Grader’s Notes: Mid Grade Comic Books

One of the most important aspects of investing in comics is the ability to spot a mid-grade comic book that has the potential to become a high grade comic book.

cgc6The books that fall into this grade category seem to have active price swings, which can be very volatile and very profitable! Mid-grade comic books can be great investments that yield high returns – if you know what you’re doing! Simply put, mid-grade books tend to still have a “little meat on the bone.”

This third (in a series of four articles) will focus on mid-grade comic books. Grading is subjective and this article will describe my grading strategies and my guidelines as well as examples of actual grader's notes. These guidelines are just a starting point to help you estimate your book’s grade; this is not a guarantee of grade and individual results may vary.

Every collector should also own and be familiar with Overstreet’s Grading Guide; it is the industry standard for strict grading.

Additionally, previous articles in this series have covered; How to handle your comics, how to inspect your comics, how to spot restorations, Glossary of Grading Terms, and what qualifies for a high grade comic.

Inspect The Book

Following the procedures that were outlined in previous articles, inspect your book for any and all defects. Be sure to document the size and shape of each defect. Once you have completed your inspection, count the total number of defects and decide a final grade for the books based on the number of defects.

If the total number of defects is greater than (5) and less than (14) then you have a mid-grade book. Mid-grade comics can be great finds in the wild. Often, due to their condition and how subjective comic book grading can be, you can acquire mid-grade books for a significant discount. To make sure you get the best bang for your buck, consider the following two points:

First, sellers will often over grade mid-grade comics. The seller may sticker the book as a “Very Fine+” and you may believe it’s actually a “Fine+”. The difference in money in one single grade point can be a large amount – make sure you know what you are paying for!

Second, never assume a grade. If a grade is not on the book, ask someone! It is important to know the grade of the book so that you know if you are paying fair market price for that book. If you have questions about a comic book, always ask the seller those questions. Many times when you point out that the comic book is actually a grade point lower, the seller will lower the price. Grading is subjective! Simply point out your concerns and ask for a discount. Pretty simple, huh?

 

Mid Grade Comics

Mid-grade comics for the purpose of this article will mean grades between (5.5) to (9.0). The difference between a Very Fine / Near Mint book and a Fine minus book is a pretty wide spectrum. The allowable numbers of defects in this grade range vary greatly from grader to grader.

Category Name Short Number

Max Defects

Very

Fine

Very Fine / Near Mint VF/NM 9.0 6
Very Fine + VF+ 8.5 7
Very Fine VF 8.0 7
Very Fine – VF- 7.5 8
 

Fine

 

Fine / Very Fine F/VF 7.0 9
Fine + F+ 6.5 10
Fine F 6.0 11
Fine – F- 5.5 12

Categories: “Very Fine” and “Fine”

The Mid Grade books can be broken into two categories “Very Fine” and “Fine”. There is a large difference between a low grade “Fine” comic book and a high grade “Very Fine” comic book. Both books will present well. However, the “Very Fine / Near Mint” book will have no more than 6 total defects. Meanwhile, a “Fine-” book can have up to 13 defects.

Very Fine Comic Book

Fine –

Very Fine / Near Mint

Very Fine / Near Mint

Looking at the two books side by side, you can see that both books are nice. They both lay flat, and they have nice color. The Fine book has about twice as many defects as the Very Fine / Near Mint book.

The colors on the “Fine Book” are beginning to show age and wear. The cover has begun to fade and the black is not as rich as it once was. The “Fine” Book has multiple color rubs and has some spine damage. The “Very Fine / Near Mint” book almost looks new with only a few minor defects and is on the high end of the Very Fine category.

A good rule of thumb is if you can count the defects on one hand it’s a “Very Fine” book. If you can count the number of defects on two hands it’s more than likely a “Fine” comic book.

Very Fine (VF) Grades

Very Fine / Near Mint VF/NM 9.0
Very Fine + VF+ 8.5
Very Fine VF 8.0
Very Fine – VF- 7.5

Very Fine graded books are all in great condition and will lay flat. The colors are usually still bright and rich, but without as much vibrancy as a Near Mint book. In many cases a (9.0) is hard to differentiate from a (9.2).  Very Fine books can show stress on the spine and the corners may have minor blunting. They are allowed to have sun shadows, dust shadows and tanning. The edges may have a few defects which includes some chipping and small tears.

A Very Fine book may have folds or creases on the cover and some may break color. The color breaks should be no more than 1/4 inch and a fold that does not break color can be up to 3″ long. The book may have small stress marks on the spine.

