We still bag and board, right?

by Flip Sauce

zombie-232x300 We still bag and board, right?Previously on comic book collecting: A little startup called Image unveiled several new titles (each one bound to be a collector’s item), and it wasn’t looking good for Batman after the maniacal Bane literally broke the Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Wizard: The Guide to Comics was flying off of shelves as its writers covered all the drama. So, yeah, for a lot of us quite a bit has happened between putting away our collections and picking them back up when the pandemic started. How much do you know about a slab?

From posts on comic forums to new customers filling out pull lists at their local comic shops, there’s no question the state of the world has prompted renewed or brand new interest in comics. If you fall into either category, this blog’s for you. From a once avid collector diving back in after more than twenty years away, I’ll be looking at how the world of comic book collecting has evolved and what we need to know (as I learn it) to get us up to speed. Today, we’re talking slabs.

No more GD, VF, or NM?CGC-rank-118x300 We still bag and board, right?

Throughout my many years of collecting, the term “near mint” was all anyone needed to hear to know a book was in as good a condition as it could be. That’s no longer the case. Sure, the term still exists. The whole scale from incomplete to gem mint still exists. In fact, GoCollect has a great list that gives a detailed description of what each term means. But there’s a lot more to it now. At least, there’s now a much more reliable way to be sure what you’re buying is truly “near mint.” It’s called slabbing. Well, not really, but that’s what everyone online calls it. I think the technical term is “encapsulation.”

So, what does that mean? Basically, it means a company looks over your book, assigns that book a grade, and then seals it up in a hard plastic shell to keep the book (and the grade) intact. When you come across a post online talking about a “slab,” it’s talking about the book in that plastic container.

I know, I know, most of you reading this are thinking, “Is this guy for real?” Yup. Like I said, I was out of the game for a long time. I’d never seen or even heard of a slabbed comic until this year, and while the vast majority of GoCollect readers probably view that as unthinkable, there are also plenty of people reading this who are in the same boat as me. That said, I’ve now purchased slabbed books, sent my own books off to be slabbed and now I’m blogging about it. Don’t worry noobs, there’s hope for us all.

RawBooks-300x199 We still bag and board, right?The raw truth

There are two main companies that slab comic books. Certified Guaranty Company and Comic Book Certification Service. I’ve never heard anyone use the full names of either though. It’s just CGC and CBCS. I won’t go into it here, but there are pros and cons to both. All you need to know is that these companies make our books more sell-able. The reason for that is the grade they assign and the fact that encapsulating the book will theoretically lock-in that grade. While there was a time when “near mint” was sufficient to understand the condition of the comic you were buying, now it means a lot more to know you’re buying, say a 9.8 (near mint/ mint). The grading scale link I dropped earlier in this post explains the number grading system too.

In addition, slabbed books command a higher asking price than books that are simply bagged and boarded. Sure, that used to be enough for us old-timers, but now a book that isn’t slabbed is referred to as “raw.” You should have seen the genuinely grossed outlook on my wife’s face as I explained to my daughter that I’d just made a bulk purchase of raw Teen Titans for her. Gross sounding to some wives, sure, but a raw book sells for less than a graded or slabbed book. Plus, slabbed books look pretty cool.

To slab or not to slab? That is the questionbatman-e1597444892365-201x300 We still bag and board, right?

Something I’ve learned since I started sorting through the old long boxes again is that my books are worth nowhere near as much as I thought they were. Not just because I bought up every new Image title hoping to laugh my way into retirement, but because locking in that high grade on a comic is tougher than I could have realized back when I was 14. In case you haven’t learned it yet, spine ticks are the little bends in the spine that indicate wear. In my day, we used to call them “crow’s feet.” Maybe that was just a regional thing, or maybe I just never heard them referred to as “spine ticks.” Who knows? The important part is, spine ticks add up.

I always took super good care of my books, so I was surprised to see the number of spine ticks on a lot of them when I recently exhumed them from the boxes where they’d spent the last two decades. Maybe it was all the moving from house to house. Or maybe I wasn’t as careful as I thought. Maybe I should have slabbed them…except, that wasn’t a thing then. It is now. See what I’m saying? The test of time gets a little easier to pass when you’re sealed in plastic. At least, that’s what my mom always says.

