This is part 2 of a 4 part series about grading comics. Please see part 1 for an introduction to grading and slabbing.
When you sit down to read a book involving Galactus what do you see? Power? Moral and ethical questions? A funny hat? Well if all you can think of is wow that guy is enormous and I like that then read on, because in Part 2 of our comic grading series we are taking a deeper dive into the rating system of Certified Guaranty Corporation (CGC), the largest of the grading companies.
Last time the numeric grading system was introduced as a way to assess the condition of a comic. CGC’s system differs from the other two in that it ranges from 0.5 to 10, instead of 0.1 to 10. Otherwise it is generally the same, with the bottom of the scale equating to poor condition, and a 10 being perfectly mint.
CGC throws in another curve ball though, because sometimes a letter grade will be given in place of a number, to signify a special circumstance.
PG and CVR grades are two qualifiers that signify a singular part of a particular book has been authenticated: PG denotes a single page and CVR a cover (front, back, or both). These are understandably somewhat rare, as most collectors avoid Hulking out on their comics and ripping them apart. However, there is value in grading a single page or cover when it is a key issue or moment such as Action Comics #1 that has value on its own. It is important to note that the page or cover must be able to be identified as coming from a specific issue, otherwise it will not receive a PG or CVR label. For example, the back cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 is shared with other books, and so by itself cannot be labelled CVR.
NG, meaning “No Grade,” generally means the cover is missing, half or more of the interior pages are missing, or both. If you have a book missing these key parts you would likely not go through the expense of having it graded, and so this is an extremely rare grade to see.
Labels and Colors
Now that we got that out of the way, let us move to CGC’s label colors, which are used to convey additional information about the comic that the grade does not entail. CGC’s system has the most depth, allowing for combos where a secondary color is added.
The Blue label, as its name implies, is given to a comic that is complete and not signed. It is the vanilla ice cream of labels: simple without anything extra. The majority of comics will receive this label. It is generally desirable because it implies the book is complete and has not been restored (more on this later).
Forever People #1 7.0
Supergirl #12 9.8
Catwoman #51 9.4
Superman/Batman #1 9.6
Signature Series (Yellow)
The Yellow label indicates the book has been signed in a special CGC-approved yellow marker that is guaranteed not to impact the condition of the comic and can be purchased direct from them for $99.99. Plus it looks fancy.
Hold on, Dark Will is yelling and screaming that is wrong…
After some research, Dr. No has determined that Dark Will is correct, a Yellow label actually means it has an authentic signature, with the signing witnessed by a CGC representative, no special marker required.
What if you want to add a signature to a comic that’s already graded and slabbed, you ask? At the time of signing, the CGC representative will open the case and witness the signature. You would then pay to have it re-slabbed, and potentially re-graded depending on if it must be sent away or not.
Wonder Woman #1 9.2
Red Agent: The Human Order #8 9.8
Lady Death: Dragon Wars #1 9.8
Astonishing X-men #1 9.8
Did you notice the Yellow Signature requires a CGC representative to witness the signing? If you had the audacity to have a book signed without a rep present, you will end up with a Qualified label.
The meaning of the label is actually a little more broad, meaning the book has some qualifying “defect” that requires description. This defect could be the aforementioned unverified signature, or something missing. An example provided by CGC is to consider a comic with an interior coupon. In such a condition it is a Blue label 6.0. If it were to be missing a coupon it would have to be given a much lower Blue grade, say 4.0. However it can instead be given a Green 6.0 with a note the coupon is missing, thus avoiding the 4.0.
This sleight of hand is accounted for by collectors however, and thus Blue labels are often given more preference than Green labels with the same (or possibly higher) grade.
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0 8.0
Lady Mechanika #0 9.8
Marvel Authentix: Gambit #1 9.8
Dragonball Z #1 9.8
The Purple label is much feared. Typically the owner of a freshly-graded, Purple-labeled comic opens the shipping package and immediately slumps into a pile, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Each time one of these labels is awarded, the entire CGC office lights lower, and a moment of silence is given for the once great comic while Chopin’s Funeral March plays over the loudspeaker.
Okay, so it is not quite that bad, but Purple is obviously the least desirable of the labels we have covered so far because it signifies restoration work has been performed, putting it in a separate class from the other labels. The book will still be graded, but will also be given a second grade on this scale after CGC has assessed the quality of the restoration. No matter the quality, however, the value of the book is significantly impacted to the negative.
Incredible Hulk #181 6.5
Strange Adventures #205 3.5
X-23 #2 9.6
World's Finest #2 .5
The Combo Color Labels
As mentioned earlier CGC goes one step further, combining the above concepts to create labels with two colors for extremely specific situations.
Similar to Purple, but signifying repairs have been made only to improve the structural integrity or long-term preservation of the book. From CGC: “These repairs include tear seals support, staple replacement, piece reattachment and certain kinds of cleaning.”
Signature Series Conserved (Yellow/Grey)
Similar to Blue/Grey above, but with an authenticated signature.
Signature Series Qualified (Yellow/Green)
A Green comic that has one or more authenticated signatures. Note that a comic could have two signatures, one authenticated (making it Yellow) and one that was not (making it Green). Similarly, the book may be missing a page (making it Green) with an authorized signature on the cover (making it Yellow).
Lady Death 15th Anniversary #1 9.8
Wolverine #1 9.2
Wolverine #1 7.5
X-O Manowar #1 9.6
Signature Series Restored (Yellow/Purple)
A restored book with an authenticated signature.
X-Factor #6 5.5
X-men #1 .5
Daredevil #1 .5
Marvel Premiere #19 5.0
On a final note, CGC also used a Red label to signify comics made after 1975 during its infancy. It was only used for a brief time and has been supplanted by the Blue label.
Wolverine #3 9.6
What If? #1 9.0
Batman #404 9.2
Thank you for joining us on part 2 of our journey through comic grading. Join us in Part 3 to review CBCS’s system.
A big thank you to M.P. Ellinas, Christopher Shazam Silva, Nico Felix Capurro , Ryan Casey, Sean McDonald, Jason Palisano, Augie Rocha, Aaron LaCasse, Lee Bam Bam Burgess, Drew Stair, Jason Waite, Matt C Garcia, David M Fleisch, Christopher Cj Faux, Dennis Walsh, Harris Robert, Adam Tomlin, and Paul Salivar for sharing their CGC graded comics with us for this post and to all our other awesome fellow collectors over in The Collector's Corner and Comic Book Collector's Forum