A Very Fine book’s cover may have some slight surface wear. The gloss of the book will be consistent with light wear. The entire book is in excellent condition and has been well maintained.

At the low end of the spectrum of Very Fine books, the grader’s notes start to change. The notes start to refer to groupings of defects instead of individual defects.  You will start to notice adjectives like “small grouping” or “a few” instead of “a single” color breaking crease. With higher grade books you are looking for individual defects; mid-grade books you are considering the book's overall condition.

 

defectChart

Grade Num Avg Max Allowed Defects
Very Fine /Near Mint 9.0 5 6

Is allowed the following defects: some very minor interior tears allowed, some foxing is allowed, small amount of cover wear (small rubs), date stamps and or initials are allowed, 1/4 inch bend as long as it does not break color, some stress lines, and slight spine tears allowed.

Very Fine + 8.5 6 7

Cover crease with no color break is allowed, Minor spine split with some minor color break allowed. Minor bends and folds are acceptable. Some slightly more noticeable stress lines allowed and paper can be Cream to Tan but must remain supple. 1½” crease barely breaks color

Very Fine
8.0 6 7

Cover crease with no color break allowed, Minor spine split with some minor color break allowed. Some slightly more noticeable stress lines allowed. Some spine roll  and small light stains are allowed at this grade. Light foxing and small tears are also allowed at this grade.

Very Fine – 7.5 7 8

A small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color, and some slightly more noticeable stress lines are allowed. Pages can not be brittle or brown. The cover can have light cover soiling and some interior pages can have corner slight tears and the cover can have some corner wear. Small spine roll is also acceptable.

Very Fine /Near Mint (9.0)

Very Fine / Near Mint is on the threshold of being a high grade book and is the top of the pyramid for mid-grade comic books. A Very Fine / Near Mint book will lay flat but may have a small spine roll. The colors will be rich and vibrant. The book was bagged and boarded early and is well taken care of. The book may be very close to a Near Mint condition with only a few defects.

These books may have some spine wear from being read once or twice. Color breaks should be smaller than 1/4″ and creases/folds should be no longer than 3″. The corners may have some wear and minor blunting.

Here are a few acceptable defects on a Very Fine / Near Mint Grade: some very minor interior tears allowed, some foxing is allowed, small amount of cover wear (small rubs), date stamps and or initials are allowed, 1.25″ indent, 1″ crease front cover 1/4″ breaks color, some stress lines, and slight spine tears allowed.

 

Interior Page Colors

 

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted: 1.25″ indent

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 7 28 4
Off-White/White 11 48 4
Cream/Off-White 1 5 5
Total Books 19 81 4
9.0 Very Fine / Near Mint: Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 4
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light creasing & tiny wear top edge front cover breaks color
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
small amount of color transfer back cover
tiny spine stress & wear top spine breaks color
small amount of color transfer back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
small amount of wear top edge front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
light small stain top back cover
many foxing spots to back cover
light spine stress barely breaks color
fingerprint smudges left back cover
cover miswrapped
light spine stress breaks color
edge crease right top front cover breaks color
1″ bend middle right front cover
spine stress, some breaks color
small edge crease top left front cover, barely breaks color
light tanning back cover & interior cover
spine stress barely breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
tanning spine & top edge cover & interior cover
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
rippling back cover spine
tiny spine stress breaks color
light creasing top edge & bottom right corner front cover breaks color
small edge & corner wear breaks color
tiny tear left edge back cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
tiny tear left edge back cover
spine stress breaks color
tiny crease near right edge & small crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color
tiny wear on spine breaks color
small light stain near right edge front cover
small amount of color transfer back cover
very small crease bottom spine front cover barely breaks color
small bend by top left corner back cover
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny wear top right corner front cover breaks color, tiny scuff & 1.25″ indent near middle spine front cover partially breaks color
small light stain bottom spine
1″ crease right edge front cover breaks color
3/8″ crease bottom spine breaks color
tiny spine stress breaks color
tiny crease top right corner front cover breaks color
minor spine stress breaks color
light crease bottom right corner front cover does not break color
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color

A 9.0 Book is for the most part still a very desirable book. However, it will sell for 5% to 15% lower than higher graded books.

Very Fine + (8.5)

A Very Fine+ Book is well desired book, it will lay flat and the colors will still be rich. Overall a Very Fine+ book is in great shape and may show signs of reading. The book may have some spine wear and 1 1/2 inch cover crease that barely breaks color is allowable. Minor spine split and some minor color breaks are allowed at this grade as well. Corners can have some minor wear too.

