I’ve thought it; you’ve probably thought about it – I should have started a grading company. Anthony Trombetta actually did it. Expert Grading Services is delivering a product with a difference that should make everyone with an interest in graded comics take note. I had a chance to talk with the EGS President recently and learned a lot about what EGS Comic Grading is trying to bring to the previously monopolistic world of comic grading. His focus on transparency, quality grading, artistic labels, and faster turn-around times are all positives.
Five Years Ago
In 2017, Tony wondered if there was room for another grading company in the comic collectibles industry. He was already working grading comics and was pursuing a certification in grading; he put out some feelers in the comic community about a new service. His mission was to create a grading company that would address many of the frustrations collectors experience in turn-around time and consistency in grading and maybe, just maybe, even provide a better product.
The biggest initial challenge was how to slab graded books. In 2018, Tony opened his doors with the Comic Skins product. He would use this to seal books internally and combine with tamper-proof security stickers. Early reviews of the EGS product took issues with the tabs on the top and the security stickers, which distracted from the presentation of the graded slab. Even with those criticisms, EGC has continued to grow over 50% annually every year since opening.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Case
EGS is now manufacturing its own proprietary slab which it will begin using in late summer or early fall of 2022. It will be similar to other slabs being produced in clarity and security. Tony described it as thinner than the CGC slab and a bit thicker than the CBCS slab. It will be grooved for easier stacking (no sliding off and having your case get scratched) and will have the usual labeling on the end for easy identification while boxed.
This will be a huge step up from the current EGS product. Plastic supplies are still an issue globally and contribute to the 90-day turn-around time for EGS on standard orders. The new product, which will be produced in Utah, should provide better access to this critical input material. But this puts EGS just on par with everyone else, it isn’t what separates them from the field.
Why Did My Book Get That Grade?
Grading comics, according to Tony, is not rocket science, nor is it magic. There is a subjective element, of course, but EGS strives to grade straight by the Overstreet Guidelines. Here is the kicker – they tell you exactly why your book received the grade it was given in detailed certification notes.
Many of us have been left wondering at the vague notes provided by the big grading companies. Not knowing exactly all the details seems to be a way to keep criticism at bay – it’s hard to take issue with what they won’t tell you. Tony believes that each grading house has a slightly different standard or interpretation of standards which leads to debates – do you still get a 9.8 grade with two spine ticks, with three, maybe with four?
Everyone should have the same standard, but the reality is that they don’t. While collectors will continue to ‘shop’ the various reputable grading companies for the best grade, with EGS you will know what caused the book to receive a certain grade.
Value Added – The Labels
The other fascinating thing about EGS is that you can select your own color for a grading label. This makes so much sense, I have to believe that other companies will have to add this feature or lose ground. Everyone I know with graded books loves to display them and there is no reason to have only a blue or yellow label as a required top portion of a display.
EGS-graded books can use selected colors or have specially designed labels that enhance the presentation. Would you rather have a 9.8 book with a blue label or the same 9.8 book with a fantastic label that integrates the book cover? I wondered if people would pay for this extra feature and Tony reports that about 80% of his work includes a specially colored or designed label.
Turn around time at CGC or CBCS for standard grading is pushing six+ months. This seems crazy for a variety of reasons but if there are no other legitimate options, then why would the big grading houses improve their service or turnaround time?
EGS says they are committed to keeping a 60/90-business day turnaround and bringing in the staff to do it if the plastic slabs can stay in inventory. I don’t care if you are a collector or investor, a quality product with a better TAT is worth considering.
How Can I Not Try EGS?
It is a great plan. Now, let’s see it comes together. Reviews of EGS-graded books appear to be solid. There is extra value to me in getting detailed notes and an option to improve the display of some books I have in mind. If the TAT is close to half of the projected time of CGC, it will be a win. The fundamental product of quality grading has to happen in order to be accepted by the community as a whole, but EGS seems to be on its way. They’re also active on Instagram – check it out!
I will send off a variety of books, including a book I’ve been thinking of cracking. We’ll see how EGS compares. I will report back when I get to unbox them. Let me know if anyone else decides to give EGS a try, or if you have already.