Guide To Comic Book Pricing

A brief article on comic book pricing and how the various grades are assigned.

Comic book prices fluctuate over a wide range for most issues. The price listed in a comic book price guide for a certain perfect issue is almost never gotten when actually selling it to a person or store. Some issues are worth thousands more than what was paid for them, while others are worth less than cover price. Many collectors tend to purchase a comic that they are going to read and worry less about its future value. Therefore, if it never goes up in value, at least they have a good story.

Comic books are graded on a scale from mint down to poor, with six other grades in between. Comics from before 1978 in fine or near mint condition are very rare because of the quality of paper that was used in the printing. Before 1975, printing companies used the cheapest pulp paper and printing techniques were not as advanced as they are today. Be wary of purchasing "mint" condition older comics as they tend to be over-graded by their owners.

Mint condition means near perfect in almost every way. There are no printing or binding defects, the cover is flat, clean and the book is well centered with no rust on the staples. This grade is vastly over- and misunderstood. Some of these comics had restoration techniques performed on them, which changes the grading and they are not mint. Near mint allows a few defects such as a tiny bit of color fading or like it had just been read once. Very fine grade has minor printing and bindery defects with slight wear on the cover or spine. The color is still bright, cover flat with no visible stains. Fine condition has a decent eye appeal. There may be some minor creasing or blunted corners. Staple tears, discoloration and minor staining that do not interfere with the look of the comic book are allowed.

An average used comic book tends to be graded at very good. There may be creases in the pages with some discoloration, staining, store stamps and rusty staples. If the pages are brittle, it should be graded at the next lower one of good. This is a common tactic and when in doubt, have the owner open the book so you can see for yourself. Good condition for a comic book has all of its pages, but shows substantial wear. Staples may be missing or replaced and if there were any coupons in the book, they can be removed provided the story is still readable. Fair condition is readable but pieces may be missing from the cover. The spine may be split or have a heavy roll. Tape repair is common and allowed at this grade along with fading and stains. Many comic books from the 1930s through the early 1960s are at this grade with high demand. The lowest grade is poor, meaning there is extreme wear. The cover is frequently missing with edges and spine in poor condition. Some coverless comics are collected however if the rest of the story is present and in decent condition. Often collectors use these books for parts in restoration of other comics.

Comics that contain key issues are higher priced than the surrounding issues. A key issue might be the first appearance or death of a certain character, crossovers or limited/first editions. A comic that was graded and sealed through the Comics Guaranty, LLC (CGC) will bring a higher price. This company is an independent company that grades comic books. The service costs $25 per issue but is an important step for higher-end books.

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