Grading the condition of a comic book can be a confusing and argument causing topic. It's based mostly on opinion and what can be a mint condition to one is very good to another. A common ground between seller and buyer is needed to be reached for valuation of a comic book is to be determined. The following are common guidelines and points to consider when determining the condition of a comic.
Why is accurate grading of comic book so important?
With any type of collectable, the condition of a comic book denotes its rarity. Only so many copies of an issue are printed. Some of those are printed incorrectly. Some are further damaged in shipping. Still more will be damaged during purchase and reading. Finally there will be further deterioration of condition during storage.
After market purchasing
Comic book collectors will fill in holes in their collection by buying from other collectors or comic stores having extra copies, often called back issues. When purchasing comics through the mail to be shipped a collector will not be able to see the condition of a comic book so defined grading scheme must be used.
How to grade a comic book
Every time a comic is opened or handled, there is the chance of damage so special care must be taken when examining it.
Ultra violet light will bleach color so sunlight and some fluorescent lamps should be avoided.
Both the front and back covers are one of the most important factors to overall condition as they are the first things seen and have the most chance of being damaged out of all other aspects of a comic. A cover should be bright and glossy. Corner sharpness should also be examined as they can easily be bent or chipped. The edges along the cover and all pages should be straight without tear or bend. Examine the spine of the comic. There should be no bends or tears just as with the edges. Additionally there should be no rolling of the spine which is a bend of the comic running down the entire length of the spine. Look closely at the staples to make sure they are not loose or rusting.
When examining the interior of the comic only open the first couple pages no more than 45 degrees. Paper has strength in numbers and when there is only a page or two turned it increases the chance of tears or staple cover damage. As more pages are turned, the comic may by widened more. Review the color of the paper in how white it is on regular paper, or how clear the colors are for full color pages.
One last thing to examine is the middle pages where the staples come through. Examine the staples for how secure and tight they are.
Printing defects and comic book grading
A comic books condition is graded based upon perfection not based upon how well it has been stored when it was first purchasedm but in its perfect state. Printers may have mistakes and errors during the printing of the comic that are accidental and not the collectors fault yet still flaws still exist. These too must be taken into account when grading a comic book.
Comic book grading scale
There can be many terms or ranges of adjectives used to describe a comic book. However as far as grading goes there are specific ones that carry specific meaning. Ranging from best to worst is: Mint, Near Mint, Very Fine, Fine, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
Mint is the perfect most untouched and unsoiled condition. To some it is an impossible grade because even picking a comic book up will place minute stress marks on the spine or leave one single fingerprint on the cover. To be considered mint there must be no defects at all.
Near mint is often considered the best reasonable copy. Acceptable flaws are tiny corner bends or stress marks on the spine around the staples. The cover is reflective with no tears or folds. Possibly that most readers will not be able to keep a comic in near mint condition as simply turning pages will place fingerprints and stresses on staples and spine.
This is a high quality attainable for readers who take great care in reading their comic book. Corners and edges begin to show wear but are barely noticeable. Page coloring may be a slight yellowish but definitely not browning. No creases or tears may be present on the cover or page and no stains may be visible.
This is the condition for a comic for a reader that takes average care not to cause damage for a comic book or is seeing aging without proper care. The cover is losing its reflectivity though is still considered shiny. Small creases or folds on corners are acceptable. Some staining may occur if it does not impact overall visual appeal. Large creases near the staples are present. The edges of the pages will have tiny tears in them but not more then a few millimeters.
This is the average condition for a comic book where the reader is more interested in reading the content then in preserving quality. Creases in the cover are more than just the corners. Tears or abrasions on the edges and even the spine are visible. Pages are or are turning brown and stains are visible but not overly large on the cover. Corners are more round then they are squared. The staples may be slightly loose. The overall comic may have a slight curve to it caused by rolling the comic into a tube.
The name is rather misleading as most collectors would not consider it a good or positive rating. The cover and pages are present though small parts can be missing. Staples are loose or missing with tears in the cover around the staples. Pages and the cover are discolored or stained.
This condition has major flaws. Multiple creases are present on the front and back covers. The page color is brown to dark brown. Paper is drying out and is brittle or flakes when a page is turned. Staples are missing with parts of interior pages around the staple are also missing. The edges of the page have multiple tears and some would be considered deep into the page.
This condition has little to no value. Pages are missing and large parts of other pages are missing. The page quality is overall poor where it falls apart in brittle pieces to the touch. The cover could be remove or holding on with just a part attached. Entire comic has been bent or creased in half.
Comic book grading is subjective to each collector and grader. There are no hard and fast rules. In the end it comes down to each person's opinion and in that nobody is really wrong. Hopefully though this guide has given ideas and guidance on what the more common terms are.