If you’ve sent in a comic to have it graded, you probably know the feeling of thinking that your book should have been graded higher. What happens when you resubmit after cleaning and pressing? Let’s take a look at an X-Men #1 that did exactly that.
When the book really deserves a 5.5 grade or better. That is what John Thomas, one of the owners of Disc Heroes in Portland, thought in March. Having over thirty years of comic collecting experience, John always has an eye out for key books, such as the birth of the world’s most famous mutants, and he has the skills to critically evaluate a book’s grade.
What initially caught John’s eye was the old CGC grade label on a graded 5.0 copy of X-Men #1 just being put out for sale. Over the years, CGC has changed the casing and labeling it has used. Knowing this lets anyone quickly spot a slabbed book that was graded some time ago. The other key thing to know is that when CGC started to grade books, they didn’t have an option to press and clean comics. An old CGC label meant the book would most likely not have been cleaned and pressed. His opinion is that, in general, pressing and cleaning can add anywhere from a .5 to 1.5 improvement in grade.
X-Men #1 Scooped up for $16,000
Although it can be difficult to evaluate many of the elements that go into grading a book once it is slabbed, he estimated the grade of the 5.0 X-Men #1 to likely be a 6.0. He purchased the book for $16,000 and immediately cracked it open.
John turned to a company he had used in the past out of Seattle, Washington to clean and press the book. The first tough discovery was that the staples were significantly rusted. It is extremely hard to see such a thing by examining the book once slabbed, and while not listed on the case, it was obvious once the book was opened. Still, with the pressing and cleaning, John figured the book may still grade as high as a 6.0. This means that it would have a fair market value of, according to GoCollect’s July 2021 data as $32,000. This nearly doubled his investment.
Graded and then re-graded X-Men #1; will it help?
The freshly cleaned and pressed book was submitted to CGC. It eventually returned with a 5.5 grade. GoCollect reports a fair market value of a 5.5 X-Men #1 as $24,000. When you have a book graded, CGC provides a set of notes (painfully limited, but it is at least some explanation as to their analysis). These notes identified a visible fingerprint on the cover. John still thought that the book could merit a 6.0 grade. He wondered if having CGC clean and press it themselves might encourage them to upgrade it. It was also possible that they would not want to change the grade they had just given the book. Could changing the grade make them look less authoritative?
As collectors, we have to remember that graders are just people, hopefully doing their best to objectively apply a set of standards, creating a neutral arbitrator of condition, and thus value. For many key books, like X-Men #1, a change in even .5 of a grade can be a significant step up in value. It is certainly possible for two people grading the same book to come to slightly different conclusions.
Huge return on investment
Paying to have CGC re-grade, as well as clean and press the book, was a risk. But there was a significant upside. Having the book pressed again (sometimes called “pancaking”) wasn’t likely to help much, but the hope was that having CGC clean the book would lead to a .5 bump in grade. When the book returned re-graded, it was still a 5.5, but the fingerprint note was removed.
Total re-grading and other fees were $1,460. That left John with a total investment was $17,460 for a 5.5 graded X-Men #1 which, at the end of July, sold for more than $22,700. He hopes that the value will continue to increase and could reach upwards of $30,000 for even this grade.
The lesson is that there are many levels of the collecting game. Key books can have huge swings in value based on graded value. Many of us work hard to evaluate raw books to determine if grading will create significant value. We can also look critically at books already graded, particularly if graded years ago.
There are always great investments out there but sometimes it takes some creativity to find them.