Comic Book Grading – part 1

Comic Grading – Part 1 a bit of history

Back in the day, that is B.O. (Before Overstreet), we collectors had a simple way of grading our comic books. Let’s call it the 4 point system and here they are in a nutshell:

  • “That comic looks brand new!”
  • “That comic is in fantastic condition”
  • “That comic is in good condition”
  • “That comic is in lousy condition”

Pretty simple…right? Grading comic book conditions are most subjective in nature. Whenever there is a human being involved in judging something, all sorts of biases creep into the equation. Most of them are not on purpose; they are simply built into our brains. Things like favorite colors and desirable color combinations. Is the cover artist one of your favorites? Does the date when you first saw or read this comic remind you of a good time in your life or maybe a time you’d rather forget? Do you prefer a matt finish or a glossy one? How were the conditions of the last 10 comics you just looked at? This is, but a short list. With all of these biases, it’s no wonder that two individuals usually will grade a comic differently. So it’s important to keep the grading system simple, isn’t it?

So, the 4 point system seemed to work pretty well until the autumn of 1970 when the first Overstreet Price Guide was issued. Actually the first ever comic price guide issued was  “The Argosy Price Guide” which was published in 1965, specifically for the Argosy Book Store in California. But Overstreet had much bigger territory to conquer and his book established a new grading scale.

In 1970, Mr Overstreet introduced us to a new way of grading comics. Let’s call it the 7 point system and here they are in a nutshell:

  • Mint (M)
  • Near Mint (NM)
  • Fine (F)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Good (G)
  • Fair (F)
  • Poor (P)

So let’s equate the 7 point comic grading system with the 4 point that went before:

  • “That comic looks brand new” = Mint or Near Mint
  • “That comic is in fantastic condition” = Fine or Very Good”
  • “The comic is in good condition” = Good
  • “That comic is in lousy condition” = Fair or Poor

Pretty consistent between the 4 point and 7 point system, and you know even for the experienced collector, this increase to the number of possible ratings was subjective to the point where the 7 point system began to spawn regular differences of opinion how one collector saw a comic versus the other. Hint…often the owner of the comic in question, usually saw it in a higher grade than the prospective buyer. Kind of like negotiating a contract…

This was the early evolution of the comic grading system. If you go back to the original unofficial grading system (the 4 pointer), there was little quibbling about relative conditions.

End of part 1.

Stay tuned for next week as we continue to explore the evolution of the comic book grading system.

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