Who’s Afraid of Ghosts?
“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way”
Who’s Afraid of
Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. This week we are going to discuss the change continuing within the slabbed comic community. Specifically within the CGG Census.
In order to make sure we are all on the same page, what is this exactly? Well let’s ask them directly:
“The CGC Census is a detailed report of the comics, magazines and lobby cards graded by CGC, listing the total number of CGC-certified examples in each grade for every issue. Whether you're researching a book's rarity, or simply curious about what's out there, the CGC Census provides a quick and easy way to browse the most comprehensive comic book database.”
Alright, so with that, my understanding is when a book enters the Census it is recorded for accuracy and authenticity. It is then given a 10 digit number which reflects that specific book right? So what happens if that book is removed and then re-submitted? Well, it receives another new shiny case and a new set of 10 digits.
Wait! Then what happens to that other version which was recorded in their system? It becomes a “Ghost Book”. There is a record of it, but it no longer exists. What does a mass collection of these books do to skew the system? In addition, with the ever evolving ways to help comics with grading, what becomes of this Census?
Is it nothing more than a guide? Finally, we take a look at the argument of the validity that rarity and/or census numbers should determine values.
Should we be concerned about these ghosts?
This piece was written to generate thoughts, discussion, and collaboration. It is in no means a judgement against anyone, including myself. Alright with that, let’s look at a few different layers of this. First, we will examine books that are considered “rare”. Here are some numbers as an example. CGC Census shows a particular book has 25 9.8s, and 75 9.6s.
Two things come to mind. First, if there are only 100 total 9.8-9.6s combined, then it must be a hard book to get in high grade right? Second, are there really 75 9.6s out there? If, let’s say, an average ⅓ of books returned as a 9.6 or below are cracked due to the increased popularity of slabbing and Comics in general, how accurate are these Census numbers?
Finally, is this hypothetical book truly that rare in high grade? I know, print run plays a factor into this of course. Ultimately, is the ROI on 9.8s bloated on a self made, concocted supply and demand?
“The difference between a 9.6, 9.8 and 10 grade comics may be imperceptible to the non-expert, but distinctions at the top of the scale create nearly logarithmic differences in price. Chances are the headline-making prices for certain issues are for the best known copy of that issue, in the nearly impossible-to-obtain 9.8 or 10 conditions. Even a 9.2 (near-mint, aka “pretty darn nice”) copy of a collectible book can sell for 25% or less of the price of a 9.6, and 10% of a 10.” – Forbes Magazine
Interesting isn’t it, a .2 difference in a grade can sell for hundreds of dollars higher in some cases. Still this gap continues to grow. Who would not want to play in that market? In addition, the appreciation in slabbed comics vs. raw continue to separate as well with the almighty dollar tipping the scales to encase that book in plastic.
There are people who feel anything non 9.8 in the Modern market is not of max value. Furthermore, it could get more on the secondary market in raw form if it isn't a 9.8. This is true in some cases when you factor in the cost of shipping and encapsulation. Finally, arguments arise in which slabbing Modern books is a waste of money and time. That there is no real value to do this.
If money is your end goal in this market we are playing in now, that statement is false. All books? No. A select few? Yes! All this aforementioned information brings validity to this overall conversation. Do your homework and at the end of the day make the decision that’s best for you and no one else.
Okay let’s look at 90s books as they were heavily printed. Above is the breakdown from Brandon Susens' brilliant weekly piece Covering the Spread. The book is NM 98. Pay close attention to the discrepancy in 9.8s vs. 9.6s – it’s double. This can be said by many key books in this era. Even though there were more copies printed at this time, the supply leans heavily in the favor of acquiring the 9.8. Below is the actual census numbers for NM 98. Very interesting to see there is almost 1K less 9.6s vs. 9.8s.
In addition only 400 less 9.4s vs 9.6s. How accurate is this data truly? How many of those 9.6 books have hypothetically been cracked open, pressed, and resubmitted? We are all unsure. Unless we can implement non human error in grading, or stick to a strict regimen this will continue to be an unrealistic way in looking at the actual copies that are out there in slabbed form without changing grades…
Is this a bad thing? IMO you can liken it to sports. With more technology, interest, and advanced human genes athletes are throwing a ball harder, faster, or stronger. Golfers due to newer material clubs are reaching areas on the green that 20 years ago could not be done. Is this cheating? No, evolution. It does not change the way people look at older records, and or championships. In fact, they may be even more adored.
Comics follow a similar path.
People take interest and dedication to new ways of non material changing methods to help grades from CGC. This includes no fingerprints, bags and boards, no sunlight, etc. Now if someone wants to argue certain methods such as pressing a comic is restoration, well as of now it’s in the rule book. All that is occurring is the book is being flattened. Albeit it takes great skill to accomplish this in a professional manner.
Hell, the grading companies will do it for you themselves half heartedly, for a nominal fee of course. My point is we are changing the way we care and promote comic books. Many want the absolute best in their respective grades. If there is a way to better that, so be it. It smart, not reckless. There is too much money involved now to changes many opinions on this subject.
People just need to be aware of these circumstances when looking at a purchase. The volatility of this market is such that a hour, or day could make the difference in a final price. Use your research guides such as www.covrprice.com and check recent sales. This is much more of an accurate read on things. I mentioned the Modern books, however there is some cracking and resubmitting that goes on in the Bronze and Silver age as well.
In closing let’s speak to a couple of items:
- The value of comics is largely based on the perception of significance
- Continue to educate yourself about the market – it is ever evolving
- In terms of ROI – Condition rules all. In an effort to maximize profits, make every attempt possible to secure a 9.8 quality book
- Conservatism will move you along faster than haste. The tortoise and hare ring a bell?
- On the flip side – Drive the hype train, don’t be a passenger
There is a lot to be said on this subject and it would be great to hear your thoughts. We value data in this hobby, as it helps in decision making purchases. Yet that info needs to be one of clarity, not muddied waters. The Census is a tool, nothing more. Those out there that are newer to this, please take this into consideration.
Case and point – How many 181s have been re-submitted multiple times, thus continuing to drive up prices. Yet, there is more of them available? Does that sound like supply and demand? No, the supply is there, yet so is the increased pricing. That’s the crazy world we live in. The ironic part of that is we need the market healthy as it is now, it keeps the blood pumping and things alive.
So for those non believers, there are ghosts out there. Question is how do you deal with them?