Why I Don’t Like “Slabbing” Part 2

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Writers Note: I am focusing more here on CGC as I did in the earlier posting, for the reason being that they set the standard with the grading practices. PGX is another company that does grading, but given the reputation that they have apparently garnered, I will not focus on them.

OK, so with the first part of this special piece, I would like to add in a little bit more on what it was that I am talking about:

Encapsulating, or “Slabbing” comics is not really a new process, but at the same time, it is done only by one company. While this is not that big of a shock, I do feel that it should be pointed out, that the community has made some noise in the past about the sudden inflation of price for comics on the secondary market.

Back several years ago, I was part of a crew that worked out of a small comic shop in Metro Detroit.

In those few years that I was involved with the comics retail business (was part of the crew for nearly 4 years, and was one of the owners for the last 2 years I was there) there was a little bit of an uproar in the collectors community when it came to the practice of grading comics.

I was one of the two appraisers that we had on staff, and was in charge of authenticating the comics that we had that were “wall books” and every now and then, I would have to go out and appraise full collections.

Now CGC as we know it, was founded on January 4th 2000, but the method of slabbing goes back a few more years than that. Either way, the company for the most part really is the only one in the game that sets the pricing on the final graded comic.

When this process is done, there is a grading score that is based on a 1 out of 10 style of grading. There are grades that are in between, such as 8.5, 9.5, etc. And that final grade determines the further value of the comic.

Now back in the day, and really for 43 years now, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has been the definitive pricing guide for comics collectors and retailers alike. The main reason for this has been that the Overstreet guide has pretty much always been stable with it’s pricing.

Wizard Magazine was also rather stable with the pricing, and was not far off from the prices that were in Overstreet, but did not have the depth of Overstreet when it came to the Golden Age comics, and publishers that were from that era that do not exist anymore, such as Gold Key Comics and King. So they were a good supplement on a monthly basis that were more focused on the modern/current comics, but in the cases of comics that had runs that went back to the golden age, would have their prices going back to that time. Like Action Comics and Detective Comics.

So, now that it has been established that the guides have been out there to give pricing, here is where the first pitfall of graded pricing would be…

The sealed comics are appraised at a value that almost ensures that they might not be able to be sold unless your clientele is of a very high expendable income.
Here is an example of the grading difference as I kind of touched on in my previous post.

And issue of Swamp Thing #1 in a 9.6 condition grading, at the time of this writing, was currently going for $396.00 on Ebay.

9.0 is Mint Condition, so 9.6 damn near off the press quality.

Without that 9.6 grading, the comic is instead priced at $95.00, which is a very respectable price point, but at that same time… that is a $300.00 price difference.

Point is, most of us that collect comics, would most likely not have that amount of money lying around to just go ahead and purchase that comic in the graded encapsulation.

Furthermore, there is a different problem with grading. That is the worthiness of a comic being graded. As in, key issues here and there would be worth grading, but many others are not. Such as Hulk #181 would be worth getting graded as it is the first appearance of Wolverine. Anazing Spiderman #121 (death of Gwen Stacy) or even Daredevil # 6, the first appearance of the Red Costume.

But now, at the same time, while I would be all about grading the books… here is my objection. It takes the “raw” comic off of the market, and it contributes to the loss of these books from circulation, making it harder for a other collectors to find copies to fill in the holes in their collection.

Join me for Part Three, wherein I wrap up my feeling on comics grading.

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Why I don’t like “Slabbing” Part 1

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So I just watched a video that dealt with an issue of a comic that was raffled off, a person winning it, and why the person that had won it, could not read the comic.

The reason that this fella could not read the comic is because it had been “Slabbed”.

For those that are not in the know on what the term Slabbed means, I will clue you in.

Slabbing as we in the comics world call it, is the process of having a comic book appraised, and then hermetically sealed in a poly bag, and then placed in a plastic hermetically sealed enclosure that at the end somewhat resembles a plastic slab.

There is only one group that does this kind of process, and they are called the CGC, AKA  Certified Guaranty Company AKA Comics Guaranty LLC (website here http://www.cgccomics.com/ )

Here is a sample of the website explaining the services they offer.

