Plastic Caskets: Why I Dislike Graded Comics
I've never been a fan of graded comics and as I get back into the realm of buying and reading books, I can't help but realize just how badly it's gotten. It seems every book pre-bronze age has been encased in a plastic casket. While dealers and niche investors seem to love it, I only stand to dislike it more and more with each book I see.
As the days progressed, and I exposes myself more and more to the world of comics again, the thought of this concept grated on my nerves more and more. The more I saw them, the more I couldn't stand them. I wanted to slap the dealers selling them and break all the books free of their slabs.
Because it continued to infuriate me, I decided to sit down and think about this horrendous and idiotic concept in hopes of getting to the root of what bothered me so much about it, writing down points as they came to me. As I sorted through my list of notes, I found that each one fell into one of three categories.
Category 1: Self Professed Experts
CGC, PXG, CBCS and all the others out there are nothing more than self professed experts and there is no "official" guideline to grading comics. When you get down to the heart of it, you're relying on the opinion of the individual grader who is looking at your book. Further, and most importantly, opinions are subjective. Typically, they're only relevant to those who agree with them.
More so a result of there being no official guideline, these people can make mistakes, and have. Was the grader tired? Did they just want to get through their mandated pile of books for the day? Was it a friend of theirs they were helping out? All of these factors weigh into the process, and all have potential positive or negative implications. You may have noticed that small crease in the spine, but either the grader didn't, or conveniently chose not to.
Which leads to another problem with this whole system. VIP customers have been rumored to get preferential treatment and leniency when grading their books. More so shocking is the allegations of books being swapped out for lesser quality ones. While I can't personally attest to any of this, I can tell you it doesn't help boost my feelings on the system of grading comics.
Category 2: Inflated Prices
Price points in any guide are subjective to begin with. However, a mint book assessed at $3,000.00 isn't worth more than this just because you encase it in plastic. It's still the same book and it's still in the same condition. This mindset of dealers and individual sellers that a graded comic somehow garners a 500% markup is asinine.
Further, this affect trickles into the regular market of non-slabbed books. I can't tell you how many comics I've seen with inflated prices simply for the fact of keeping in line with graded ones. It's ridiculous.
Worst of all, it prices people out of the hobby. Sure, I get it. Rare books are going to be worth more than common ones. However, when dealers actively look for ways to inflate their prices, they cut out the average comic enthusiast who can't afford books anymore.
If you want to see all of this in practice, look no further than The Amazing Spider-Man issue 208. This is a comic people have in their comic box to fill a hole between 207 and 209, nothing more. I've never met anyone who was actively seeking this issue out for its content. On a good day, this comic will sell for two to three dollars. CGC graded, this book has sold for forty to fifty dollars. Why? It's still the same book nobody wants.
Category 3: Comics Are For Reading
You'll notice in my entire post that this is the first time you will see the word "collect" in any form or fashion. There's a reason for this. From my perspective, a true comic book enthusiast doesn't collect comics. They buy comics to read and enjoy. The end result just so happens to be that you end up with a collection of them over time.
This brings me to my last point, and my biggest disdain for graded books. Comics are for reading. Slabbed books can't be read. As a result, these become useless.
Back when I was going to local comic shops, the purpose of getting a comic was to take it home and read it. Enjoy the story and artwork. Absorb all of it and in the process of doing so, learn to draw comics myself.
When you seal a comic book in plastic you take away it's main purpose. To be read. You no longer want to have it to read it. You just want to have it to have it. Would you buy a sandwich just to stare at it? Probably not (if you have any sense of intelligence). So why do that with a comic book?
While I'm sure this post will be filed under, "Just another internet rant," it served its purpose for me to get it from my head to digital paper. At the very least, now that I have it at the forefront of my mind, I can speak coherently on the subject if I ever get into it with a dealer at a shop or show.
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