Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil’s Advocate

by Norman Robinson III

Slabbed-v-Raw-300x157 Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateThis seems to be an age-old question in our comic book community. Which is better to buy: raw comics or slabbed?

After reading the Blogger Dome blog covering this same topic, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and write a follow-up piece.

Now, raw comics are the entire essence of what owning a comic is about; simply being able to read and enjoy the story and art over time in your collection. For many years this was the only choice for collectors.  They grazed on Overstreet Guide criteria, enjoyed absolute control over the grade on their books, and life was good.

The old saying,  “All good things come to an end” was never more true than at the turn of the Millennium for comic book enthusiasts. That is when the devil of speculation crept into this comic book Garden of Eden. He hit Adam over the head and made off with Eve like Conan sacking Stygia.  Paradise would never be the same again, and the battle was joined CGC slabbed books versus raw comics as collectibles.

CGC-1-e1613489530997-300x173 Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateCGC is Born…

It began as a tiny spec of standardization, a churning of greed and entrepreneurial spirit escaping the Numismatic world and exploding onto the comic book continuum with the creation of CGC Comics. CGC was created in Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ on January 4, 2000. To describe CGC I will simply quote their own words from Wiki:

“Certified Guaranty Company, also known as CGC, is a Sarasota, Florida comic book grading service. CGC is an independent member of the Certified Collectibles Group of companies. It is the first independent and impartial third-party grading service for comic books.

4582331-darth-vader-obi-wan-kenobi-star-wars-lightsaber-artwork-jedi-sith Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateTwo Forces Collide

Two sides to a seemingly unrelenting struggle between collectors and speculators with investors thrown right in the middle.  Much like the American electorate, both extremes snap at each other and completely miss the whole point in a battle for dominance.

The point of CGC Comics and the strongest argument to be made for  CGC, CBCS, PGX, and any other graders, is that they bring consistency and stability to the prices. Further, they allow many people to be comfortable investing and collecting comics that would otherwise never spend that kind of money.  This creates an “all boats are rising” situation where everyone benefits from higher prices for existing comics.

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR1qaoPoNgOxwNSAkoORjZ_ap0LFDngEaZtGQ&usqp=CAU Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateSlabbed Books’ Contribution to the Market

The argument that raw is better than slabbed or graded books is like asking you to choose which arm you would rather lose, your right or your left? Raw comics are very prized by collectors.  It is a touchy subject for some, as they love to enjoy their comics. To not be able to touch them seems sacrilegious.

On the speculation and investment side, to not have slabbed books would severely limit the amount of speculation and, quite honestly, the upper limits of price.  The argument is truly moot because you need both groups to have the current market we have in comics.  The market would not be as vibrant or have expanded as much as it has without CGC and all the other grading companies previously mentioned.

Wolverine-Limited-Series-issue-1-CGC-10 Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocatePros of Slabbed Comics:

  1. Consistency of Grades-Slabbed comics provide a consistency in grading and price that did not exist prior to slabs being invented.
  2. Value- The price of slabbed comics is substantially higher for most books, creating more value for the owner.
  3. Protection- The CGC, PGX, and CBCS cases provide great protection for a book. You can drop it and it probably won’t hurt the comic.
  4. Expanded Market- Slabs broaden the market by 100,000’s buyers and sellers. This, in turn, allows the turnover of comics easily and prices to continue to rise as demand is protected as long as comics are seen as a safe bet.
  5. Display- Quite simply the books display as professional works of art, not just a comic book.

eyJidWNrZXQiOiJnb2NvbGxlY3QuaW1hZ2VzLnB1YiIsImtleSI6IjhmYjcxMzJiLTYwNzQtNGY2Yi05MTFiLWZjZWRmY2FlN2ZiZC5qcGciLCJlZGl0cyI6W119 Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateCons of Raw Comics:

