During my 32 years in the world of collecting comics, I don't think I've ever witnessed a phenomena that has ignited as much controversy as "slabbing" comics. Ever since Comics Guarantee Corporation first appeared on the scene a little over two years ago, there has been an ongoing heated debate as to the propriety of having comics graded by this ostensibly disinterested third-party company. Of particularly intensity has been the debate as to their policy of sealing graded comics in hardcase plastic holders, which cannot be opened without voiding the grading guarantee.
I have to admit that my first reaction to CGC's proposal for endorsement at the 1999 Overstreet Advisor's Conference was immediate hostility. I have always been an advocate of reading the comics you buy, even if you've purchased them as an investment. The idea of sealing rare comics in a hardcase holder (as had previously been done by private individuals using commercially available products) was an anathema me. What swung me around to accepting, but not endorsing, CGC's participation in the comics market, was their agreement (under pressure from conference attendees) to make their hardcases reasonably easy to open, and their willingness to reseal and certify those cases for a reduced fee. To me, that seemed like a reasonable compromise.
Since that first meeting at the Overstreet Advisor's Conference, I have gradually become an advocate of CGC. So much so that I have now had over 1,000 comics slabbed for Mile High Comics. My reasons for changing my position are as follows:
- Purchasing books graded by CGC allows consumers a reasonable expectation of condition when they buy a comic online, or through the mail. Given that online sales, especially through eBay, are the largest single source of growth in the current surge in the back issue comics market, it is quite nice that there is a generally accepted method that allows purchasers to have confidence that what they are buying, or bidding on, is actually as represented.
- While I don't always agree with CGC grading, I find that I do agree over 90% of the time. That is a vastly higher percentage than what I found when dealing with certain comics dealers in the past. Sadly, I've seen instances where some dealers have made a living by inflating grades. A few particularly odious dealers could never use CGC, as they would diminish the value of their inventory (assuming no CGC premium) by half, or more, if they had them professionally graded.
- Along those same lines, the CGC staff is especially vigilant for restoration. I've been selling comics for three decades, but I still am sometimes fooled by the tricks people use to upgrade comics. Knowing that the comic that you're shelling out big bucks for hasn't been tampered with takes a lot of anxiety out of the transaction.
- CGC can more accurately certify "pedigree" collections. As the source of the original "Mile High" collection, I have been appalled at the number of times I have been asked to validate books that were supposed to be from the "Mile High" collection, but clearly were not. Given the amazing price multiples that books from certain pedigree collections command, the temptation to misrepresent the origin of other top condition comics is very high.
- On the flip side of the "pedigree" issue, I believe that there has been an unreasonable disparity in the market as regards those same pricing multiples. Why should a Golden Age comic found in an attic in New Jersey that is in 9.4 sell for less than the same "Mile High" book in 8.0? I'll grant you that there is a certain cachet and mystique attached to any comic book originally collected by Edgar Church, but does the same hold true for all pedigree collections? Why should only dealers who have the resources to hype a given pedigree collection reap the rewards of those multiples over Guide? In this regard, I see CGC somewhat leveling the playing field for private individuals, and smaller dealers, to sell high grade comics at a premium. I think that is just dandy.
- To my great surprise, collecting CGC comics has become a sub-set of the entire comics collecting field. There are now collectors and/or investors who avidly seek out CGC graded comics, and for a few, CGC graded comics are the only ones that they will purchase. I find this rather odd, as the premiums being paid for CGC graded comics are currently running far above the cost of having them graded. I am presuming that this implied premium reflects a current under supply in the number of CGC graded comics on the market. I also presume that this premium will diminish over time. In any event, some comics collectors very much like "slabbed" comics, so that market appears to be here to stay.
- While the current CGC population report information covers only two years of certification, I still find it fascinating reading. I would have thought that by now that there would have been a number of examples of every early high grade Silver and Golden Age comic certified. Especially considering the premiums over Guide currently being paid. What I find, instead, is that for the majority of Silver and Golden Age comics, there has not been even a single copy graded, much less one in 8.0 or above. To some extent, I'm sure this reflects an unwillingness by many owners to pay the cost of certification. It also occurs to me, however, that this may also reflect a far greater scarcity of high grade older comics than most of us had previously perceived. Only time will tell on this one...
- As a dealer, I have been cheated more times than I can remember over the years by consumers ordering a comic from us in a given grade, and then returning to us a different comic in lower grade for a refund. Sending out "slabbed" books on our more expensive product protects us from that one element of fraud.
Well, those are all the reasons I have room for in this column. Suffice it to say, I now believe that CGC has become a viable and integral part of the overall market for back issue comics. I am clearly aware that many of you are vehemently opposed to slabbing, and that some of you even think that the entire concept is just a scam. That's fine with me, and I certainly grant you the right to your opinion. I was once of the same mind. These days, however, I have embraced third-party grading as a concept, and actively participate in that market. Hardly a day goes by that I don't sell at least one CGC graded issue. This is a new and evolving trend, and I welcome this change as an improvement to the world of comics collecting.
Next week I'll give yet another group of you a chance to become peeved with me, as I tackle the issue of Marvel's decision to restrict their print runs to orders on hand.
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221