Professional comic book grading eliminates concerns about grade misrepresentations by providing a professional assessment of condition and quality.

Every comic book certified by CGC is graded by the hobby’s most experienced and trusted team, according to well-established grading standards. Furthermore, every CGC-certified comic book undergoes a thorough restoration check by leading professionals during the certification process. When restoration is detected, it is fully noted on the certification label.

Once certified by CGC, a comic book is encapsulated in a state-of-the art, tamper-evident holder, providing superior protection and stability for long-term preservation.

CGC employees are prohibited from commercially buying or selling comic books, eliminating any potential conflicts of interest. CGC was the first impartial, third-party certification service.

Over one hundred thousand comic books are submitted to CGC each year. Books are carefully handled and tracked through the grading process, and always fully insured while on our premises. You can explore comic book grading by tracing through the grading process.”

OK, so here is the skinny. CGC has been around for a wee bit (nearly 20 years now) and during this time thousands if not millions of comics have been sent to their offices, and have been inspected, restored in some cases, and then given special treatment (acid free inserts between the front and back covers) and finally end up getting sealed/slabbed.

Now, with that part being said, here is what it does for the collector…

It gives a certified value and grading to the comic that has been graded, and can sometimes increase the value of the comic by several hundred percent.

While this is fantastic for the comic collector… it has a downside, and I will get to that shortly.

Several comics that have been “Slabbed” have been extremely notable, and as such, the grading process also catalogues the verified version of the comic exists. For example:

Action Comics #1 (First Appearance of Superman) without the CGC grading would possibly sell for $130,000… With the Grading process however, the value of the book has topped the $1,000,000 mark with a high grade.

Most recently however, a copy of The Walking Dead #1, was graded and certified with a value of $10,000.

The cost per comic to have it graded can be anywhere from $25 to up to $300.00 per book. What this means is that there is a sliding scale of cost when it comes to getting a comic slabbed. Furthermore, that $25 charge is per book, on a 15 book minimum submission. Which puts that whole cost at $375 dollars for possibly 15 comics to get graded and shipped back to you slabbed.

Now, while one would think that the price would be a downside, keep this in mind, you need to understand that the values of the comics are increased when it comes to getting it graded.

To me the downside would have been more along the lines of the comic being totally sealed.

Sure it’s for the protection of the comic, but at the same time, you can’t read it, or flip through it… without taking the grading, and throwing it out the window.

This would suck if you get a comic that you wish to add to your collection, and now cant read through it in it’s original printing… which has it’s own air of awesome to it.

And that my friends is one of the two downsides of getting your comics graded.

The other downside in my opinion, is based off of a sentiment that my Granddad had when it came to my collecting comics… and that was the philosophy that comics are not worth anything when there isn’t a buyer for them.

I really want to take a moment and point out that for me, comics have at various times bailed me out of trouble when it came to money issues. I have used my collection as currency at various times in my life. Using sales of it to not only purchase a car, but to pay bills, and even pay rent during different times.

With that said, it was a hell of a lot of work, and the high dollar comics that I have been able to collect were not part of those deals… But at the same time, I can also say that I have spent money on Magic: The Gathering, and again, have spent those collections as currency at times in my life.

I was able to do so, because I could find collectors/players that were willing to purchase those items.

Got a buyer, and they gave me cash.

Plain and simple.

Now, with that being said… I have to go so far as to say that had I tried to sell some of the higher priced comics, I would not have been able to sell them off. As I have found out, amongst the majority of the collectors in general… there is such a thing as a comic that is too expensive to even sell.

The CGC, while making is possible to certify the value of a comic, to makes it even harder to sell off the comics if you found yourself in a position where you needed to.

All in all, I really have only one concern when it comes to this whole grading thing.

I fear that the practice of grading and slabbing, will lead to people having a further misconception of the value of the comics that are sitting in their closet.

I will continue this rant in another post tomorrow.

Podcasts, Comics, and that Strange Itchy Sensation

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So, I have been really busy the past couple of months and have not really posted much in the way of anything. So, here is an update on some of the stuff that I am currently reading and listening to.