  1. Filthy- The sad truth about comics is they are filthy. They are pulled from dollar bins, wall books, and comics bins. That public access makes them filthy. Think of the 100s of people that grabbed that comic. Even though many are bagged and boarded, the chance for bacteria and just general unwashed hand filth is high. Remember, many of the older comics from the 80s and 90s have the old bags, not an inert material.
  2.  Digital Comics- These new-fangled ephemera are digital and hence you can’t damage them. It is the way of the future. All the more reason to buy comics now as collectibles. Why read raw when you can have digital?
  3. Less Valuable- I have a chart below that compares two Modern Age and two Bronze Age raw comics vs. their slabs. The results speak for themselves, slabbed comics add value.
  4. Zero Protection- You drop it, you bought it. Many retailers have told me of cringing while a potential buyer mauls their comics while shopping. This is not an issue with CGC.
  5. The Preservation-CGC slabbed the book? They are protecting that book and guarantee the grade for up to 30 years.  They also have a UV coating on the inside of the casing. Some slabs occasionally develop a Newton ring (the casing the comic is in gets static charged and creates iridescent, almost oily on the membrane, and can be visually unappealing).
Title Grade Slabbed Raw Return 1-Year
The New Mutants #98 9.6 $649 $228 +20%
Wolverine #1 9.6 $475 $50 +25.6%

dcvsmarvel_03_33 Raw Comics VS Slabbed Books: Devil's AdvocateConclusion

Well, Wolverine #1 in a slabbed format 9.8 grade goes for over nine times the amount of its raw counterpart. Financially, slabs win hands down. Personally, I love them both. Comics are meant to be fun; it is apples and oranges. But I think we can agree on slabs and the grading offered is value-added. Essentially, it is more than the sum of its parts and great for the comic market as a whole.

There are plenty of reasons to compare and contrast slabs versus raw comics. I think the best reason to compare is to understand the comic book market as a whole. It is fun to compare. Who is stronger, the Hulk or Superman? Who is a better fighter, Captain America or Batman? (Everyone knows Cap would slaughter him in a fight!) You get the idea, but honestly, life is more sophisticated than that. The thing I love about comics is it is large enough to include everyone on the planet in our comic book Eden. Still, they’re nuanced enough to be loads of fun for collectors, investors, and slab speculators.

There is SO much more to see! Take a peek at GoCollect’s YouTube channel today!

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Spider March 7, 2021 - 2:11 am

Display- Quite simply the books display as professional works of art, not just a comic book.

This is a stretch…went to The Louvre and none of the art had ‘9.6 off white’ or ‘first appearance of Mona’…above the picture.

I think it’s closer to say ‘it turns it into a trading card’…

however as the whole article says it is highly subjective and I completely agree that the existence of grading has given the hobby many advantages. remember when we only had 3 grades with Overstreet and no one new what Mint actually meant in the vintage word. Know we know!

Jay Pele March 7, 2021 - 1:54 pm

I simply don’t like reading digital comics, even with a 13″ iPad Pro it isn’t the same experience. That’s not the same with regular books, I read those on my Kindle Oasis all the time, but with comics I need the tactile feel of the comic, the smell of the ink, etc..

Stephen March 8, 2021 - 9:57 am

this is a false market, the slab prices are not sustainable in the long run. There is no way to verify what’s inside the slab, what if the grader was having a bad/rushed day and missed something or dropped something… you will never know!

this helps the the real market (raw) for decades you could buy graded comics that weren’t sealed and still take them out, read, review and verify (no missing MVS). No these prices are being driven down which makes them more affordable and as society continues to devole in the future you will see a swing back to natural state (Raw). You don’t seal a collectible record, old hot rods, etc.

this is madness but true entrepreneur spirt… caveat emptor!

Nick March 8, 2021 - 10:44 pm

One double devil’s advocate point: slabbing doesn’t guarantee a good return on investment for just any comic book. I’ve seen slab prices for comics that are less than the cost of grading and slabbing. Those are negative investments. I can’t pick some random worthless comic and add value by slabbing it. That said though, slabbing can drastically increase the value of key issue and blue chip comics if there is a market for those issues.


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