Can I get a slab with that?

There are a few reasons to send your books off to be graded…but before you do, you may want to get them pressed first. Yup, that wasn’t a thing back in the day either. If Covid-19 got you back in the game after a long hiatus, you may be surprised to learn that a lot of the minor damage on books can be pressed out. Think of it like ironing a shirt, except you don’t use an iron and you shouldn’t do it yourself. It’s not worth a whole post, so just Google “comic book pressing.”

Back to those reasons to slab…from what I’ve learned:

  1. You love the book. It’s your baby. The memories you have of it still bring a smile to your face and you want to preserve it.
  2. You firmly believe the book will be worth a pretty penny one day and you want to lock in a high grade for when that day comes.
  3. The book is worth money now and you want to preserve it.

Getting a book professionally graded and encapsulated is not cheap. It won’t break the bank necessarily, but once you add in the cost of shipping, pressing, grading, encapsulating, shipping again…it adds up. It’s an investment. The question you have to ask yourself is: Is it worth the investment to me? If the answer is, “yes,” slab it!

fliippool-e1597445829872-161x300 We still bag and board, right?How I got here

I’m no expert. That’s kind of the point of this blog series. I’m learning as I go, but I also veraciously research anything I’m passionate about. I literally research things for a living for my day job (at night I’m a 5’2″ martial arts turtle with an attitude. You may have heard of me). So, I’m learning quickly.

I’ve already made some bad decisions, but I’ve made some pretty good ones too. It’s all part of the process. I’m glad I’m back in. I live in a different state than I did when I started collecting. I’m a grown man now. The shops are unfamiliar…but they smell the same as they did back home, back in the day. That’s familiar. So is the excitement I get when I crack open a new book or watch the selling price slowly climb on a book I’m speculating on. A lot has changed, but those things never will. So, I’m happy to be learning and sharing what I’ve learned with all of you.

Speaking of speculating, we should probably talk about that too. See you back here soon.

 

GoCollect is the #1 comic book price guide for tracking sales data of all graded comic books in real-time. Fair market values are now at your fingertips. Check out all the features at www.gocollect.com

 

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16 comments

Tony C August 26, 2020 - 1:35 pm

Great article, I went through this research/learning period two years ago after I started back collecting for the first time since I was a kid.

Two things I would add that are purely my opinion from what I learned over the past two years.

1. Never send your books to CBCS. You will be punished in the market. Nothing against CBCS, but CGC books almost always fetch higher prices than CBCS (at least right now).

2. CGC will press and clean your books for a fee before grading. It’s been my experience that they usually do a better job than local pressers at stores. I’m sure there are exceptions to this. Also I prefer knowing that my comics got cleaned/pressed right before grading rather than before I shipped.

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Flip Sauce August 27, 2020 - 11:16 am

Thanks for the comment and the advice. I haven’t used CBCS yet, but I have certainly seen the same book and grade sell for higher if it’s a CGC.

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Carl-El August 26, 2020 - 6:38 pm

Great article! I was away for a bit and it’s insane how things have changed

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Flip Sauce August 27, 2020 - 11:16 am

Thank you! Lots to learn, but I’m having a blast doing it!

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James Stephenson August 27, 2020 - 10:21 am

I am an old dog like you that got back in 10 years ago now, still wishing I had the comics I sold i.e. a nice Hulk 181 I got at a show for 20 bucks back in the day. I am old school, I believe that if you take care of your books for years that a Raw should bring more money. Grading these books is very subjective and in my opinion the love and care that goes into maintaining a good Raw copy should be worth something, a lot more than people say. Part of the investment should be taking care of your books, and I think this should be rewarded, it should not take a slab of plastic to make the value of your books valid! However in today’s modern day people want proof of their investment being what it is said to be. I have a total of 5 slabbed books, and a bunch I would like to get slabbed, however the cost of slabbing them to me out ways the immediate investment if you are not going to sell it immediately. Now with all this said I probably have made the case for slabbing your books, but I still believe that Raw books in great shape should be just as coveted, unfortunately they are not and the prices reflect this. Just as a side bar, I blame the sports card grading craze for this whole thing with comic book grading. It has ruined the card business in my opinion, will it ruin the comic book business, or will that be digital comics?

