IS CGC WORTH IT?
Breaking Down the Cost, Time and Effort
Reading Time: 10 minutes
Ever since I began my journey to open up this very online comic book shop, there’s been one question that I’ve been asked by comic book enthusiasts more than any other, and that question is: Is CGC Worth It?
While the question itself is pretty subjective, here’s how I interpret it what is being asked of me: Is having your comics professionally graded and encapsulated in a hard plastic slab by an independent third party such as CGC worth the time, effort and money?
For me, the answer is a resounding YES. But then again, I’m in the business of selling said graded comics to an audience that is specifically looking to buy them. So yeah, CGC is worth it to me as a seller all day long.
But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to decide if having your comics graded by CGC or another grading service is worth it for YOU.
Like most of the great questions that have perplexed humankind over the centuries – Is there really a god? Are we alone in the universe? Wars or Trek? – should you have your comics professionally graded and slabbed is a question that has ardent supporters both for and against it.
The reality is, there is no universal right or wrong answer that suits everyone. But for the sake of helping you complete this journey of self discovery, I will break down what it takes to have your comics graded by CGC so you can make a decision for yourself.
Hopefully by the time I’m done laying it all out, you’ll know exactly how you feel about grading your comics and can focus on more important questions in life…like could the Enterprise take down a Star Destroyer…
THE COST OF CGC GRADING
Probably the most confusing part about having CGC grade your comics is figuring out how much it will cost to have your comics graded, so let’s talk about that aspect first.
In order to submit comics directly to CGC for grading, you do need to become a CGC Member. The Associate Membership is only $25 per year, and includes direct submission privileges. However if you plan to submit comics to CGC for grading regularly, then I’d recommend you look at the Elite Membership ($299 / year) which comes with a 10% discount on grading costs as well as a $150 CGC Credit that will be applied to your account to be used towards future grading costs. Add it all up and your membership fee will basically pay for itself. Not a bad way to maximize your ROI!
Ok, now with that out of the way, let’s talk about the costs of having your comics graded. Please note that on April 28th, 2021, CGC raised their prices across the board for the first time in five years.
CGC offers multiple Grading Tiers based off the age of your comic, how much it’s worth and how quickly you want the comic back. For the sake of keeping things as simple as possible in this blog post, I’m only going to be talking about the costs associated with what CGC refers to as their Modern Grading Tier.
For a comic to qualify for Modern Tier grading, it must be published sometime between 1975 to the present date and have a (raw) fair market value of $400 or less.
Regardless of what Tier your comics are being graded in, there are multiple costs associated with CGC’s grading process. To give you an idea of what this looks like in real life, here’s a detailed example of 5 modern comic books I recently submitted to CGC…
|Grading Cost of 5 Comics||$99.00||$19.80 each*|
|CGC Handling Fee||$5.00||Applied to every submission|
|Return Shipping||$24.00||Via UPS|
|Shipping to CGC||$15.00||Via USPS Priority Mail|
|True Cost / Book||$28.60||$143 / 5 comics|
*The normal cost for Modern Tier Grading is $22 per book. But because I am have an Elite CGC Membership, I receive a 10% discount off grading for all tiers.
So as you can see in the chart above, when you take all the costs into consideration that equals a true cost of $28.60 per comic graded.
Understand that the associated shipping costs are variable based on quantity, shipping weight and how you choose to insure your shipments to and from CGC.
For example, in another recent submission to CGC, I sent in 10 Modern Tier comics for grading and the average cost per book was $25.70. However if you submit only 2 or 3 comics, your average cost could go up over $31 per book.
But as a rule of thumb, as I’m deciding which comics to submit for grading I always estimate the true cost of having a Modern Tier comic being graded by CGC to be around $30.
If you’re the type who likes to know everything up front (like me!) then to figure out shipping costs ahead of time, you can calculate the cost of shipping your comics to CGC in Florida (zip code 34230) using the USPS Postage Price Calculator. And to figure out return shipping from CGC it just takes a little basic math. CGC will charge $16 for the first slab, and then $2 for each additional slab. So as in the first example above, return shipping from CGC for five graded comics would be $24.