Interior Page Colors

 

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted3″ bend middle back cover

Some slightly more noticeable stress lines allowed and paper can be Cream to Tan but must remain supple and not be brittle.

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 12 64 5
Off-White/White 19 98 5
Off-White 1 7 7
Total Books 32 169 5
8.5 Very Fine + : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 5
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
light bend top back cover
small amount of soiling middle spine back cover
general wear to cover, some breaks color
light spine wear & stress some breaks color
small bend through book top right corner with crease front & back cover barely breaks color
1½” crease by top spine front cover barely breaks color
creasing bottom right corner front cover breaks color
light bends top spine
spine wear & stress breaks color
creasing top edge at spine & small crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color
small amount of distributor ink top front & back cover
spine stress breaks color, 1″ crease top spine breaks color, bends through book
1″ bend top spine back cover
very tiny chip bottom left corner back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color tiny wear bottom right corner front cover breaks color
1.5″ crease top edge back cover does not break color
few small light stains back cover
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
1″ corner crease bottom left back cover does not break color
long bend top back cover
bends left back cover
few light spine stress
light stains top back cover
spine stress, some breaks color
some crinkle bends to cover
many indents center front cover
general cover wear & crinkle bends to cover
spine stress breaks color
small creases right bottom rf barely breaks color
light staple rust
rust stains back cover spine
few spine stress breaks color
small crease top spine breaks color
tanning cover & interior cover
minor edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
tiny piece missing top left corner back cover
thin sunshadow right edge front cover & left edge back cover
tiny wear on spine breaks color
3″ bend middle back cover through book
tiny wear bottom edge front cover breaks color
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
light bend top back cover
small amount of soiling middle spine back cover
general wear to cover, some breaks color
small amount of general wear to cover, some breaks color
small creases bottom right corner front cover breaks color
tanning edge interior cover
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny tear bottom edge back cover
1″ crease top left corner back cover does not break color that bends through book
spine wear & tiny stress breaks color, light surface wear top spine front cover breaks color
tiny spine stress breaks color
few very light fingerprints middle back cover
light creasing top edge, tiny wear top & right edge front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color, 5/8″ crease top left corner back cover does not break color
few small light stains & fingerprints to cover
few light fingerprints back cover
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
bends & very tiny tear top edge front cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
small amount of general wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny spine stress & creasing top edge front cover breaks color
thin sunshadow top & left edge back cover
date stamp in logo
tiny spine stress breaks color
writing indents front cover below logo, does not break color
tiny wear top & bottom spine
small amount of foxing to cover
tiny creasing bottom right corner front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light wear top & bottom right corners front cover breaks color
back cover detached from top staple
tiny spine stress breaks color
back cover detached from bottom staple
several small indents to cover, does not break color
tiny wear top & bottom edge front cover
light wear bottom right corner front cover, top & bottom spine
light creasing right edge front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
top edge wear & bends
spine stress barely breaks color
light foxing right edge front cover
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light wear to front cover, some breaks color
light foxing to cover
manufacturing crease bottom right front cover
minor spine stress breaks color
light 1.5″ creases bottom front cover breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
tiny tear top edge back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light tanning edges cover & interior cover
spine stress breaks color
light tanning edge back cover & interior cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light tanning edge interior cover
2 tiny tears at bottom staple
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light foxing & light sunshadow top edge back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear some barely breaks color

Very Fine  (8.0)

8.0 Front

8.0 Front

8.0 Back

8.0 Back

A Very Fine graded book has been read, but has also been protected. It’s been bagged and boarded at an early time and shows some stress and reading marks. The spine of the book may show signs of being worn. There can be small color rubs and scratches. This is the first grade point to allow for some spine roll. However, the book should lay flat.

Interior Page Colors

The grader's notes listed out 4 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted1.75″ crease right edge front cover breaks color

