Welcome to the very first Blogger Dome! Here, bloggers will argue different topics involving the comic book market and industry. This will be a combination of the Big Bang Theory meets the WWE. Smack talk mixed with comic book debates. Bloggers going at each other to amuse and educate our readers. And we want to hear what YOU have to say about it. Our first topic is “Buying Raw versus Graded Comics”.
Ding Ding! Now Entering the Ring…. JOSEPH AND HARRY!
JOSEPH: Today my opponent is …Harry Stone III? Come on, now!!! To the people reading this, I will now start typing with one hand behind my back and use small words to make this an even debate. I have a lot of anger in me. Maybe it is not anger, but rather the bean burrito I just ate from the gas station. Either way, I intend to take my inner pain out on my opponent in this first Blogger Dome battle. I am ready to go, Harry, so put your big boy pants on, and let’s go!
HARRY: If you’re new to comic collecting and investing, you should know healthy and vigorous debate comes with the hobby. Who would win in an epic showdown? Which company is better? What the next hot book will be? So on and so forth. Collectors love to disagree, so GoCollect is now introducing Blogger Dome, where we can publicly argue for your amusement while providing some insight.
In this series premiere, I’ll be making the case for buying graded comics against fellow blogger Joseph Overatis. Joe writes some of my favorite articles to read, and then disagree within the comment section, so it was a natural choice. That being said, there are just way too many hurdles to make buying raw comics worth your while if you ask me. Joe will try to convince you that these obstacles are for the love of the game, but the game has changed. This is Blogger Dome. Two men enter, one man leaves!
Round #1 First Blood!
Joseph: Do you really know what you are getting?
One of the major reasons that people tell me to buy graded books is that there will be no surprises about what you are getting. I agree that there are disputes among grading raw books. That is because no two people will see a book and agree on a book’s condition. Hey Harry, is that like when two attorneys can see one set of facts and disagree about what those facts mean? Two lawyers disagreeing is something that would never happen, right? So a book graded 9.2 is now marked forever a 9.2?
Disagreement about grades can occur between graders at the same company. Investors who have-gasp- dared remove the case and send these “new” raw books in to be graded have seen different grades affixed to the same book. I guess the uncertainty could now belong to the graders? The grading companies are not infallible, but somehow people buy books with grades as if the conditions are written in stone. That is not the case, so why pay as if it is? Let us wait for Harry to catch up because I think he is in his bathroom crying a little now. It is ok Harry, this battle is almost over.
Harry: Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Shady Sellers Like It Raw.
If you want to get that sweet, sweet near-mint grade back from CGC, the first of MANY problems you’re going to face with raw comics is dishonest sellers. When you buy a slabbed comic, you know what you’re going to get and what you’re investing in. Your slab will have a precise grade designated by a professional, there are grader’s notes, and there are distinctions for page quality. While CGC has been known to occasionally make mistakes, buying a graded book minimizes the margin of error while reducing the subjectivity that comes with raw comics. Simply put, when a comic is already graded, sellers can’t scam you as easily.
If you buy a raw book, do you really know what you’re purchasing? Often sellers will downplay flaws in order to maximize profit. This happens especially with online sales. Disreputable sellers will use lighting to hide problems that a raw comic might have. They’ll conveniently “forget” to mention that Marvel Value Stamps, tattooz, or posters are removed. You rarely see listings discuss page quality or show photos of the comic’s interior. They will bank on you not removing or thoroughly inspecting your comics upon arrival. Meanwhile, you’re left holding the bag at the end of the day. Take it from someone who has been disappointed more often than not with the raw comics left at his doorstep, graded is the way to go.
Don’t Get Got!
Even with in-person sales, sketchy sellers will try to feel you out to see what price they can get away with. How many of us are expert graders? Do you really know how many spine ticks it takes to drop a 9.8 to a 9.6 or 9.4? Can you tell the difference between cream and off-white pages? Odds are, you can’t. People selling raw books know this. I don’t know how many times I have had sellers try to convince me to buy a book for double what it’s worth. Someone told me yesterday that his raw Gold UPC Spider-Man #1 yesterday was a 9.9, no joke. I fell for these tricks countless times when I returned to collecting. I can’t think of too many other scenarios where people buy something for hundreds of dollars without knowing what they’re really investing in.
Let’s take a look at the Copper-Age king, Amazing Spider-Man #300 for example. A 9.8 has a fair market value of $4,300 while a 9.6 retails for $1500 or so these days. One barely visible spine tick and you have a $3000 difference. These margins are where sellers make their money and where you lose yours. My friend Joe will try and convince you that buying raw comics is a great idea, despite the obvious potential for disaster. Hey Joe, I have a bridge to sell you over here in NYC while we’re at it. Maybe I can interest you in a game of three-card Monte too?