IS CGC WORTH THE EFFORT?
In addition to the financial aspect of deciding if CGC grading is worth it for you, there’s also some effort you have to put into the whole process.
Now it’s not a terrible amount of effort, but enough that you should be aware of what you’ll need to do prior to submitting your comic books to CGC.
The first thing you need to do is either become a member of CGC or locate a trusted 3rd party to submit your comics on your behalf. If you don’t do either of these things, then your only option is to wait for CGC to attend at a comic con in your neighborhood and personally drop them off there.
Now, once you are a member — or have located a reputable 3rd party to submit for you — you have to prepare your actual submission. For me this includes a final visual inspection of each comic I plan on submitting just to make sure that I didn’t overlook anything on the comic that might prevent it from getting the best grade possible.
Once I’ve finalized my CGC candidates, then I go to CGC’s website and fire up their trusty online submission form. The new online form is pretty simple to use, and is light years ahead for the old (but still available) pdf form that you fill out by hand.
Make sure you print and include the packing slip your online submission will generate once complete. Without that piece of paper, CGC will have no idea what they’re supposed to do with that box of comics that just arrived at their facility.
From there, it’s a matter of getting your comics (and packing slip!) securely packed up, printing a shipping label and dropping the box off at your local USPS or delivery service of your choosing.
Now the only thing left to do is wait. But for how long?
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR CGC TO GRADE COMICS?
The other part of deciding if having your comics graded by CGC is worth it for you, is discovering how you feel about being without your comics for an extended period of time.
For the Modern Tier, the typical turnaround time for grading is 55 business days. However, this does not include the number of days it takes for your submission to reach CGC, or the time it takes for your graded comics to arrive back at your door.
Also, depending on how busy CGC is, it may take longer than 55 days. The good news is that on their website, CGC maintains updated turnaround times so you’ll know prior to filling out your submission form how long grading should take.
And a final note is that if there are any major comic conventions or holidays that fall within your grading window, that can extend the time it takes to get your graded comics back as well.
Keep in mind too that different grading tiers have different turnaround times. For example the Economy Tier where you can submit any book regardless of publish date with a value of $400 or less currently has a turnaround time of 79 business days. That equals over four months that you’d have to wait before your books are graded and returned to you.
However if you want your books back faster than the listed turnaround time, CGC does offer a Fast Track option where you pay extra per book to reduce the turnaround time by half or more. While I didn’t take advantage of the Fast Track option much when I first started sending in comics for grading, I now hop in the Fast Track with every single submission I make because it’s been proven to make good business sense. But if time isn’t of the essence for you, then feel free to stick with the standard grading turnaround times.
Lastly, in my personal experience I’ve found the turnaround times listed on CGC’s website to be pretty darn accurate and it’s not uncommon for your comics to be graded a day or two ahead of time, which is always a nice surprise.
WHY DO COLLECTORS HAVE THEIR COMICS GRADED?
Aside from the time, effort and money — the final part of the equation is thinking about WHY you want to have your comics graded in the first place. For me it usually comes down to one of these reasons:
- Graded comics can hold a higher value over their raw counterparts
- Slabs help preserve the condition of a comic
- Graded comics make for cool display pieces
Let’s dive into each one of these reasons why you might want to have your comics graded…
Graded vs. Raw Comic Values
All it takes is a quick eBay search to see that high-grade CGC comics will always sell for more than their raw counterparts. Part of the reason is because it’s understood that — at minimum — the cost of grading the comic is added to the raw value of the book. But there’s also this social contract that exists which allows buyers to put more faith in a book graded by CGC because of the confidence their reputation brings to the table. And with that high level of confidence, people become more willing to pay a higher price than they would for a raw comic listed in the same grade.
To illustrate this, I thought it would be fun to look at some recent sales data from eBay comparing how much a graded comic sold for compared to an equivalent raw copy of the same book.
|Title||Grade||CGC Sale Price||Raw Sale Price|
|Amazing Spider-Man #361||9.8||$580||$300|
|Uncanny X-Men #266||9.8||$510||$250|
|House of Secrets #92||4.5||$907||$700.00|
|Batman Adventures #12||9.6||$940||$611|
Those are just a few examples, but it’s easy to see how the CGC effect impacts the selling price of comics. Depending on the scarcity and popularity of the book, a CGC graded issue can sell for as much as three to four times that of a raw book that’s listed in the same grade.