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 5 29 5
Off-White/White 7 46 6
Off-White 2 6 3
Cream/Off-White 1 7 7
Total Books 15 88 5
8.0 Very Fine + : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 5
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few small light stains to cover, tanning edge interior cover
tiny hole by spine back cover
spine stress breaks color
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & tiny stress breaks color, light surface wear front cover
few light fingerprints middle back cover
small tear top left corner front cover
light foxing cover & interior cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
minor spine stress barely breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny crease top right corner front cover breaks color, 3/4″ crease bottom spine back cover partially breaks color
small edge & corner wear some breaks color
light wear top right corner & bottom edge front cover breaks color
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
small light stains & some foxing spine back cover
tiny wear on spine & all 4 corners front cover breaks color
small crease right edge front cover breaks color
few tiny light stains back cover
light creasing bottom right corner front barely breaks color color, creasing left edge back cover does not break color
spine wear & stress breaks color
date stamp front cover
tiny spine stress & light 1.75″ crease top right corner front cover barely breaks color
2 small creases left edge back cover does not break color, few light fingerprints left edge back cover
spine stress & tiny creasing bottom edge front cover breaks color
few light fingerprints right edge front cover
several light stains back cover
several light stains back cover
spine stress breaks color
light spine wear & stress some breaks color
light edge & corner wear & a couple of small creases some breaks color
small chip mid top edge back cover
centerfold partially detached at top staple
light foxing back cover
minor rust on staples with tiny transfer stains
light spine wear, creasing & stress some breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
sunshadow top, bottom & left edge back cover
creases top left corner back cover dncb
spine stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
5/8″ tear left edge back cover
spine wear & stress barely breaks color
tanning edges back cover & interior cover
light tanning top & bottom edge interior cover
spine stress barely breaks color
tiny tear top front cover
tiny chip top right corner front cover & top left corner back cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color

The Grader’s Notes for books at this grade level and below will start to group the defects. You will see the notes point to sections of the book to refer to the defects; this is due to the number of individual defects being greater than five. The book is almost the same as an (8.5) but with some very minor spine roll. The book must lay almost completely flat.

Very Fine – (7.5)

7.5 Front

7.5 Front

7.5 back

7.5 Back

A Very Fine – is the low end of the spectrum for Very Fine category. The book may show some spine wear, have some spine breaks, some small tears on the cover are acceptable, the corners may be blunted, small stains and some debris is allowed, and moisture rippling is acceptable. The book should lay flat and the gloss can have some imperfections. Overall it is a desirable book, with some flaws.

Interior Page Colors

 

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Notedlight 2″ crease middle front cover breaks color

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 12 83 6
Off-White/White 22 139 6
Off-White 7 42 6
Total Books 41 264 6
7.5 Very Fine – : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 6
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
moisture rippling top right corner through book
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
few light stains top spine back cover
few light fingerprints near top staple front cover
few light fingerprints left edge back cover
small creasing top right corner front cover breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
edge & corner wear to cover, breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
manufactured with 1 staple
spine stress & creasing top spine breaks color, tiny tear at staple
light 1/2″ stain middle spine & few pages
many tiny spots of paper loss right edge front cover, 1/2″ crease top right corner front cover breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
small amount of bends & creasing to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
light fingerprint left edge back cover
small amount of color lift front cover, color transfer back cover
tiny spine stress breaks color
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
sig verified by CSA
some spine stress breaks color
long vertical bend-crease middle right front cover, part barely breaks color
fingerprint smudges right front cover
1/2″ stain through top of book
spine stress breaks color
2/3″ stain bottom left back cover
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
foxing to cover & interior cover
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
moisture rippling top right corner through book
1″ crease back cover part b
small amount of creasing & wear to front cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
2 very small tears off spine back cover
several light stains back cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny tear top edge front cover
spine stress breaks color, small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few light stains middle back cover
spine stress breaks color
several light fingerprints back cover
small amount of bends & creasing to cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color, few tiny edge tears to cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few small very light stains back cover & 1 right edge front cover
light dirt to back cover
long semi-circle bend left breaks color
wear on spine near top corner breaks color
surface wear & small amount of creasing front cover breaks color
1/2″ tear top edge of 8th page
few bends & light creasing left edge back cover, does not break color
light wear top & bottom spine
light creasing top & right edge front cover breaks color
writing indents front cover below logo does not break color
tiny spine stress breaks color
1.75″ crease right edge front cover breaks color
staple rust
spine wear & stress breaks color
creasing right edge front cover breaks color
3/8″ stain top right corner through book
spine stress, small crease & tiny wear top right corner front cover breaks color
light spine wear & stress some breaks color
small tear & crease bottom edge front cover barely breaks color
small chip bottom spine
few creases off spine back cover do not break color
few tiny spots of surface wear front cover
light wear top & bottom spine
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing to front cover breaks color
light wear bottom right corner front cover, top & bottom spine
2 tiny tears & creasing left edge back cover does not break color
spine stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear spots to cover
small tear left back cover
spine edge wear breaks color
spine stress breaks color
tiny tears & light edge creases top back cover does not break color
1/2″ stain top front cover edge
light bends to cover
1.5″ crease right of logo breaks color
light wear top & bottom spine
spine stress breaks color
light wear top & right edge front cover
few tiny bends & creases to cover, some breaks color
few tiny, light stains to cover
small, light stain left edge back cover
light soiling to cover
wavy indents bottom edge through book, does not break color
creasing bottom spine front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
very light soiling back cover
moderate color rubbing to front cover
spine stress breaks color
tiny tear right edge front cover
fingerprint stain upper left edge back cover
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
color rub middle spine breaks color
foxing on spine back cover
few spine stress breaks color
light 1/2″ crease right edge front cover breaks color
few light stains back cover near top staple
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
light 2″ crease middle front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light creasing between staples, front cover, breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
minor spine stress breaks color
small amount of foxing to cover & pages
small chip bottom back cover
spine stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light wear front cover, some barely breaks color
light crease through book top left corner, barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light tanning edges back cover & interior cover
light edge edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
tiny pieces missing left edge back cover
tiny piece missing bottom left corner back cover
light tanning edge cover & interior cover
spine stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
tanning edges back cover & interior cover
light 1″ crease bottom right corner front cover, barely breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny tear & crease bottom edge front cover
small substance bottom front cover
tanning edges cover & interior cover
front cover detached from top staple
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light spine wear & stress breaks color
1/2″ crease with very tiny tear left edge back cover barely breaks color
tiny chip bottom left corner back cover
light tanning edge back cover & interior cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
light tanning edges interior cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
1″ crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light tanning back cover & interior cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
light crease bottom edge back cover
spine stress breaks color

