On the heels of the “Collecting 101: Low Grades and Mid Grades,” let’s delve into the world of the upper crust: the high-grade comics.
The world of comics is filled with a litany of terms fit for a drunk spelling bee – raw, slabbed, foxing, spine rolls, reprint, trade, restored, ratio variant, etc. Firstly, there are three labels you need to know: low grade, mid-grade, and high grade. After giving you a quick rundown on the low- and mid-grade comics and what to look for, today is all about those beautiful high grades.
For a recap of the low and mid grades, check out the previous installment of Collecting 101.
These tend to range from an 8.0 to the mythical 10.0. The rule of thumb is that the older the comic, the harder it is to find a higher grade.
If you have not guessed already, what sets these apart is a lack of defects. While I put an 8.0 and 8.5 in the high-grade category, the 9.0 kicks off the near-mint designations.
You won’t find much wrong with these comics. The grading companies stop using .5 grades here and measure in .2s. To the naked eye, there are few differences between the 9.0, 9.2, and 9.4. They might have a noncolor-breaking bend or two along the spine from it being opened. Overall, these copies are like new.
Past that are the near-mint-plus grades, the 9.6 and 9.8. When dealing with new comics – basically anything from the past 10 years or so – anything you buy should theoretically be at this level. To the naked eye, these look like they have never been read and handled at a minimum. The pages should be white, the covers glossy, and there are no bends or creases.
Although rare, you do find the occasional 9.9 and 10.0. To make it to this level, a comic basically has to have been handled with kid gloves.
Over the past month, there have been 30 CGC-certified, perfect gem-mint comics sold online. Obviously, these are all relatively new comics. Most were published between 2013 and 2019, and there was a 1998 Daredevil #1 / 2 thrown in the mix. Because of their rarity, perfect 10.0s carry lofty prices. For instance, look at Batman Damned #1. Graded at a 9.8, it is roughly a $100 comic. Boost that grade to a 10.0, and it averages nearly $400.
The 9.9 grades are still considered rare, but they are much more common than the 10.0s. Over the past month, there have been 98 CGC-graded 9.9s traded online. Moreover, a simple .1 added to the grade inflates the price of even a non-key issue. Take a Rick & Morty: Dungeons & Dragons #1 (2018) signed by series co-creator Justin Roiland and artist Alex Cormack. At a 9.8, that issue signed by Roiland and Cormack is generally a $300 comic, give or take. Bump that grade to a 9.9, and it launches to $1,200.
It goes to show that a comic does not have to be a key issue to be valuable.
THERE YOU HAVE IT
The next time you are thinking about buying a comic, remember what you are looking for, and don’t mistake a mid-grade for a high-grade issue.