Should Comic Book Collectors get their Books Graded?

by Jestin Davis

instructions-1 Should Comic Book Collectors get their Books Graded?The year 2000 forever changed comic book collecting and investing. While many people were distracted by Y2K, the year also saw the first-ever graded comic books by a third party, CGC in particular. The comic book market would never be the same.

Steve Borock, who was a respected comic book dealer at the time, was hired by CGC to be their first comic book grader, and the rest is history. Since that time, a few other third-party grading companies have popped up. However, CGC remains the biggest and most widely known in the hobby. I will preface this article by saying that I have both graded and non-graded books. Therefore, I do see the merits of both. I posed this question to myself the other day, so I decided to share my thoughts and findings with you all.

As a serious (loose term) comic book collector and investor, should you have your books graded? Should you only focus on buying graded books? Let’s take a look at the benefits of both raw and graded books. You can decide which type best fits your collecting strategy. Also, keep in mind, I don’t think many people fall into the all-or-none category. You will likely develop both a raw book and graded book strategy within your overarching collection.

What are the Benefits of Graded Books?

Let’s start with the impetus of the question, why grade your books? With this fairly new trend in the hobby, we are still learning how grading fits, but here are some of the basic benefits.

  • Selling/Buying: You have a third party graded book that both the seller and the buyer can agree upon. This removes the tension of trying to agree on the grade of a book to make a deal, especially when you are buying/selling the book online.
  • Encapsulation: Once the book has been graded and is then encapsulated, barring any major mishap, the comic should maintain that grade in the future. It also makes it easier to ship or move your books without worrying about bending and other damage occurring.
  • Tracking: Websites like GoCollect make it easy for you to track your collection inventory and value by monitoring sales of graded books. It also allows you to scan or input the cert number on the book to add to your inventory. They automatically load your grade for you. You can also track when the book was sold and for how much, in most cases, based on the cert number located in the notes on the top of the case.

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What are the Benefits of Raw Books?

There are certainly benefits to keeping your books raw or buying them raw as well. Let’s take a look at a few of the top points for this conversation.

  • Reading: Do you plan to read your books? Or just want the option to flip through the pages every now and then? Then you should not encapsulate them by having them graded. If you want to own a particular book as both an investment and to read, you might consider buying a low-grade reader copy to keep raw. Then purchase a higher grade book to grade.
  • Speculation: Do you plan to buy a book purely on speculation? Before spending the money to have it graded, you should consider keeping it raw. At least until the value starts to rise. Then you can do a cost-benefit analysis of raw vs graded.
  • Deals: I just had this conversation with a collector the other day. He wanted to get into a key book, but not spend a ton of money. Purchasing a raw book that you believe has potential for a high grade and then getting it graded typically costs much less than buying the book already graded.

These are just a few talking points on raw and graded books. To sum it up, I think that any book you are holding as a long-term investment should probably be graded for the reasons stated above, among others. In my next blog post, I will attempt to help you determine when it makes sense to get a book graded from a value perspective. If you have an opinion on raw vs. graded books be sure to comment below!

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11 comments

George March 14, 2021 - 7:47 pm

“With this fairly new trend in the hobby” : I’d posit that something which has been around for 20 years is not really fairly new anymore…

I find myself getting more and more recent vintage books graded because I want to preserve their “grade” over time. I’d like to be able to hand the comics off to the kids and not worry that they are going to deteriorate. If we want reading copies, most good series can either be read online or through a graphic novel. This approach would change if the cost of grading comics skyrocket similar to what has happened in the baseball card space – 10 years ago I could grade a card for $5-8, now they are as expensive as comics to get graded.

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Jestin Davis March 14, 2021 - 8:27 pm

Good insights here George! I like the preservation strategy as well.

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SpideyAZ March 19, 2021 - 12:35 am

Another fun advantage of slabbed over raw is presenting it as a gift. My daughter and I recently found a couple of DC Comics Presents 26 from a huge lot I purchased. I graded both expecting to sell them but instead gave the lower of the two graded copies (8.0) to my daughter who was helping me organize the collection. She was ecstatic. She likes to read her generation’s popular comics (Lumberjanes, Captain Underpants, etc.) but doesn’t collect. The slabbed DCCP 26 means more to her than a raw copy. The encapsulation and official CGC label marks it as something special and memorable. It currently hangs on her wall.

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Jestin Davis March 19, 2021 - 11:16 am

How awesome! I purchased two graded copies of Superman #10 (First Supersons) for my son and I and he has his copy sitting on a shelf in his room, I totally agree!

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Ken March 15, 2021 - 7:50 am

Hi Justin and thanks for the blog. Working in finance I agree statistically 20 years is not a long time. As you mention I also have a graded versus ungraded silver age collection. To be honest I stress a lot less over my graded collection with respect to value and the ability to pass on or sell some day. However, I have never lost the pleasure of handling, opening, and reading a “real” comic. It’s a little riskier to collect raw and I’ve been happy more than disappointed based on trying to work with better rated sellers. Finally, my graded collection hang on a wall in frames which makes me feel like a mini art collector walking through my gallery. They display awesomely. Thanks for listening.

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Jestin Davis March 15, 2021 - 10:19 am

Ken, I couldn’t agree more! I am a reader first and foremost so having some of those vintage books that you can flip through, see the old ads and art, is great but also having certified art pieces is nice as well. Thanks for sharing!

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Patrick March 15, 2021 - 12:38 pm

Let’s be truly honest – all graded books, baseball cards etc. exist to make people money – the graders, stores etc. and the owner at some point. I have a few graded but unless it’s a $1,000 book or higher, to me I don’t care unless I want to sell them. I love reading them and I have been a collector for 45 years. My collection is insured and worth much more due to time itself. And I’ve been to tons of shows from 1975 to now – the only thing that drives a seller is the price of THEIR acquisition – that drives deals period. Raw is 90% of the time cheaper to negotiate. I also have all the Mantle cards except the 52 Topps. The difference, all you look at are two sides of a card – so graded, you see it’s entirety. Choice is personal, but just my opinion – thanks for providing a forum and cheers!

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Jestin Davis March 15, 2021 - 1:25 pm

Raw is definitely easier to negotiate and you bring up a great point in being able to see the entire trading card where you lose that ability with comics. Thanks Patrick!

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Patrick March 15, 2021 - 1:45 pm

Love the comic banter thank you! Keep us thinking!

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mike Mazzullo March 15, 2021 - 12:50 pm

I have collected since about 1964, mainly because I had to buy comics with my own money,I treasured them. I kept them because they were my first personal possessions.[Plus, I loved the stories and the heroes.] I then stored them by bagging and boarding sometime in the 80s.
I did not like slabbing at first and have come around on them. In part, because I can get top dollar selling any if I decide too. What I have found is that I have used slabbed books for only speculation purposes. I have slabbed and/or pressed about a dozen of my keys, such as FF52, and then sold them.
If I sell any of my raw, I truthfully tell people that I am the original owner, that they have been bagged and boarded since the 80’s and see what they fetch.
I guess that I just enjoy both slabbed and raw and, happily, don’t choose between them.

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Jestin Davis March 15, 2021 - 1:23 pm

Thanks for the insight Mike, and what you must have seen over the years as a collector since 64!

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