :  5%; Overstreet 4 - 1 )

Sufficiently degraded so as to have little or no collector value.
Often severely stained, abraded, defaced, or damaged beyond
readability.

Tears               : Allowed short of the book being torn in half.
Corner Bends        : Evident.
Spine Stress Marks  : Spine has tears.
Staples             : Loose staples with rust allowed.
Writing             : All writing allowed.
Rubber Stamps       : Allowed.
Tape                : Allowed.
Pieces Missing      : Allowed.
Fingerprints        : Allowed.
Water stains        : Allowed.
Browning Paper      : Brown and brittle.
Spine Rolling       : Allowed.
Folds               : Allowed.
Off-Center Printing : Allowed.
Cover Scuff Marks   : Allowed.



III. Polybags
_____________


   Will taking a comic out of its polybag reduce the value of the comic?
The answer is a simple no.  The reasoning is simple.  If the comic is
left in the bag and the bag turns yellow and slowly damages the comic, who
will want to buy it?  Another way of looking at this is provided by John
Danovich, an editor for Hero Illustrated.

          Take a comic that the retailer is selling as "mint in the bag",
          and buy it.  Later, try and sell that book back to the retailer
          as the comic by itself and the bag by itself.  The comic will
          be bought for the right price.  Try and videotape the expression
          on the retailer's face when you ask him to buy the bag.
             The point is, the bag, box, or package is worthless *without*
          what it holds.  Therefore, it stands to reason that it is
          worthless period.

   Now if a trading card or some such item is enclosed in the bag, be sure
to keep it as some dealers consider it part of the comic.  If you are really
intent on maintaining the value of the comic and still think that the bag is
worth something, cut away enough of the top of the bag to take your comic
out.  Do not tear the bag; use a razor blade and cut it as close to the seam
as possible.  Store the comic in a bag with a backing board.  Store the
promotional item and the polybag with the comic, but on the other side of the backing board so that they will not damage the comic through movement or degradation.

   Overstreet's official policy on polybagged comics is to grade the comic
whether or not it is still sealed in their polybag.  They do recommend, as
I mention above, to keep all of the original manufactured products together.


IV. Restored Comics
___________________


   Many comics may have had minor to major restoration work performed on
them.  The more valuable a comic, the more likely that it has been restored.
A  restored comic is never worth as much as the same comic in unrestored
condition.  That is, a restored Suicide Squid #1 in Very Fine condition is
not worth what an original Suicide Squid #1 in Very Fine condition is worth.
Comic books that have been restored have what is known as an _apparent
grade_.  For example, the aforementioned restored Suicide Squid #1 has an
apparent grade of Very Fine.

   Restored books should be stated as such by the seller prior to the sale.
As not all sellers are honest, the buyer should beware.  Things to look for
when grading a book have been mentioned in section II, but a few more need to
be mentioned here.  If you are grading a book to buy, check to see if the
pages have been bleached or whitened, the pages or cover trimmed, spine or
tear reinforcement, glue, replaced staples, wrinkles pressed from the cover,
recoloring, and reglossed covers.


V. Grading Golden/Silver Age Comics
___________________________________


   When grading older books, more damage is allowed to occur in each
grade simply because of time.  Whereas a few dings on a 50 year old
comic might not cause it to drop from Mint to Near Mint, it would for
a more recent comic.  For example, small writing and date stamps are
allowed in the Near Mint grade, when talking about older comics.  For
recent comics, this is not true.  It is recommended that you do not use
this guide for older books, nor rely solely on your own grading skills.
Consult professionals for proper grading, always get a second opinion,
and beware of restored comics being sold as unrestored.


VI. Summary
___________


   The key to proper grading is objectivity and a proper understanding of
the grading scale.  Remember to grade the entire comic, not just its cover.
Also a comic may be downgraded for either a combination of flaws or just a
single but major flaw.  If buying an expensive comic, then look for signs
that it has been restored.

   For articles on restoring comics or grading comics, check out _The
Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide 1st edition_.  It contains pictures of
comics before and after they are restored which is impressive.  The book
also contains more information on the grading of comics as well as picture
examples.


VII. Sources Consulted
______________________


Danovich, John, ed., "Hero Compares/Contrasts Comic Supplies", _Hero_
_Illustrated_ Volume 1 number 3, Warrior Publications, Lombard, IL,
Sept. 1993.

"Mile High Comics' Grading Standards", _Mile High Features_, Mile High
Comics, Denver, CO, 1993.

_Overstreet Comic Book Monthly #9_, Overstreet Publications, Cleveland,
Tennessee, 1994.

Wilson, Mark; Overstreet, Robert M. and Carter, Gary M., eds. "Comic Book
Restoration", _The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide 1st edition_,
Avon Books, New York, New York, 1992.


Thanks to the Following Contributors!
_____________________________________

Dave Jeitner        : [soc 3] at [midway.uchicago.edu]
Douglas T. Wilson   : [WILSOND 9049] at [cobra.uni.edu]
Chris Ragaisis      : [c--ga--i] at [nyx10.cs.du.edu]
Jonathan Lupa       : [j j lupa] at [vnet.IBM.COM]
Tom Karr            : [t--ed--n] at [access.digex.net]
David A. Schmidt    : [s c hmid] at [euler.math.rpi.edu]
John Locke          : [j x xl] at [cs.nps.navy.mil]
Derek Santos        : [d--n--s] at [cs.bu.edu]
Jeff Mason          : [j r m] at [elm.circa.ufl.edu]

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 1994, 1995 by Paul Adams.  All rights reserved, but no harm askin'
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

            \       ___       /                    Paul Adams
             \     /___\     /                     [p--l] at [erc.msstate.edu]
  ____________\___/__.__\___/____________          YF-22
              \   \     /   /
               \__/\___/\__/
comics/paul_adams_grading_guide.txt · Last modified: 2013/08/23 21:48 by spiro