Advice for those who don't know how to grade comics

The majority of sellers we deal with are experienced graders, either long time collectors or comic retailers. We deal with hundreds of such sellers who have done thousands of transactions with us since we began buying online in 2002. These sellers wouldn't continue to sell to us if they believed our grading was incorrect or our offer prices unreasonable. These sellers also understand how important grading is.

A comic in high grade can be both rare and valuable. That same comic in low grade can have little or no value. All our offer prices are based on the grade we would sell at, which in turn is based on current supply and demand.

Because grading is so important, it is incumbent on the seller to offer items in as close to correct grade as possible. Our experienced sellers rarely take issue with how we grade their comics. On the other hand, it is not unusual for an inexperienced seller to be upset with our offer for a lot they graded high and we graded low.

IMPORTANT: Our buying system is designed to be sensitive to overstock levels. Overstocking occurs in the lower grade range because low grade copies are always more common. Often, we need high grades, but have no use for additional low grade copies. You will see this reflected in our buying prices. While our buying prices for FN to NM, for example, may be attractive, the buying price for VG and lower may be as little as a few pennies. Sellers submitting at an attractive grade/price should be especially confident of the grade they submit if the offer price for the next grade down is drastically lower. Should we grade any comic lower than you graded it, you may elect to have it returned to you as per our retraction terms.

In the case of new sellers who submit items at a grade higher than is typical for the year published, we may ask that the seller send scans of several of their comics so that we can get a preliminary grade confirmation.

In cases where a lot is received in grades lower than those warranted by the seller at time of submission, and the actual condition represents material we don''t need, we reserve the right to refuse that lot. In such cases, the seller will be expected to cover return shipping cost as well as insurance and delivery verification.


While basic grading isn't that difficult, wishful thinking can often inflate grading perceptions. This can lead to a big disappointment, especially for anyone unfamiliar with the collectible comic market who imagines all comics, regardless of condition, have substantial value. Again, the truth is that many comics have little or no value, and that many others, that otherwise would have value, have little or no value due to condition.

Here's a comparison between cars and comic books: A 30 or 40-year-old showroom fresh car with virtually no mileage has many times the value of that same car with 100,000 miles showing on it. The former is exceedingly rare. The latter is common to the point of having little or no value. The same factors that determine car value likewise govern the value of comic books.

Furthermore, what a comic book is stored in does not have any bearing on the grade of that comic book. What matters is the condition of the comic before it was stored.

If one doesn't deal in comics on a regular basis, one may imagine them to be scarcer than they actually are. While pre-1970 high grade copies become progressively scarcer as one goes back through the years, for certain decades and genres the internet has brought forth substantial quantities of these comics in the lower grade range.

Comics that are very common in the mid to lower grade range from the 1950s to present:

  1. Classics Illustrated
  2. Dell Four Color series (most issues in this series)
  3. Disney comics
  4. Funny animal cartoon comics
  5. Humor comics
  6. Movie and TV based titles
  7. Publishers with many titles that fall into the above listed genres are Charlton, Dell, Gold Key, Harvey and Archie
  8. Teen comics (Archie, etc.)
  9. Western comics

A simplified grading guide for the beginner

The basic letter grade scale for comic books can be defined in simplified terms as follows:

Fine to Mint

To the inexperienced grader, this range of grades will all look the same´┐Żessentially like new despite having one or more minor defects. Comics submitted in this range more often than not turn out to be on the low end of this range or even lower, depending on how much wishful thinking got into the grading process.

Very Good

A very nice looking complete copy with a few obvious defects, but all minor and none serious. Cover should still be glossy and smooth.

Good

Like Very Good, but with more defects and one or two more serious defects´┐Żan obviously used copy.

Fair to Poor

More than simply used. Has multiple defects, some major.

If you are interested in learning more, detailed information can be found in our grading standards.

Determining the approximate grade and value of your comics

To give yourself a rough estimate of the grade and value of your comics, we recommend the following procedure:

  1. Take your comics to a local retailer (comic store, used book store, antique shop) and get a firm offer that includes the buyer's estimate for the average grade of the comics in your lot. Then tell the buyer you will keep his offer in mind.
  2. Then submit the same lot of comics to us via our online system. Our system shows you the most common grade for any comic based on its publication date. For each issue, the most common grade will be highlighted in green. If you aren't sure of an issue's grade, we recommend that you record the issue using the most common grade (the one highlighted in green). Or, if the retailer who you took your comics to initially said that most of your comics graded "Good" (or "Fine", or some other grade), then you could record your comics using that average grade. This will allow you to come reasonably close to the actual grade and thereby arrive at an estimate of what we will pay for your comics.
  3. If our offer estimate proves better than what you received locally, you may wish to send your lot to us. We will grade your comics and give you a firm offer based on the confirmed grades.
    • We grade fairly and accurately and in accordance with widely accepted comic grading standards.
    • The grades that we assign to your comics when we are buying them are the same grades we will use when we later sell them. For example, we will never say that a comic is in Good condition when we buy it, but list it as Very Good when we sell it.
    • In instances where our grading results in a grade higher than that used when you submitted the comic, we will purchase the comic at the price corresponding to the higher grade.
    • In instances where we grade a comic lower than the grade used when you submitted the comic, you will have the option to "retract" that comic. If you choose to retract the comic, we will return it to you in accordance with our retraction terms. If you choose not to retract the comic, we will purchase the comic at the price corresponding to the lower grade.