Monday, July 11, 2011

Boo Hiss ...

There is a worrisome trend in comics over the past few years that I think is to the detriment of the Hobby. Its not good for the collector and its not good for the comics themselves. This trend is CGC

What CGC does.
They are an "independent" comic grading service. They take submissions from dealers and individuals and have a process and criteria to access a numeric grade for 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. The rise in popularity of this service was borne out of unscrupulous e-bay vendors taking advantage of the purchaser having to take a leap of faith in making a purchase. A CGC book has been "Big Mac-itized" so that an 8 is an 8 across the board, thus giving the buyer peace of mind. Sounds good in theory so far, right?

That peace of mind comes at a tremendous cost. To have a book graded is approximately 20 dollars. If it was simply a 20 dollar net increase to a books cost, then for certain books, it might be worth while for that peace of mind depending on the book.. but that has not been my experience.  Books at the higher end of of the numeric grading scale demand a premium. It has always been that way.  Robert Overstreet has published a yearly guide of comic price values for 40+ years. His book is the gold standard despite what anyone else may try to tell you.

However, CGC gives a certain additional presumed rarity and therefore a graded book commands (falsely) a higher premium outside of the Overstreet pricing guide. I disagree with this. If anything, it should cost only 20 dollars over the Overstreet. Greed has overtaken this notion. Books are falsely inflated. CGC doesn't make a book more rare or any more in demand just because it has been graded. 

Now this greed thing isn't necessarily CGC's fault, not directly anyway. And I cant fault capitalism and dealers trying to get what they can for their wares.. However, I can blame dumb-asses that are willing to overpay and drive the market up because they don't know any better. They don't trust themselves to grade or they don't know anything about comics and have been seduced into thinking whatever they just bought is the next Amazing Fantasy 15. Its getting harder and harder to find nice material that isn't graded sadly. OR the price is 3x's what it should be with some clown telling ME to get it graded.... 

Then there is this notion of "independent grading". As with any customer relationship, you tend to take better care of the customers that take care of you. I have heard that smaller dealers that send less volume to CGC tend to get grades back that are LOWER on their books than the grades given to to HIGH volume dealers that send more items to be graded for seemingly equivalent books. Could be carping, but I'm inclined to believe it.

Then there's the OTHER little problem. When CGC completes grading, they slab it and encase it in a plastic tomb. You can no longer read it or smell it... it just sits there. I'm not sure what plastic compound they use, but I'm pretty sure its not Mylar. If Mylar is good enough for the the National Archives, its good enough for me. So far no one has been able to tell me that the comics are very well protected. I'm not sure these "slabs" are not doing more harm than good to the books in the long run.

I was in attendance at the Chicago Comic Con. I stopped by the CGC booth and tried to talk to one of the staffers on site. I asked a young lady (Once I got her attention) "if their cases were better than Mylar?" She replied that they were "because they were bigger and offer more protection."  

While I'm not detective or anything, I quickly deduced that Ms Obvious was not the right person to sell me on their seeming polypropylene product vs mylar.

I am still left unsatisfied on this point. Overall my opinion has not changed.

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