Comic Book Collecting for Newbies: Speed-Grading

by Norman Robinson III

122257_f971f43c0607561903995a5361219272fb50e0ea-203x300 Comic Book Collecting for Newbies: Speed-GradingComics are great collectibles, they bring joy into millions of lives, are simply fun to read and can even make you money. The great comic book hunt for that elusive issue is the fun part. Finding that recent variant copy that has been mismarked in the $1 bin, is always a joy. Perhaps your thing is mauling through the fifty cent bins and finding valuable Bronze Age comics, which can be quite satisfying. This is the easy part of comics, the hunt. The hard part is actually grading the comic. Is it a near mint or really just fine minus, how to tell the grade? There is a better way to figure out what you have at a cursory glance, or what I refer to as speed-grading. Looking at comics in bins is a time killer, and for anyone over 40 back breaking work. Afterward, you ultimately fine sort again to see what you really want to keep. At this point, you have to give the comic a rough “boots on the ground” grade. Do you keep it or do you toss it back, how to decide?


Usually targeting your local comic store on a sales day, or free comics day will yield some great buys. The retailers know you want to buy so they discount, sometimes substantially. But how can you keep the pace up with all the other comic buyers at the trough? Speed-grading is the only way to fly. It works this way; verify cover and issue is intact, do a quick check of the corners for damage, tilt the comic and review the paper. The paper should be off-white or yellowing, but never dark. If the paper appears to be breaking down or disintegrating than immediately put it back. Finally, run your hand over the front and back cover, any bumps or wrinkles means water damage and you should pass unless it is cheap. Be sure to stick to the Overstreet Guide as a baseline for simple grading. But a quick rule of thumb for speculators is three grades: good, fine, or near mint. If you are having trouble remembering the speed-grading rules then use this acronym: Cover-Corners-Interior-Pages-Yellow (CCIPY “Sippy”). This little memory device may help you learn the basics of a quick grading system and get you “in and out like a duck mating” of your local shop (source: Remo Williams).

Conan the Barbarian #1

Most of the Bronze Age comics have some damage especially the older stuff like Conan the Barbarian #1. Do the front pages curl up, is there spine damage are any pieces missing? If not, you should buy this sword and sandals swashbuckler. This comic is one of those steady earners that continues to provide healthy pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) returns. Conan the Barbarian #1 in grade (9.8) returns positive +16%, grade (6.0) returns a positive +45.1% and grade (4.0) has a substantial profit margin of +59.9% ROI. Conan the Barbarian #1 has an FMV value of $5,600 for a grade (9.8). These profits are impressive but without a quick grade you won’t know what you have and you can’t surmise if the comic has value or is just a value trap. Please use the speed-grading system or something similar to grade your profitable pick.

Conan the Barbarian #1 is a good key to own if the fantasy crowd ever recovers from Conan the Destroyer (Arnold at his worst). Perhaps we can all collectively forget the modern Conan the Barbarian with Aqua-dude at the helm; I would rather eat my sandals than watch Mamoa walking around flexing and uni-browing on screen. It is also, the first brief appearance of King Kull as well as Conan the Barbarian. This comic was created by Barry Windsor Smith and based on the Robert E. Howard novels. If you have the mettle to own this book; then sharpen your broadsword and hitch up your leather armor. It is time to attack the bins and get the first appearance of Conan!

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