Round #2 Second Swing…
Joseph: Lack of Industry Standard
I said this years ago in a comment printed by COMIC BUYERS’ GUIDE. I feared that the company that graded the comic book would be considered more important than the comic book itself. Is that now what we have in our industry? The fact that there is no universal grading scale is a problem. The Overstreet grading scale guide was the industry standard. We graded comics with one set of rules. Now we have CGC, CBCS, and PGX who use different “guides” to grade books. It is now like a puzzle, trying to fit each companies’ different grading criteria into a uniform system. A 9.6 grade from CGC may not be a 9.6 from the other companies. So now instead of buying slabbed comics, you have to also buy the right slabbed comic. I guess the package is more important than the comic now, Harry?
Imagine if during the Super Bowl Tom Brady was playing under one set of rules and Patrick Mahomes was playing under others. The game would not be the same. This is the same thing with graded comic books. I thought that uncertainty was avoided with buying slabs, but I guess not.
Harry, it is ok. You did not know any better. Now you do!
Harry: Unpleasantly Surprised
If picking a raw book isn’t hard enough, I now present to you the dumpster fire of sending books off to get graded. Picture this: you copped a raw copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300 for $1000, a fairly common price for an ungraded, near-mint copy. You and the seller swear up and down it’s going to come back a 9.8 and you think you’re going to make thousands once you get it back. You’ve hit the proverbial comic lotto. Off to CGC it goes, and a few weeks later, a 9.4 with an FMV of $825 arrives at your doorstep. You have officially lost money on your investment between the price of the raw book and the cost of grading. You can resubmit, but that is more time and money.
So what happened? You most likely made the mistake, not CGC. Learning to grade comics properly takes years of practice and countless submissions. These learning curve submissions are painful. When I first started sending books off to get graded, I never knew what I was going to get back and every submission felt like a roll of the dice.
I know some collectors like to buy books raw, which they clean and press themselves, then send them off to maximize profits and eventually trade up. This is a great option if you’re an expert, if graded comic prices are prohibitive, or if you enjoy gambling. If your purpose is to invest, however, go graded. If you bought a graded 9.6 Amazing Spider-Man #300 last year, your investment has already doubled, and that’s without the headache of purchasing a raw comic and submitting it yourself. Joe is trying to take you to the casino, I’m trying to take you to the bank.
Round #3 Third Strike!
Joseph: GoCollect Readers put Time into Their Books
I do not want to bring this to the reader’s attention, but I feel I must. Harry Stone III thinks he is the smartest one in the room when it comes to comics. He is trying to fool you into believing that buying slabbed books is the way to go. Harry probably believes that all of you are so stupid that you put two quarters in your ears because you want to listen to 50 Cent.
I have nothing against selling books that you have had graded, but not buying graded books. Our readers are some of the best and brightest in the hobby. You all use research tools and resources to minimize expenses and maximize your profits. You bring magnifying glasses to inspect books to see subtle flaws others miss. The GoCollect reader puts time into their books. That is why you read our blogs, so why would you pay a premium to trust someone else’s work? Harry is telling you to buy slabbed books because you know what you are getting. The problem is that slabbed books can not tell you what went into the mind of the original person when they slabbed the book. Questions exist that Harry can not address. Oops. Harry is probably now googling himself to find out where he lives.
It’s a Game
Pressing and cleaning a book could increase the grade, and thus the fair market value of the book. Most buyers of slabbed comics ASSUME the book was pressed and cleaned. Unless the book grades out at a 10.0, you never know if proper pressing or cleaning could have raised the grade of the book. It may seem silly to our readers, but some people do not have the books pressed or cleaned before grading in an attempt to save money. This could cost you a higher grade and several thousand dollars.
The next question buyers of slabbed books ignore is how sophisticated the hobbyist was who slabbed the book. Was the original owner smart and knowledgeable like our readers? Or were they rushing the process with limited funds? Did the individual choose a good pressing company or did they do it by themselves with limited results? Once slabbed, you do not know the answer. It is much better if you buy the book raw and then use the best presser to increase the potential for a higher grade after their work is done. That way you control the process and know what actually went into the grade. This will eliminate the true unknown of the comic book’s condition, which is present with slabbed books.
Our readers study books and review the different companies that press and clean comics. They do not put their blind faith into trusting others. Our readers are intelligent and put in the time because they know knowledge is money. I guess Harry does not care to spend that time inspecting books like our readers. Instead, he will pay a premium for blissful ignorance.
