Maybe you’re an expert. But if you’re not, here’s a couple more things to look out for when you’re on the hunt to avoid comic book scams.
I don’t want to paint a picture that all sellers are out to get you. Most of them aren’t. But there are a few out there who can use a couple tricks to get a little more money out of your wallet. The name of the game is transparency, and whenever a description lacks it, there’s sure to be a scam to follow.
Comic Book Scams: Amateur Restoration
The problem with detecting restoration is that it’s pretty damn hard to do so, especially if you are trying to determine through a few grainy photos on an auction site. A tap of a sharpie in that black Silver Surfer background or a dab of red on that Daredevil can make all the difference in the world. Restorations and alterations can totally transform the appearance of the comic. They can hide color breaks, cover discoloration, and mask deeper imperfections. And the worst part is, if they’re done really well, it’s really hard to see them if you’re looking at the cover. So don’t look at the cover.
How to See if Your Book’s Been “Restored”
Look through it. Once you receive your book from whomever, shine light through the cover. It should be sort of transparent. You should be able to see the image on the inside of the cover (usually advertisements) melded with the image on the outside cover (your main cover).
But, if you see a little dark spot that doesn’t allow light to pass through, then you’ve found yourself an amateur restoration. It’ll be obvious because it won’t look like a smudge, it’ll look like a dot or a line. Black is the most common color to be restored because it’s hard to notice in a monochrome background. But now you know what to look for.
Comic Book Scams: Raw Grades
Are not a thing. Think about it. A grade is something universally accepted by the collecting community to indicate where the comic stands in comparison to all other copies of the same book. 5.0 is average. 10.0 is perfect. .5 has been through a lot. Therefore, “raw grades” can’t exist because there are entire forums dedicated to arguing if a book is a 9.0, 9.2, or 9.4. Raw grading is subjective, as in not universal.
The whole purpose of professional grading services is for this exact reason. The seller always thinks the grade is higher than actuality, and the buyer always thinks it’s lower. That number in the plastic case stops any possible debate. It’s what it is.
So, I wouldn’t call this an outright scam. There are lots of sellers who have a good eye for a grade and will provide accurate descriptions listing each imperfection of the book which led them to make their grade estimation. However, a lot of sellers don’t.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m prone to trust sellers in their estimations. I’m still pretty new to figuring the difference between a 9.4 and a 9.8 and even more so when it comes to lower grades. It’s not easy determining these things and it takes experience. Trial and error. It’s a lot easier to just trust someone to tell you what you want to hear. If you want to double-check the going rates for a certain grade, check out the GoCollect price guide.
It’s that their estimation doesn’t mean anything. Unless the book is in a hard plastic case with the X.X numbers somewhere on the top, the seller’s guess is as good as yours is as good as anybody’s. The other problem is that sometimes sellers use vague language not a part of the traditional grading scale from Poor to Mint. Sometimes it’s in “Excellent” or “Great” condition. Uh, okay, but what does that mean?
It means you need to be conservative when purchasing raw books on the interwebs. If the seller gauges it at a 5.0, assume it’s a 4.0. 9.8? Probably a 9.4. 1.8? You probably shouldn’t be buying it.
Again, this isn’t to knock sellers who have been doing this for decades. It’s to remind you that the only person’s grade that matters is yours. I’ve seen comics marketed as certain grades sell for as much as a book of the same grade in a CGC slab. Crazy. Considering the cost of shipping, pressing, slabbing, and return shipping, the raw book should almost always be $40 less than the CGC slabbed one. And that’s just if it’s Modern (1975-). Before ’75? A lot more than $40.
A Note of Caution
Language is powerful. If you read the description of an item and the seller says s/he is “conservative” in their grades and “always grades lower” than what they actually come back as just ignore it. Ignore the proposed grade, check out the book closely, and whatever you do, don’t forget that a raw grade and a slabbed grade are completely different things. Well, only one of them is a thing. There’s no such thing as a raw grade.
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