The Myth of 9.8: Looking at Graded Comics

by Jason Short

021221A_Mythof9.8-300x157 The Myth of 9.8: Looking at Graded ComicsIs there such a thing as a perfect comic book?  Grading companies use a scale of 1 to 10 to describe the condition of a book when grading comics. Only a handful of graded comics have ever received a perfect 10.  As a result, a 9.8 is considered the gold standard.  But is it?

Grading 101

Why are comics graded in the first place?  Blame baseball and other sports cards.  PSA was the first company on the scene.  They started in 1991 at the tail end of a boom period in collectibles.  Prices were at all-time highs, and authenticating cards made sense.  The side result of authenticating was giving a numerical value to a card’s appearance.  The authenticating soon became less important than the actual grade a card received.  The widespread adoption of the internet further fueled people to grade cards.  The internet dispelled the myth that certain cards were rare.  Getting a card graded was a way to add value back to a card.  The late 1990s saw another boom in the card market.  This boom spilled over into other collectibles.  It wouldn’t be long until the comic industry soon jumped into the grading business.

All 9.8s are not Created EqualStar-Wars-Heir-to-the-Empire-1-194x300 The Myth of 9.8: Looking at Graded Comics

PSA was the first company to jump into the authenticating and grading market.  Other companies soon followed and they all agree on something that has thus far been missing in comic book grading: centering matters.  Quite simply, is the card straight?  Comic book grading companies do not care about centering.  Centering is one of the 4 biggest qualifiers for sports cards. It is not even an afterthought for comic books.  Lots of books in the 1980s have massive centering issues.  There are thousands of books that have cover issues.  For example, many books that are rated a 9.8 have part of the back cover visible on the front side of the book.  How does a book like that qualify as a 9.8?  There should be no part of the book’s back visible on display.

SW61C-200x300 The Myth of 9.8: Looking at Graded ComicsA Not-So-Holy Grail?

Take Star Wars #61 for example.  There are currently multiple copies of Star Wars #61 available for sale in a 9.8.  Every single one of them presents differently.  Some of them have white from the back cover present on the front.  Some of them have part of the comics code logo chopped off.  There is no consistency among three of the same book in the highest grade.  This is something that collectors need to keep a careful eye on.  I have not yet noticed any effect on centering raising or lowering a 9.8 comic’s value.  However, if collectors are looking for display pieces, they need to be aware of this.  Older books seem more susceptible to this than newer issues.  In fact, there are countless instances of books in a lower grade presenting better than in a higher grade.  9.8 should be the gold standard.  No 9.8 should display worse than a book graded lower.

Presentation is Everything

9.8 is currently an imperfect metric when evaluating a book.  Graded comics have differences in appearances and how they present within the same grade.  Anyone looking to buy graded comics would do well to take a little extra time and compare copies when possible.

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Matt February 18, 2021 - 11:56 am

Great points
In my opinion any writing, date stamps etc should preclude a 9.8 rating. Collectors will say how quaint date stamps are yet anyone can buy a stamper and ink pad and stamp a date on a cover…

octoberland February 18, 2021 - 12:42 pm

I agree with you on centering. I do think it matters. I have not bought books due to it. I do think it affects the price to a degree, just like page quality. But normally when you are getting to the 9.8 people just pay that lux tax and the details are over-looked.

– Craig Coffman

Ruben February 18, 2021 - 3:06 pm

Jason. You are certainly correct that (1) there are 9.8s and then there are 9.8s; and (2) comic grading companies do not subtract points for a comic’s cover wrap, resulting in two or more comics getting the same grade (from 9.8 to whatever) even though one has perfect wrapping and centering and others with the same grade don’t present nearly as well.

However, even if comic grading companies (unlike card grading) don’t care about cover wrap and centering, the market most certainly does.

We have all see multiples of the same comic in the same grade going for different prices not just because sellers all want different prices (some milking you, others just unloading), but because there are 9.8s (or whatever grade) and there are 9.8s (or whatever equivalent grade).

The easiest way to see how the market cares about variations in the same grade is a seller who is selling two or more of the same book with the same grade but at different prices. I myself have paid higher for the same grade comic that in my mind is better precisely because of two factors: (a) cover wrapping; and (b) page quality.

By the way, page color/quality is another factor that comic book grading companies to do not deduct points for.

I’ve passed up buying a comic and waited until one was for sale that was closer to what I want in (a) and (b). But you will most likely pay more because the savy seller knows her/his 9.8 is better than the others.

So for me, I’m not too bothered by one comic getting the same grade as another despite differences in cover wrapping or even page color quality. If those are important to a buyer, you just hunt for the perfect and be prepared for the possibility of paying more.

For me the bigger issue, the one I think you should address, is the issue of inconsistency in defects. I’ve seen 9.8s with white pages that are so perfect, I wonder why it’s not a 10. And there are 9.8s with spine tics and even corner color breaks. How do I know? I’ve held them in my hand.

It’s my choice to buy a 9.8 with a less than perfect cover wrap or page color quality than another 9.8. Often it’s because they’re cheaper.

But it is infuriating to see a 9.8 in hand up close and see defects that I do not see in some 9.6s. It’s the reason some buyers buy a comic graded at 9.6 or ever lower, crack the comic out and resubmit (even to the same company). It’s risky, but at times it has yielded a higher grade, so what does that tell you?

I once had a CGC 9.8 of New Mutants 98 (first Deadpool) arrive and the front right corner had a small 1/16 inch piece dangling (not just crease or color break but broken nearly off). I poop you not. Fortunately the seller not only took it back but sent me another perfect 9.8. I told him that he should get his money back from CGC because that was so obviously an error on the graders’ part.

And while I’m at it, I’ve seen several examples of a CBCS book that was clearly better than the same grade CGC. Yet, CGC books are almost universally accepted as having the higher resale value. Why? Because the “market” says so. A seller with a CBCS book automatically lowers her book in comparison to the CGC equivalent? I think that’s stupid. There should be a Game-Stop-level revolution where everyone that owns any CBCS books should from this day forward ask the same prices as the same grade CGC.

Great conversation.

Michael Burleigh February 18, 2021 - 3:47 pm

I’ll have to respectfully disagree on your idea that a 9.8 can’t have a little of the back cover showing. That is a normal production issue and has nothing to due with a book’s condition, which is solely based on the amount of wear with no other factors, such as how the book is wrapped in production. That is done by machines and can occasionally run slightly kilter off when wrapping thousands of books. I have a hundreds of high grade Bronze books that have slight mis-wraps and still look great. I understand that your personal preference is for an aesthetically “perfect” book but that isn’t how CGC works. They judge books on the condition alone, and they don’t factor slight production defects.

Gerry February 18, 2021 - 3:59 pm

Excellent point. Especially when it comes to square bound. There is something special about a book that has a straight bind with centered lettering.

Ruben February 19, 2021 - 2:23 pm

Hello. I wrote a comment to the your post “THE MYTH OF 9.8: LOOKING AT GRADED COMICS” and it never appeared. Did I do something wrong? Is there a reason why my comment wasn’t posted? Just curious. I think these are very good discussions.

Ruben February 19, 2021 - 2:25 pm

Oh, I see my comment from Feb 18 is still waiting approval so others can read it.


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