Fatman on Batman: This weekly podcast by Writer and Director Kevin Smith, delves into two of my favorite subjects… Comics, and Batman. Sure, Daredevil is my favorite superhero… but it was the Batman that brought me into the comics fold. Through both the 1966 TV series, which was in reruns when I was a kid, and the animated series, I was brought into comics by 2 different books. Detective Comics Annual #3, and the Untold Legend of the Batman.

So to hear a podcast that is done by one of my favorite directors/writers, and to hear about one of the few characters that I genuinely love from DC (I’m more of a Marvel Guy). I could not be happier.

The podcast is done in an interview format that is carried in the comfortable and laid back conversational style, where KS interviews various comics creators and actors that have ties to the dark knight… and it is amazing. One of the best episodes that I have heard thus far has been the interview with Jeff Loeb (creator of Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Daredevil: Yellow, and Superman for All Seasons). Wherein Loeb takes us on a journey with the start of his travels through not only comics, but Hollywood. Great listening.

Tell Em Steve Dave: Another SmodCo production starring Bryan Johnson, Walt Flannagin, and Brian Quinn. Fantastic stuff that shows a different side of the guys from Comic Book Men.

Words do not express how interesting and funny this podcast can be, and what makes it great is that it has the same feeling that I have experienced when hanging around the comic book shop when the casual people would leave, and only the staff and regulars were there.

The Shadow: Still enjoying this comic published from Dynamite Entertainment. Awesome Pulp Noir done with a modern feel and design… Lamont Cranston has never looked more awesome.

Swamp Thing: The New 52 launch of this comic has been nothing short of fantastic, and the great part about it, is that this book not only kind of harkens back to the era of Alan Moore, it goes  out of it’s way to reset the tone that this comic once had. Not since the Moore era has there been treatment of Swampy that a reader could really sink their teeth into. Great writing and imagery drives this book, and makes it a great series for the post reset era.

Daredevil: The current run on Daredevil being written by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, The Flash), has taken a character that was for all intents and purposes, rather broken from the ending of the previous run… and has not only brought in new bad guys (Ikari) and some old ones (Bullseye, yeah… and it made sense) the only way to describe this run, is really one word. Engrosing.

Deadpool: Written by comedian Brian Poshen, the Merc with a Mouth has never been funnier. Great stuff, and all I can say as a hook to bring you in… Deadpool VS Zombie Presidents of the USA. The brawl with FDR was beyond awesome.

Uncanny X-Men + Wolverine and the X-Men: So, to give a description of this would take too long… so I will give just a couple of things, because this is no spoilers. The X-Men have split into 2 camps. Those that follow Cyclops in a group that are defending mutant kind from extinction as previous events from earlier runs would show the deaths of dozens of characters… and then the mutants that follow Wolverine, as he goes back to the site of the old Xavier school, and he and a few others, rebuild it as the Jean Grey School.

Add in the gigantic cross over of Avengers VS X-Men, the Return of the Phoenix Force, and a new birthing of The Hellfire Club… and holy cow is this book really high on my monthly reading lists.

Overall, this is some damn awesome stuff. Check it out, and you can think me later.

Follow Wess Grigg on Twitter @thewessgrigg, and follow him on Facebook, facebook.com/wessgrigg

Just a thought

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Ive come to the conclusion that there should be a call for Justice for George.

He was found not guilty of the crime… and all of this garbage is a direct result of race baiting. This poor bastard is now in a position that he will have to constantly deal with what happened, and the crap that follows with the media circus therein.

These people demanding justice for Trayvon, have generally ignored the horrors in their own communities, and have latched onto something that their Demagogs Obama, Houlder, Jackson, and Sharpton are pretty much squat humping for their own gain. And the ultra liberal and “urban” people are going right along with it.

And in the end, 2 people that didn’t deserve what they got, are having to deal with this crap.

Trayvon didn’t deserve to die… just deserved to get his arse whooped.

George doesn’t deserve to be raked over the coals anymore, as he will have a hard enough time as is with the rest of his life.

At least Trayvon doesn’t have to suffer anymore.