Over the last decade or so, a ten point system has been developed for grading American comics. This system was popularised by the Certified Guarantee Company or CGC. A comic is assessed, graded and encased in strong plastic. A numerical value is given like a 9.0 or a 6.5. Amateur or professional restoration is noted by the colour of the label. For more information, check out CGC s website.
There are positives and negatives with this system. On the one hand, CGC must be applauded for their quite considerable time and financial investment. Like writing a price guide, it takes courage to put your head above the parapet. However, in grading and slabbing over a million American comic books, it is very difficult to be consistent..
Generally speaking, their system and service has provided valuable data about numbers of rare copies and grades and when a CGC book is spot on in its grade, it is a thing of beauty!
A few British comics have been CGC graded but these are American style sizes, not Beano and Dandy (and bigger) British comics. Maybe one day?
The downside of the CGC system is that you can t read and enjoy the comic. That doesn t stop you cracking open (with care!) the casing and enjoying the comic. But always keep the label and ideally have a scan of the comic from the original advertisement.
The 10 Point System applied to CGC comics is as follows and refers to the above Grading Definitions. This 10 Point system makes a virtue out of plus and minus categories for added accuracy.
10.0 GEM MINT. Perfect in every way. Nuff said!
9.9 MINT (MT) 9.8 (NM/MT) NEAR MINT/MINT 9.6 NEAR MINT PLUS (NM+)
9.4 NEAR MINT. At this grade and above, you very often get comics valued at multiples of guide, especially if it's a (major or minor) key issue or rare book. An extreme example of this is a documented sale of a 9.8 Marvel Spotlight #32 at 54 times guide! There are bound to be some other statistics out there even more outrageous.
9.2 NEAR MINT MINUS (NM-)
9.0 VERY FINE/NEAR MINT. For most people collecting CGC material, 9.0 represents an important benchmark or psychological point. A comic is more likely to attract a multiple of guide if it's in the 9 range and is more likely to be in the very top condition range of existing copies.
8.5 VERY FINE PLUS (VF+) At this numerical value, this is a very very nice copy but it is still not a 9. This means that you may very well be able to buy a comic in 8.5 at the stated guide price and not have to pay above guide. This is dependent on the rarity of a given comic book.
8.0 VERY FINE (VF) My favourite definition for this grade is an excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal . Neat and concise.
7.5 VERY FINE MINUS (VF-) 7.0 FINE/VERY FINE (FN/VF) 6.5 FINE PLUS (FN+)
6.0 FINE (FN). It is worth looking at CGC-graded comics in this numerical value. Most people have limited budgets and an accurately graded, hopefully very tightly graded, 6.0 can look very respectable indeed. It would be great to have every comic in your collection Near Mint but that is just not possible. I have accepted that if I want to complete my set of Superman, I'd rather have respectable looking runs of comics than only possessing one or two very high grade issues. I enjoy reading them after all!
5.5 FINE MINUS (FN-) 5.0 VERY GOOD/FINE (VG/FN)
4.5 VERY GOOD PLUS (VG+) While Fine is a useful benchmark for American comics, Very Good Plus is a useful benchmark to bear in mind for British comics. This is basically an average copy but there is something about it which improves the overall appearance by a perceptible amount. There are endless runs of Lion comics or Eagle comics and it would be great to own them all in very high grade but I try and get complete years that are at least VG.
4.0 VERY GOOD (VG) 3.5 VERY GOOD- (VG-) 3.0 GOOD/VERY GOOD
2.5 GOOD PLUS (GD+) 2.0 GOOD (GD) This may be the only way now to own (if you are so inclined) a super key comic like an Action Comics #1 or Beano #1.
1.8 GOOD MINUS (GD-) 1.5 FAIR/GOOD (FR/GD) 1.0 FAIR (FR) 0.5 POOR (PR)
These last few CGC grades are reserved for comics that are basically a mess, even coverless, but if it' something special like a Superman #1 or a Dandy #1, there is some historical and curiosity value. There isn t very much investment value, though, unless it's a super key comic.
So sky-high valuable are these early super key American comic books that even copies with half of the pages missing are slabbed and advertised. Single page wraps (ie 4 pages) of Action Comics #1 have been encased and sell at jaw-dropping prices.
All the above numerical values are applied overwhelmingly to American comics and occasionally to British comics. I would like to see more key British comics graded in some way so that their existence can be properly catalogued. Exactly how many Beano #1 issues are there and in what order from the very best condition can they be listed? What's the rarest Summer Special and how many copies do we know about? How many 9d copies of Fantastic Four #1 are in existence and is there a genuine Near Mint copy somewhere? Malcolm Phillips at Comic Book Postal Auctions has done more than any other individual in the last twenty years to source, auction and catalogue rare and valuable British comics and for that he should be soundly and roundly applauded.