“Coverless Plus” isn’t a real grade, but IT SHOULD BE.

§ July 18th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So the other day one of my regulars dropped by with a comic book he’d purchased via mail order, and he wanted my opinion on its grade. It was sold (and indeed, the backing board was marked) as a “9.0,” which works out to be Very Fine to Near Mint in Overstreet Price Guide terms. (It should be noted that this was not a Professionally-Graded-Sealed-in-a-Plastic-Slab comic, but a “raw” (as collectors’ cant would have it) funnybook in a mere bag and board in common use amongst we mere mortals.) Anyway, I gave the book a quick once-over and had to break the news that, given the few spine creases, a couple of which were color-breaking, plus some minor rounding/softness at the corners of the spine, this couldn’t be in VF/NM. At best, maybe a low Fine, or perhaps a VG/F if I hadn’t had my Diet Coke that day. (And since I haven’t had a Diet Coke for a few months, that comic’s darn lucky I didn’t grade it Coverless Plus.)

It sounds like he’ll be able to return it, which is good, but this particular interaction did make me feel a little better about my own grading abilities. It’s…not something that comes terribly easily to me, probably the part of the job that feels most like “work” (aside from the whole “taxes” thing, and having to deal with Ian). Mostly, at the previous place of employment, I didn’t do much with the “grading and pricing back issues” thing. That was left to my old boss Ralph, mostly for the sake of consistency in grading standards and price levels, while I mostly focused on…well, everything else regarding said backstock. I’d check for missing issues, pull stuff out of the back, bag ’em and tag ’em, put ’em in alphabetical order in the To Be Priced boxes, and after Ralph priced them all up, I’d put them all away in their appropriate spots. If someone wanted to know a grade on a certain issue, more often than not all I’d have to do if flip the comic over, look at the sticker on the back where Ralph placed the grade, and then happily reply “Sir, this copy of Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior #6. guest-starring Nightcrawler of the X-Men, is in VF- condition!” and that would be that. I certainly wasn’t unaware of comic conditions, and could do some general grading, but it just wasn’t my main thing at that shop…someone else did that, while I attended to other duties.

Now that I’m sailing alone on the seas of comics in my own ship…er, store, I can’t depend on Ralph to do that for me anymore. Which isn’t to say I don’t bend his ear once in a while whenever he drops by to ask him some grading questions whenever I find something that stumps me And sometimes he tells me “huh, I’m stumped too,” which makes feel a little better that someone with a lot more direct experience in comic grading can get a bit thrown on occasion. There are so many different things that you weirdos do to your comics that the variety of wear and damage and, um, engine fuel smells, and…er, beginnings of essays that Overstreet’s grading guide never dreamed of, that even old hands need to do a little guesswork and interpretation to put your dime down on a specific condition. It can take a lot of effort, and a not-insignificant amount of concentration, but as time goes by, I think I’m getting better at it. Plus, I find when I do a whole bunch in a row, I get into that “grading groove” and start knocking ’em out at a more reasonable pace.

Don’t get me wrong…grading can be a challenge at times, but it’s still “Mike gets to look at old comics all day and call that his ‘job'” so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. And as I said, my skills are improving…I’m a long way from calling that comic with the holes punched with a pen through the center and the tape and the missing back cover a Very Fine Plus. I know now that’s clearly no better than a VF.

3 Responses to ““Coverless Plus” isn’t a real grade, but IT SHOULD BE.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Oh man, for a couple years in the late 2000s, I was buying group lots on Ebay, keeping issues I liked, and reselling the rest individually. I could actually make enough money doing it to pay for my hobby, but the shipping was too much of a pain so I eventually quit doing it.

    I always tried to do a careful job with my own grading, using the Overstreet criteria, and think I did a pretty good job. But for comics I bought from others? Unless there was a good picture provided for the auction, I eventually stopped buying sight unseen. People simply have no idea how to grade, or engage in too much wishful thinking. Why is it so hard for folks to grade their own stuff fairly?

  • googum says:

    I may actually be hording copies of Crystar #6…I keep buying cheap copies when I see it!

  • philip says:

    Well, if it were me grading comics, I’d probably do about two a day. I’d get the first one and start reading and then geek out on all the cool comics I had and forget what I was supposed to be doing. I would also fail as a comic retailer because I would always buy more than I would be willing to part with. I would just do a daily Unca Scrooge-esque swim through my vault of comics.

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