As with 8.0 comics the cover can have light cover soiling and some interior pages can have slight corner tears. Additionally, the cover can have some corner wear as well.

Fine Comics

The comics in the Fine category have been read and will show signs of handling and wear. A Fine book will most likely show stress lines on the spine and it may have creases from repeated opening and closing, most likely due to reading and handling.

Grade Short Num AVG Defects Max
Fine / Very Fine F/VF 7.0 6 10
Fine + F+ 6.5 7 11
Fine F 6.0 7 12
Fine – F- 5.5 6 13

Since the defects list in the grader’s notes are grouped together and described as groups of defects, the actual number of defects in the grader's notes are not as clear cut as a higher grade book. Recall that, due to fewer defects, higher grade books will list out the individual issues. This is the reason that the number of defects that were noted is so much smaller than what is permissible in the Overstreet Grading Guide. PLEASE use Overstreet’s Max number of defects when estimating the grade of your book.

Books in the Fine category can have one major defect such as a larger piece missing from the cover, a long tear, or a detached centerfold. With the absence of many other defects, the cover can be detached from one staple, but the cover cannot be completely detached from the interior.

Fine Books can have a light reading or subscription crease and may even have a rolled spine. The books will show some cover discoloration. The colors may be fading. The cover and/or inside pages could have some tears and/or folds. The book may also seem off centered if only by a little.

 

Fine / Very Fine (7.0)

Front of 7.0

Front of 7.0

Back of 7.0

Back of 7.0

Moderate reduction of cover reflectivity, minor creases allowed, minor foxing, interior cover yellowing, date stamps, initials, and store stamps are allowed. Slight rust migration allowed, blunted corners, and minor margin tears on interior pages are also allowed. Deeper and greater stress lines are also allowable.

