The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has been the definitive dictionary for comic book values for over 50 years. However, GoCollect’s online price guide is based on current sales and transactions. How should a novice collector use these two powerful tools to evaluate their collection?
The Good Old Days
My love for the Overstreet Price Guide started back in the 1980s. While this new thing called “the Internet” officially existed, it was of no use to comic collectors yet. Instead, I would gather my stack of rummage sale comics and look each one up in my ragged copy of the Overstreet Price Guide. With the aid of the articles in the guide, I would examine each book, giving it my best guess at a grade.
- Near Mint – Those few nearly perfect ones
- Very Fine – Where it seemed most of my good finds seemed to fall
- Fine – Wear and tear starting to show
- Very Good – A strangely worded grade for a comic book whose condition was clearly not very good
- Good – Too kind a word to describe a book that could be soiled, taped, or bent
- Fair – Kindly described as “Heavily Read”
I still chuckle a bit at the wording for their grading system. It reminds me of a kindly old English teacher trying to tell me that my essay was terrible without hurting my feelings.
I could now enter the comic, grade, and price into my Lotus 123 Spreadsheet and save it to a floppy disk. No local comic store meant no plastic sleeves for the books, but they did stack nicely in an old racquetball box. With no MCU or online speculation to drive up prices, my books’ values were based on age, characters, art, and stories.
The Internet Changes Everything
eBay and the online comic buying/selling companies that it spawned meant that comic collecting was no longer a face-to-face activity. Filling in that missing book in your series is now as easy as a few mouse clicks and a credit card. However, this also meant you did not get to examine the merchandise prior to purchasing it. Could I really trust that online seller to grade his Very Fine comic with the same standards I would?
The answer? The Certified Guarantee Company (CGC). For a fee, this company will copiously examine and grade your book. Rather than the letter system noted above, the CGC will grade it from 1 to 10 with one decimal place accuracy. I feel pretty confident differentiating between a Very Fine and a Near Mint. However, the difference between a 9.6 and a 9.8 is beyond my observational skill set. Unfortunately, this two-tenths of a decimal difference can translate into hundreds of dollars difference on valuable books.
Of course, they cannot just grade it and send it back to you. The grade might change the moment you opened it to reread it. Instead, it gets encased in plastic (“slabbed”) and becomes a collector piece. Now one can order a comic book online and get a guarantee on the condition it will be in. The disadvantage? The fee to grade and slab the book is now built into the price.
DISCLAIMER – This blog is hosted on GoCollect.com. So, while my opinion may be viewed as biased, I really do believe that they are the premier online site. By simply typing in the name and issue number of a comic book you immediately get the cover image and Fair Market Values of various graded books based on recent sales. One click later, I get the FMV for all grades (provided transactions have been made for that grade) including the latest sale and history. It also provides information on the book’s creative team and often a brief synopsis. For serious traders it also shows a chart from the Certified Guarantee Company (CGC) showing a census of books that they have graded.
Unfortunately, all prices on GoCollect refer to graded and slabbed comics. I still haven’t slabbed any of my books (they are considered “Raw”). Therefore, the value of my comic on GoCollect is considerably higher than what I would get for my Raw issue.
Thus, in my opinion, both are required tools for the casual collector. Because GoCollect is online, its guide is fluid and constantly changing to reflect rumors, hot trends, and movie speculation. For raw, ungraded comics, the Overstreet Guide may be a more realistic view of what your collection is actually worth. For comic book lovers, both are great resources and enjoyable just to read through, look at, and dream with.