Category Archives: Comic book Grading – Conditions

This category is to discuss comic book grading. The system used at and the evolution of the comic grading system. Has this been a good path for comics to follow?

Comic Book Grading part 2

Comic Grading – Part 2 grading evolution 

In part 1 we looked at how comics were graded prior to 1970 and Overstreet’s introduction of the 7 point rating system. As we shall see, the collecting boom was pushing the comic book grading system beyond this modest beginning!

Not content with a 7 point grading system, after all you must have a good round number correct? Doesn’t 10 sound much more complete than 7, of course it does? Plus with prices of key books rising for Golden Age comics and some of the Marvel’s from the 1960’s, the collector and investor market was starting to perk up. So, by the 1980’s the Overstreet price guide introduced three new levels of comic book grades. This produced the 10 point scale:

  • Pristine Mint
  • Mint
  • Near Mint
  • Very Fine
  • Fine
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Coverless

I don’t expect there will be any arguments over the last grade “Coverless” but come on, “Pristine Mint” versus “Mint”? That is like saying something is perfect in every way then saying OH!, we found something more perfect than perfect! This also meant that there were three different grades of mint, from pristine to near. I don’t know about you but “That comic looks brand new” is starting to look pretty good about now.

“Very Fine” versus “Fine” also spawned considerable heated discussion about the fine (no pun intended) line between the two.

Following a settling period, eventually the top grade “Pristine Mint” and the bottom grade “coverless” were dropped and we were back to a more reasonable 8 point scale:

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

Collectors and sellers seemed to like this simple system as arguments around the subjectiveness of comic grading were reduced to exploring the line between each of the 8 points. The 8 point scale is the one followed by Cyber Comics and Toys for many years and is used to this day. It covers enough of a range for our purposes. Details on what makes a comic equal one of those grades will come in part four.

Unfortunately, the 8 point scale lasted about 10 milliseconds before we had another new rating scale which after some tinkering settled on a 25 point scale. I won’t get into all the grading definitions of these but essentially it covers the grey areas between each of the 8 point scale ratings. Does this simplify things or does it increase the dispute over the subjective evaluations of what makes a comic VF+ versus VF versus VF- and so on?

End of part 2.

Stay tuned for part 3 which moves us to infinity and beyond, a.k.a. the shiny new 100 point rating scale for deciding the condition of your favourite comic book!

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.