What I’m saying here is that if you’re tempted to one day sell your comics, having key issues graded can make a lot of sense from a profitability standpoint.
There is one big thing to remember here though, especially with newly released modern comics. The drop off in prices from a 9.8 to a 9.6 to a 9.4 and so on is sometimes staggering. Make a mistake by sending in a book that isn’t in top condition, and that drop in grade can be drastic enough where you could end up losing money. So if you’re interested in having your comics graded because you want to sell them at a profit, you need to be confident that any new book that you want to have graded will come back a 9.8.
Here’s a real life example of this in action. Back when Weapon H in 2018, his first appearance in Totally Awesome Hulk #22 was one of the hottest modern comics on the market. So when I saw that Weapon X #11 would feature a Mike Deodato 1:25 Design Variant cover with Weapon H on it, I quickly bought three of copies of this issue on eBay for about $30 each with the idea of having them all graded to sell for a larger profit.
When the books arrived, I inspected them carefully and to they all looked to be in 9.8 NM/M condition. Feeling confident that was the case I sent all three to CGC for grading. When the books came back to me however, only two were graded 9.8 NM/M — the third one was graded a 9.6 NM+ (gasp!).
The two 9.8’s sold relatively quickly with an average selling price of $105. Doing the math, each issue cost me $30, plus $25 for the grading for a total of $55 that I had invested in each book. Subtract $55 from the sales price and that left me with a gross profit of $50 for each slab. Not too shabby!
However the 9.6 sat on the virtual shelf for a while, but eventually sold for $60. So for that one, I essentially made my money back on the cost of the raw comic plus grading, but in reality I actually lost money on it after taking account for shipping, handling and payment processing fees.
The lesson here is be careful — when it comes to many comics – the difference between a 9.8 NM/M and a 9.6 NM+ can cost you quite a bit of money!
Slabs Help Preserve The Condition of the Comic
You can’t deny that the hard plastic slab and inner well that your graded comic is enclosed in keeps it safe from wear and tear. Here’s what CGC has to say about their cases on their website:
The CGC holder is made from high-quality materials and is entirely archival-safe. The inner well that holds books, for example, is comprised of PETG, a plastic that is well known to be archival-safe and extremely clear. This PETG well is placed inside of a durable outer case that is sonically welded to ensure a secure, tamper-evident seal.
The only thing you need to worry about is keeping the case free from scratches and making sure that if you’re displaying a slab in a room, that it’s not exposed to direct sunlight. CGC slabs are not meant to protect your comics from the fading power of the sun’s ultraviolet rays!
That being said there are plenty of collectors out there that will tell you if all you’re looking to do is simply preserve your comics, then you don’t need CGC. Simply use an archival-quality top loader, or better yet, use the go-to combo of Mylite 2 mylar bags with Full-Back acid-free boards. Not only will you still be able to preserve your comics but you’ll save a lot of money and you’ll actually be able to remove your comic from its bag and you know…actually read it…whenever you want.
Graded Comics Make Great Display Pieces
Finally, I personally use my CGC graded comics as display pieces in my office/man-cave. I love how they look and they also make great conversation starters for those who may not know what a graded comic book is.
In fact, I’ve been known to buy lower grade CGC comics with what I think are cool covers just so I can have them displayed on my wall. A great example is this issue of Action Comics #424 CGC 7.5 that I just picked up at the Great Lakes Comic Con. It only cost me $25 (essentially the cost of grading) and I absolutely love the ridiculousness being displayed here as Gorilla Grodd has somehow managed to catch Superman and is swinging him over his head as if he were a wet towel atop a skyscraper in Metropolis. I mean COME ON people, how is that not awesome?!
SO…IS CGC WORTH IT?
I know I just laid out a lot of info there for you. Hopefully you found what you were looking for and can now say without a doubt if CGC is worth it to you or not. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible here, but if I missed something and you still have a question, feel free to share them in the comment section below!