Collecting 101: the Label Cheat Sheet

by Matt Tuck

CGC-Slab-AF-15-191x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat SheetFor a beginning collector, understanding the ins and outs for the grading companies can be daunting. The first step is knowing your labels and what the colors mean.

When you look at graded comics, you’ve got a rainbow of colors to choose from. If you’re new to collecting, it can be quite the task to understand which colors mean what. To help you, here’s a cheat sheet to take with you to your next comic convention.

For the purposes of today’s post, I’m focusing on the two major grading companies: CGC and CBCS. The information I present to you below was taken form their respective sites.

Hulk-181-blue-193x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat SheetBLUE

The universal label is used for any comic that is still in its originally published form. That means the comic is complete with no missing pages or clippings. It also is free from any signatures, and it hasn’t had any restoration, such as marker, tape, staples, etc. Both CGC and CBCS use the blue label to recognize the universal grades.






hulk_181_ss92-188x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat Sheet


CGC and CBCS offer their own signature series programs. Here’s how it works: CGC and CBCS have certified witnesses for their companies. When you get a comic signed, you can find one of these witnesses (the easiest way is to go to a comic convention where one or both companies has a booth) who will watch your comic being signed. Then you pay to have your comic graded, and it will be embellished with the yellow label officially recognizing the signature as authentic. While no system is infallible, I personally like this because it offers a degree of confidence when buying a signed comic. If you want a Stan Lee autograph and you buy a graded signature series comic, then you can be comfortable that you aren’t being scammed.



CBCS-red-label-218x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat Sheet


Whereas CGC will only recognize a signature that has been firsthand witnessed by one of the company’s associates, CBCS offers a signature validation service. If you have a comic with an unwitnessed signature, you can send it to CBCS, where the autograph goes through a verification process. Once the signature is deemed authentic, it gets slabbed and fitted with a red label. It’s not as sought after as the yellow labels, but it is a handy service in case you come across, say, a Jack Kirby or Dave Cockrum autograph on the inside cover.




hulk-181-green-label-179x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat Sheet


The green label is generally far less valuable than its blue or yellow counterparts. CGC designates the green label for any comic that is incomplete in any way. Where you mostly see the green, fittingly, is with The Incredible Hulk #181. In the bronze age, Marvel experimented with the Marvel Value Stamp. The intent was for customers to buy up all the different issues and clip the MVS like you would a coupon. Unfortunately, there was one in Hulk #181, and many issues on today’s market are slapped with the green label because the original owner wanted that stamp. Feel free to cringe anytime you like.




Hulk-181-restored-191x300 Collecting 101: the Label Cheat SheetPURPLE

This is it: the dreaded purple label. Every collector’s nightmare is to submit a comic for grading and have it come back with a purple label. This means that the comic has been restored, and it’s the bane of collectors everywhere. If a comic has been altered in any way – covering color breaks with ink, trimming pages, replacing staples, or (gasp!) using tape – then it is considered restored. However, you can have a comic cleaned and/or pressed without worrying about getting slapped with CGC’s purple label since that’s not considered restoration.

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