Interior Page Colors

Interior Page Colors

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted3.5″ crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 8 49 6
Off-White/White 18 119 6
Off-White 3 26 8
Total Books 29 194 6
7.0 Fine / Very Fine – : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 6
spine wear & stress breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few light fingerprints to cover
spine wear & stress breaks color, tiny scrape below logo breaks color
creasing top edge front cover breaks color, 2.5″ crease left edge back cover does not break color
manufactured with 1 staple
light tanning to edge of interior cover
light soiling back cover
tiny wear middle spine, tiny creasing near right edge front cover & light wear bottom edge front cover breaks color
5/8″ piece missing top edge front cover & tiny piece missing top edge back cover
spine stress & creasing bottom spine breaks color
3/8″ stain bottom spine
3/4″ crease bottom left corner back cover does not break color
edge & corner wear front cover breaks color, small crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color
light wear bottom spine breaks color
spine stress breaks color
small amount of color lift front cover, color transfer back cover
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
wear middle spine front cover breaks color
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few long horizontal indents middle front cover does not break color
spine stress breaks color
small scratches front cover breaks color
few tiny light stains middle back cover
erasure marks on logo
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
few light stains middle spine back cover, small maount of soiling along spine back cover
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
few tiny edge tears to cover
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
3/8″ piece missing bottom spine back cover
thin light stain top spine -see interior
tiny wear top & bottom edge front cover breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color, few tiny light stains front cover
small amount of bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
several light fingerprints left edge back cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
minor tear left edge back cover
tiny spine stress breaks color, 2 small tears right edge front cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
small light stain above coupon back cover
tiny spine stress breaks color
3.5″ crease bottom right corner front cover breaks color,small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
fwe light stains & small amount of foxing to cover
few tiny light stains to cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
edge & corner wear breaks color
erasure mark back cover
small amount of creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
small amount of foxing to cover & 1st wrap
tiny spine wear & stress breaks color
light rubbing along spine & all 3 edges back cover
back cover detached from bottom staple & almost detached from front cover
light spine wear & stress some breaks color
light soiling & foxing front & back cover
½” vertical tear with 3″ bend bottom edge back cover
tiny impact top & bottom spine
½” vertical tear mid top edge front cover
light tanning to cover
spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing to cover, some breaks color
few tiny stains & light soiling to cover
creases top back cover does not break color
few tiny, light stains to cover
spine stress breaks color
light surface wear front cover
few tiny indents top edge front cover does not break color
light wear bottom right corner front cover, top & bottom spine
very light tanning interior cover edges
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
thin 1.5″ stain interior front cover near bottom staple
few spine stress breaks color
tanning to spine back cover & edges interior cover
sunshadow bottom edge back cover
1.5″ stain bottom spine back cover
round 3/4″ sticker interior front cover, bottom spine with discoloration on front cover
staining on interior cover along spine, front & back cover
spine stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
1/4″ tear top edge back cover
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
light foxing to cover & pages
light edge & corner wear, some breaks color
minor spine stress breaks color
tiny piece & 1/2″ piece missing left edge back cover
few light stains front & back cover
light foxing to cover
tiny piece missing bottom left corner back cover
light tanning edges back cover & interior cover
spine stress breaks color
two 1/2″ indents upper front cover, does not break color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
front cover detached from bottom staple
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
several light stains back cover
pre-marvel chipping upper right edge front cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
tiny tear on “right” upper front cover
small piece missing left edge back cover
sunshadow top & left edge back cover
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
1 1/2″ of chipping right edge front cover
light staining front & back cover
spine stress breaks color

A F/ VF copy has minor defects, but is in overall excellent condition. Most well-kept modern comics (especially if they have been read) fall into this grade category. Acceptable defects on F/VF books are minor and include: minor corner wear, a light accumulation of spine stress that may include color-breaking, a light accumulation of dents, and bends or folds less than 1/4″ (note that on F/VF copies, larger color-breaks are allowed in bends/folds).

Fine+ 6.5

Books with slightly brittle pages cannot grade higher than (6.5) and generally are lower in grade. Pages and inside covers can be brownish but not brittle. Fine + category books allow for no greater than a 1/4 inch spine split and/or a severe color break.

Interior Page Colors

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted1.75″ crease bottom left corner front cover breaks color

Page color Books Total Num Defects Avg Defects
White 6 38 6
Off-White/White 9 71 7
Off-White 1 8 8
Total Books 16 117 7
6.5 Fine + : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 7
spine stress & creasing along spine breaks color
sunshadows
light 1″ & 1.5″ stain bottom left front cover
tiny tears & creasing left edge back cover does not break color
few light fingerprints bottom edge back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color, tiny tear at top staple
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
2 tiny tears left edge back cover
1/2″ stain bottom spine
spine stress breaks color, creasing & wear all 3 edges front cover breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
bends & wear top edge front cover breaks color
many small light stains top edge front cover & 1st page
tiny writing in pencil on logo
few small light stains back cover, many tiny light stains bottom edge back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
3/8″ stain bottom spine & 1.25″ stain top edge through book
tiny wear & light creasing top edge front & back cover breaks color
spine wear & tiny st breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
2 long creases back cover barely breaks color
spine wear, creasing & stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear & creasing some breaks color
1″ crease bottom left corner back cover does not break color
tiny spine stress breaks color
2 light 1″ creases bottom edge back cover does not break color
light sunshadow bottom edge back cover
tiny wear top & bottom spine
cover & 1st wrap detached bottom staple
many light stains back cover
tiny creasing top right corner front cover breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light wear top & bottom spine
light wear top edge front cover
light soiling back cover
surface wear to front cover
creasing right edge front cover breaks color
3/4″ stain bottom left corner back cover & through few pages
1.75″ crease bottom left corner front cover breaks color, bends through book
light wear top & bottom spine
tiny stain bottom edge back cover
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light creasing & wear front & back cover, some barely breaks color
3/4″ piece missing top left corner back cover & 1/2″ piece missing bottom edge back cover
spine stress barely breaks color
tanning edge cover & interior cover
sunshadow lower left edge & bottom edge back cover
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
7th & 8th pages Siamese at lower right edge
small piece missing bottom edge back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
1″ crease bottom right corner through book, barely breaks color
sunshadow 1/3rd back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
light creasing front & back cover, some breaks color
tiny surface tear lower right front cover
light staining front & back cover
light tanning edges cover & interior cover
minor wear front & back cover, some barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
front cover detached from top staple
tiny chip bottom right corner front cover