Enough with these body blows Harry… Get ready for the final blow that will destroy your case. I want you knocked out!!!!
Harry: Time is Money
Buying a graded comic is as easy as hitting the buy-it-now button on eBay or strolling around your favorite convention. I find the extra money spent on buying a graded comic is worth it for the confidence in my investment and the time saved. Many of us would love to buy and sell comics for a living, but for most, it’s a hobby or an investment alternative. Researching which comics to buy is time-consuming as is. If you go down the rabbit hole, it’s easy to spend hours on GoCollect sifting through sales data. When you have a job and a family, you don’t have the time to also browse for the perfect raw comic and then clean and press it for hours. That’s before submission, and for results that aren’t even guaranteed. Raw comics are cumbersome.
Raw comics and their turnaround time with CGC can also lead to missed opportunities. We are currently in a fast-moving market where we are seeing record-breaking prices across the board on a weekly basis. We are constantly bombarded by movie announcements. Everyone is tuned-in to Disney+.
Do you enjoy comic speculation? Do you have a theory on the next character to be introduced on WandaVision? If so, you don’t necessarily have the time to buy a raw comic and send it off to be graded to take advantage of a surge in price. Buy that first appearance of Mephisto graded already and take those profits now before it’s too late. Or you can listen to Joe, buy that raw Silver Surfer #3, send it off to get graded, and by the time it gets back we’ll find that The Beyonder was behind everything on the show. Womp womp.
Joseph: The Death Blow… Price
If Nicolas Cage is reading this article, please ignore the next section. Still reading this section? I can now assume that most of you do not have millions of dollars to put into your comic book collection. If that is the case, why would you pay a premium for a graded book? A graded book sells for a premium because a third party graded the book. The reason is that all the work has been taken out of the process. Again, our readers are not lazy. They put time and energy into the hobby. As a result, most can review a book and approximate the grade of a third-party company that would be attached to that book.
Ask the seller for high-resolution scans. Buy from reputable sellers and ask for references. In addition, study books that have already been graded and review grading guides, if listed, that companies utilize. Do all this and you can approximate a range of grades that the book should receive. Once this is done, price those factors into what the book could be worth and then make a low purchase offer.
Use the fact that this book is not graded as a bargaining point. If the seller is not going to put in the time and energy to grade the book, they may also not put in the energy to bargain on price. I have purchased books on the cheap because of a seller’s laziness. Use your skills to find these deals and make them for your benefit. Harry wants to ignore the higher cost associated with buying graded books. I guess he missed my final punch. It should really be a knock-out-blow to any argument he could ever make. He would rather you waste your money like he wastes his words in trying to prove me wrong.
When it comes to comic books, I find that less is more. If you’re new to the hobby, it is very easy to get overzealous and buy up every comic that makes a hotlist. This often leads to collectors being disorganized and overwhelmed by burdensome long boxes full of raw comics. This excess of raw comics is how many collectors reluctantly end up becoming sellers in the first place.
I live in Manhattan, and as most New Yorkers can tell you, space is an issue. Comic collecting and investing should be fun, but when you start misplacing issues and renting out storage space for your comics it becomes a chore. I would personally rather have 20 high-grade comics displayed on my wall than 20 long boxes full of raw comics I can’t see any day. Joe will have you become a hoarder, don’t listen to Joe. More importantly, Joe is a Miles Morales naysayer. This is comic heresy.
Joseph: I know that our readers are very knowledgeable. You are already putting in the time and energy by using the GoCollect data. Take that energy and learn how to properly grade raw books. If you do so, you will find some books ignored by the vast majority in our hobby. Buying raw books will also expose you to potential great deals that others will never experience because of the fear. Why trust that the other guy knew what he was doing when he had the book graded. Sometimes the only person you can trust to do something right is yourself.
Harry Stone III wants you to pay a premium for peace of mind. I say that our GoCollect readers are smart enough to use their minds and skills to be able to purchase books raw and then have them graded at a later date. I trust and believe in you. Harry Stone III does not believe or trust you. I say it is time for Harry to just tap out and realize our readers are smart enough to be able to purchase comic books without anyone having to hold their hands and grade their books before they buy them. Give it up, Harry. I know you think you are right. But you are the same guy who asked for a new donut because the one the waitress gave to you had a hole in it. We are not buying the junk you are selling during this Blogger Dome Battle!!!!
Harry: What are your thoughts on buying graded vs raw comics? Are there any Battle Dome topics you would like to see in the future? Do you want to tell Joe he got smoked? Comment below!