Anyone who has been collecting comics long enough has come across CGC’d comics, which are those that have been graded and “slabbed.” CGC is the industry standard for people who want to preserve special issues and have a verified, third-party accreditation of the condition of your comics. You send your comics in and over several weeks, three different graders look over it and assign it a numerical grade, which is in a generally agreed upon scale. They will then contain the book in a sealed casing and send it back to you.
Now, in general, CGC adds a great deal of value to your books. The idea of the grading service is just to verify the grade of high-grade rare or old comics, but even just having the CGC grading in general can double, triple, or quadruple the price. This price can be maintained often, though, as with all comics, they should never really be used as a substantial investment. Instead, it can be a fun way to preserve some of your favorite collector’s books, and maybe get a little extra money for them in the future.
I recently had eleven of my own books graded by CGC, a process that went pretty smoothly. I found a local “CGC dealer,” which was really just a collector who ran an online store. I got his name off of the CGC website as a regional retailer, called him, and he sent me CGC submission forms with his dealer number placed on there. I then selected the books I wanted, filled out the form including my credit card info, and sent them in. About three and a half months later I got the books back, slabbed and graded. I selected only modern books, including a lot of very recent variant covers. It was my first stab at this and I didn’t send in only more valuable books, mainly because I just wasn’t sure of the process.
I sent in:
Wolverine #10 Variant Cover
Spawn #9 (First appearance of Angela, written by Neil Gaiman)
Dead Boy Detectives #1 Variant Cover
Bodies #1 Variant Cover
Star Lord #1 SDCC Skottie Young Exclusive Sketch Variant Cover
Sandman: Overture #1 NYCC Ultra Rare 3D Variant Cover
Sandman: Overture #2 Ultra Variant Cover
Sandman: Overture #1 Ultra Variant Cover
Sandman: Overture #3 Ultra Variant Cover
Batman #27 Scribblenauts Variant Cover
All came back with appropriate grades, slabbed, and great for displaying or storage. I plan on getting another round graded shortly, hopefully bringing them to the upcoming Wizard World to do so directly with CGC, so I can save on the shipping cost. For this I am going to be grading early issues of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, very early issues of Batman and Action Comics, new Ultra Variant Covers of Sandman: Overture, different recent Detective Comics and Batman Variant Cover, the first issue of Hellblazer, first issue of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, Doom Patrol #19(the first issue written by Grant Morrison), two different Ultra Variant Covers of Lazarus #1, Ghost Variant of East of West #1, and a few others.
The most interesting of all the CGC products is the Signature Edition. Most of the time when you get books signed at conventions they will be unverifiable, and though they can still be valuable, they are nothing compared to those that can be verified. With the CGC Signature series, a person from CGC has to physically watch the person sign the book and create documentation of it. This is the most valuable way to have a signed book, and expense wise totally unreasonable in most situations. Where by a comic creator may just sign something for free(usually do), they may charge for a graded signature. I have two CGC Signature Series books, both of which were purchased as is. One is a Liberty Comics collection Variant Cover signed by Darwyn Cook. This actually was purchased directly from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, so it was a fundraiser and a really low price. The other one was just purchased on eBay, and it is New Avengers #7 signed by Brian Michael Bendis. The lowish price I got these for shows that no one can guarantee the money that these books will garner you.
The question about whether or not to CGC is a good one, and in general there is no reason to do this. It is an entirely manufactured market and completely speculated inflation, not to mention you will never be able to read your book again. At the same time, I will probably get more graded(though not a ton). The are fun for displaying, will last forever, and a great way to preserve rare books. I have invested a little money into some more expensive rare books, but mainly just because I love them as a collector and fan. For example, the expensive Ultra Rare Variant Cover of Sandman: Overture, because I love the series. I did get them for much less than they are usually listed at, but since I spent a little money on them it seemed reasonable to preserve them this way.
The real issue about CGC is about collecting comics as an investment. I LITERALLY CANNOT STRESS ANYTHING MORE THAN THIS, NEVER COLLECT COMICS AS PURELY AN INVESTMENT. You will never make money on your comics in a huge way, instead it may just be fun to have a couple valuable books. If you sell them in thirty years and have enough to take a vacation, then you have really made it. In general, watch how much you spend on CGC collections. Modern books only run you $18 a book, which really isn’t too bad, but if you are going Bronze Age or older, it can really start to add up. Also, try to go for books that are already high grade so that you have a hugely numbered one.
The Signature Series is really a collector’s item, and if you are really a big fan who gets books signed often there is no way to even make a dent in your collection by getting some CGC’d. This is the only true way to verify signatures, but since 95% of signed comics don’t have this verification, there is obviously a market for those as well. In general, the people who pay money for rare comics are just fans, having it signed by a creator is often good enough. There are absolutely shit-lords out there who fake signatures, but comic creators are so easy to get to that it is pretty rare. That said, I have hundreds of comics signed by creators, and only two of them with CGC. If you already have a signed comic you can CGC it, but they will give it a purple label rather than a yellow one since it cannot be verified.
So if you have a few valuable books you can go ahead and get them graded, and follow the antiquated instructions on the website. Just don’t think that these graded books will ever send someone to college.