Minor spine rolls also allowed and covers may have some minor discoloration, staining and/or foxing as well as minor to moderate cover creases

Fine 6.0

As with (6.5) graded books, the cover may be detached by one staple and the centerfold may be loose but not detached.

Interior Page Colors

Interior Page Colors

The grader's notes listed out 3 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted10″ vertical crease mid front cover

Page color Books Num Defects Avg Defects
White 5 36 7
Off-White/White 7 50 7
Off-White 1 8 8
Total Books 13 94 7
6.0 Fine  : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 7
few tiny light stains near top edge front cover
spine stress & creasing along spine breaks color
creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
2 small light stains bottom spine back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color, small bottom spine split
cover detached from bottom staple
spine stress breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
tiny writing in pencil on logo
spine wear & stress breaks color
few small light stains to cover
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
some edge wear to cover breaks color
tiny spot of substance bottom left front cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
creases front cover breaks color
spine tear & creasing along spine breaks color
creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
several light fingerprints left edge & light soiling along spine back cover
light spine wear & stress some breaks color
small writing in pencil on logo front cover
10″ vertical crease mid front cover does not break color
spine wear, creasing & stress breaks color
light edge & corner wear, tears & creasing some breaks color
top staple slightly recessed with tiny tears
small chip off bottom front cover
fingerprints left back cover
small chip off bottom front cover
fingerprints left back cover
light 1″ stain below logo
spine wear & stress breaks color
light vertical 3″ crease top edge front cover breaks color, bends through book
few light stains bottom right back cover
creasing top right corner & right edge front cover breaks color
light wear right & bottom edge front cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
small amount of creasing front cover breaks color
light wear top & bottom spine
stain on front cover spine below bottom staple
soiling to cover
many tiny spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing to cover, some breaks color
surface wear front cover
light creasing & wear front & back cover, some barely breaks color
3 3/4″ stain top edge front cover
edge & corner wear, some breaks color
spine wear & stress breaks color
1/4″ top spine split
light creasing right side front cover breaks color
edge & corner wear, some barely breaks color
spine stress breaks color
front cover detached bottom staple
light 2″ crease bottom right corner through book, barely breaks color

Fine- 5.5

The books in this category may have the same defects as higher grades, but may include: Marvel Chipping (see previous articles for details) as well as some bundling ridges and minor abraded edges. Additionally, light pencil marks are permissible as well.

Interior Page Colors

Interior Page Colors

The grader's notes listed out 2 different page colors in the sample that we examined.

Largest Defect Noted10.25″ crease front cover breaks color

Page color Books Num Defects Avg Defects
White 4 22 5
Off-White/White 5 35 7
Total Books 9 57 6
5.5 Fine – : Acceptable Defects – Average Number of Defects: 6
cover detached from top staple
spine wear & stress breaks color, several tiny light stains top spine, top & bottom edge front cover
sunshadow front & back cover, tanning to edge of interior cover
small amount of general wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress does not break color 10.25″ crease front cover breaks color
tiny tear right edge front cover, few small light stains back cover
spine wear & stress breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
slight tanning edges interior cover
many bends to cover, small amount of creasing to cover, some breaks color
many light scratches back cover, some breaks color
many light stains back cover
spine wear, stress & creasing along spine breaks color
bends, creasing & wear to cover, some breaks color
creasing, bends & wear to cover, some breaks color
spine stress & creasing along spine breaks color
1½” vertical tear mid top edge back cover
spine wear, creasing & stress some breaks color
small chip bottom edge back cover
light wear top spine front cover
front cover & 1st wrap detached from bottom staple
tiny spine stress breaks color
small amount of creasing to cover
light soiling to cover
2″ crease top left corner back cover does not break color, bends through several pages
staining bottom left front cover
edge & corner wear breaks color
spine stress breaks color
tiny indents top back cover, dncb
front cover detached from both staples

It is imperative that every collector know the defect limits of each grade point. This will help the collector spot good investment books. The grader’s notes referenced in this article are only a small sample – the conclusions may change if the sample size is increased. Collectors also want to be on the lookout for books that are in the Fine Grades because many of the defects on those books may be non-color breaking issues that could be pressed out (conserving), increasing the books grade and value dramatically.