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Flip Sauce August 27, 2020 - 11:13 am

I agree it’s not easy taking good care of books for decades. To me, that’s the value in slabbing. Literally encasing the book so you can rest easy that it’s going to last.

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Pete August 27, 2020 - 12:33 pm

I was out of the game for 35 years and even I know the near mint is 9.4, near mint+ is 9.6 and 9.8 is near mint/mint. Things are a little different but it’s very easy to get caught up thanks to google search.

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Schmakt August 27, 2020 - 3:00 pm

That’s fun. Cool to hear people getting back in… minor thing though: 9.8 is Near Mint/Mint… 9.4 is Near Mint

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Flip Sauce August 27, 2020 - 3:29 pm

Nice catch! Thanks!

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Schmakt August 27, 2020 - 3:02 pm

also… it’s worth mentioning that both companies will do restoration checks on your books…

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Scar711 August 27, 2020 - 11:19 pm

I am also newly back into collecting comics after almost 30 years. I actually pulled out my comics about a year ago with plans to sell them only to learn that many of them (insert Image and Valiant) are not worth much at all. I too was caught up in trying to get all the firsts from these two new companies along with completing runs of all the early issues. But my first love was Marvel, specifically ASM, and those have done quite well for me. The funny part is I went from plans of selling my collection to actually diving head first into collecting again thanks to my teenage daughter. As we went through them to determine values (Thank You GoCollect!) she became fascinated and now we share in our collecting zeal…which is awesome! On a totally separate note, one advantage I discovered of CBCS over CGC is their autograph verification service. After recently finding to early issues of Spider-Man 2099 for half cover price, I also noticed that whoever had them before had them autographed by Peter David. The books were in great condition for being thrown in a bin with no bags or boards. I just got them back and they came back an 8.5 with the autographs verified and their new slabs are pretty nice! This can’t be done with CGC!!! These are not overly expensive books but they do have some added value now due to the verified autographs but more importantly to me, they are a nice piece to my collection with a good story behind them. Sorry for being long winded. I really enjoyed your blog, thanks!

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Flip Sauce August 28, 2020 - 1:09 pm

That’s a good bit of advice. CBCS will actually verify a signature which comes in handy if you have a book already signed. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people buying books and then discovering they are signed. Nice to get those recognized and slabbed. Awesome that your teenage daughter got you back in as well! Exactly what happened to me.

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Snakeyez August 30, 2020 - 8:20 pm

Great article! I’ve collected a few slabbed books since coming back from a brief retirement from comic books. CGC, CBCS, and PGX have definitely changed the dynamic of collecting comic books. It’s not for the average collector because of the expenses, but it’s definitely worthwhile for those who have grails in their collection to slab to collect or sell.

From my experience of selling a few slabbed books, newton rings have been the biggest concerns when selling slabs on sites like eBay. It’s always a question for concern or leverage when selling for max profit.

Other than that, I think slabbed books look really awesome when combined with a frame to hang on the wall to showcase your collection!

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Flip Sauce September 9, 2020 - 3:42 pm

I agree, they look awesome. Wish this would have existed many years ago (I won’t say how many) when I was first into collecting. I hear CGC will reslab if they send you one with Newton rings.

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Matt Ames September 1, 2020 - 11:51 am

CBCS is actively marketing upgrades to all of its services, but particularly its slabbing, which has been maligned in the past. They have boots on the ground, actually showing new product in your LCS. It would be nice to have some true competition for CGC. Their grading can sometimes be… puzzling.

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Flip Sauce September 9, 2020 - 3:40 pm

I’ve heard they’re even revamping their slabs a bit. Haven’t seen them though.

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