Graded slabs have taken charge of the market recently, with an enormous cost uptick to raw comics. There has been a silent ongoing battle for the soul of comic collectors and investors everywhere. That battle quite simply is between purists who collect only raw comics and folks that prefer graded comics. Which is the better investment? The answer is as varied as the number of collectors and the nuances with which they collect. I would have to say that more speculators rely on slabbed comics than anything else. The benefit of slabs is the grade and protective case. The graded book allows objective pricing and an inexperienced investor can bet and play in the speculative arena. It should be noted that the most successful speculators in this area have a “good eye” for value and appraise correctly about 85%-90% of the time.
On the other extreme are raw comic book collectors; these are typically collectors who refuse to change their collections into slabbed boards. Instead, these purists keep the comics in pristine bags and boards, looking exceptional. Further, they put a great deal of time and energy into cleaning and obtaining a completist collection. Let’s look at some of the variances in the price of Frank Miller’s classic Wolverine mini-series. Perhaps we can “slice and dice” it down to a manageable understanding of the price differences between a book without grading and a raw copy in the original format.
This comic book was created in 1982 by a collaboration of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It is the first solo comic book series for Wolverine, kind of like the limited series Punisher. It is the first cameo of Yukio and the first appearance of Shingen Harada. These are characters in Wolverine #1 that are important to his Japanese backstory. If you haven’t read it, this series is worthy of a read and it did a much better job of telling the Eastern story of Wolverine then the 2013 movie.
Probably the majority of collectors, it is pretty much a given that everything they own is raw. The only thing a true collector will CGC is something valuable to them that has too much money at stake to risk it. For instance, a guy who collects the Amazing Spider-Man full run of volume one; will possibly own the Amazing Spider-Man #1 and might CGC it. This is not so he or she can sell it, primarily just to lock in value and protect the comic. Some collectors sleep better knowing their high-end stuff is protected. That being said, I have talked to many collectors who swear off slabs altogether. Raw collectors feel it is a violation of the form that the comic came in and further; why own if you can’t read? Many of these collectors believe the comic book is sacred and that you should be able to read it and enjoy your comics anytime you want.
Speculators and Collectors
I buy and sell both comics in raw and CGC format. I do prefer when spending several $100’s or more to have a small guarantee with the book already being professionally graded. That being said, I also like to purchase and slab them at CGC or CBCS depending on the comic book. I make all my purchases not about the book, but more to do with the quality of the seller. I can spend up to $500 on a book and send it in for grading. Sometimes my grading is dead on with CGC or CBCS; and then “I feel, well, kinda invincible!” (Big Trouble in Little China-Jack Burton); or you can miss the grade entirely, be prepared for the occasional misstep.
The bottom line; be aware of who you buy from. Develop a large list of vendors, to include your local comic shop. Stick with what you know, and if you need to rely on someones grading it is time to crack a book or two. I suggest starting with the Overstreet Guide. Selling comics is like anything else, you can make money but you have to know the basics.
Raw vs. Graded Books
Originally we asked the question which has more value, raw or graded books? This is a pretty typical rundown of raw vs. slabbed. You can see if a high grade is returned on a book like near mint to mint 9.8 the price can be an easy triple with a graded book. I pulled all the raw data from actual comic books for sale on eBay. Obviously, a 9.8 is very profitable and garners the most money in a raw vs. slab showdown. But anything below that comes down to how much you paid for the book. For instance, getting a 9.2 or near mint minus is a fantastic score from CGC or elsewhere. But if you paid $75 for the book, sent it into CGC paid shipping, tax, and grading fees you are in the hole by $40 to $70. Remember you have to send it both ways, and shipping is not cheap. However, if you took that same book and sold it on eBay for $95 which is a possibility you would have made $20 or so.
|Title||Grade||CGC or Raw||Last Sale||Return|
In the final analysis, the value in high-end key books that have been graded and slabbed is huge. Money can certainly be made selling these near mint plus and above graded CGC or CBCS books for higher dollar amounts. But you can also make money selling raw copies. In fact, sometimes it is simply easier to sell a book raw than go through the hassle of getting it graded.
My advice is to find your nitch, if you are good selling recent, high-end copies in raw format do that. If you like mid-grade 70s horror genre by all means run with the big dogs. Young Jedi you must know your skillset and knowledge base with comics. Also, know who you are buying from and if they are credible? Finally, have fun, don’t get too caught up in the win, it is all about the journey anyway, “Bub!”