Conservation

Mid-grade comic books are usually good candidates for conservation. The main form of conservation is known as “pressing” and should be done by an experienced professional with a reputable track record. A press is typically a dry mount press that a comic book is placed into. The press is heated up and a combination of moisture and pressure is gently and systematically applied to the comic book.

This mixture of gentle pressure, moisture, and heat will flatten the book back to its original state and will remove minor non-color breaking defects.

Minor defects include: dents, folds, creases, spine rolls, and other miscellaneous minor defects that may affect the overall grade of the book.

Pressing

The first Grader’s Notes article briefly discussed pressing and the notion that pressing is NOT CONSIDERED a restoration. It is seen as conservation, because it is extending the life of the book. When buying raw copies of mid grade books, collectors should always be on the lookout for books that have “pressable defects.”

Before Pressing After Pressing
Before Pressing After Pressing

In many cases a book with bends, creases and folds can be pressed to a flat state which will raise the overall grade of the book. Defects on books can be broken into two categories: Pressable defects and Un-pressable defects. It is important to be able to identify these defects and perhaps increase the value of the book!

Pressable Defects

A Pressable Defect is any defect that can be restored with a little heat and gentle pressure.

A few examples of pressable defects are listed below:

Dents
Small dents on a book can usually be repaired by pressing them out. Any indention that does not break color can usually be restored to its original state.
Bends and Folds
Books that have bends, bumps, or folds that do not break color can usually be flattened with a good press.
Waves
If you find a book that is “wavy” or has “ruffles or ripples” in the book, most of the time a good press can remove the waves with no little to no residual effect.
Spine Stress / Bends
If a book has several folds on the spine or has a slight roll it can be fixed and restored back into a nice flat book.

UnPressable Defects

There are several things that a press cannot fix or restore. A press cannot replace color. If you can see the white of the Cover’s paper then there is not enough heat or pressure that can restore the color back into the book.

Below is a list of a few defects that a press cannot fix.

 

Unpressible Defects

UnPressible Defects
Color Rubs

  1. Color Breaks: Color breaks occur when there is a fold or a crease that causes a rip in the cover of the comic. With a color break you will see the pure white of the paper
  2. Color Rubs: Color rubs are abrasions that have rubbed through the glossy layer of a comic and parts of the color that are printed on the book are rubbed away as well.
  3. Stains: a press will not remove stains. However, it may remove some debris from a cover.

Unpressible Defect

UnPressable Defect
Color Breaking Crease After Press

For more information on pressing, ask an expert. Pressing a book before you submit it for grading will usually result in a higher grade. Be sure to learn the differences between the two types of defects when looking at raw, mid-grade comics. Many speculators invest in books that are “Fine” in grade and press the defects to achieve higher grades and greater value.

The result of a good pressing is that a book once graded as “Fine” before a press may be graded as “Very Fine” after the press. The increase in grade will most likely increase the value of the book; significantly, if you’re lucky! It’s important to learn the difference between “Very Fine” and “Fine” grade comic books in order to maximize your profits!

If you have any tips, tricks, or guidelines that you follow when grading a mid-grade comic please comment below.

As always, this article is NOT meant to be the definitive guide on grading. However, it is designed to help you estimate what grade your may receive from a grading company should you decide to submit. Remember, grading is subjective. How I grade may not be how other people grade. I highly suggest that you purchase and read Overstreet’s Grading guide. Happy hunting! Happy collecting!

 

Helpful Links

 

  1. Overstreet Grading Guide is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Overstreet-Guide-Grading-Comics-2015/dp/1603601678/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463142868&sr=8-1&keywords=overstreet+grading+guide
  2. OWL cards are available here: http://gemstonepub.com/owl-card
  3. A great article on Paper and how it ages is available here: Talking Pages and Paper (a must read for all collectors.)
  4. CGC: https://www.cgccomics.com/
  5. PGX: http://pgxcomics.com/
  6. CBCS: https://www.cbcscomics.com/

 

Special Thanks to The Forgotten Five Comics, Justin W., and Trey for supplying pictures. A special thanks to Dr. Ricardo Lumbreras for editing.

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