Back in 2012 or so, I discovered graded comics from CGC (Comics Guaranty Corporation) – an independent third party that professionally grades a comic book and securely encapsulates said comic in a sealed plastic slab with a label that details key information and the actual grade of the comic (whew, that’s a mouthful). After buying a few graded comics on eBay and starting my own certified graded comic collection, I naturally wondered what I needed to do to have comics from my personal collection graded by CGC.
So being curios, I went to CGC’s website and looked into the process for submitting my comics and within seconds promptly closed my browser window because it all just felt too convoluted. At that point, I decided that if I wanted a CGC graded comic, I would just buy one online because the time and effort involved just didn’t seem worth it to me
Fast forward a few years and I started obsessing over the idea of starting my own online comic book shop that dealt only in certified graded comics. I knew that if I was going to make my dream a reality, I would have to start shipping raw comics to be graded to build my inventory more effectively.
Taking a deep breath and saying a prayer to Odin, I went back to CGC’s website to finally figure this whole thing out. And either my prayers were answered (highly unlikely) or I was just really determined (more than likely), but it all finally clicked (no pun intended)!
And guess what? It turns out the process of submitting your comics to be graded by CGC is a lot easier than you might think. So for the rest of this post, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about submitting your comic books to CGC.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY COMICS GRADED BY CGC?
There are various reasons why you might want to have your comics graded by an independent third party. As a comic collector, I enjoy the look of slabbed comics, use them liberally as decorations in my man cave and they’re great conversation starters with those uninitiated in comic collecting.
Of course there’s also the fact that graded comics hold higher values than their raw counterparts. For example, X-Force #11 (first appearance of the real Domino) graded by CGC at 9.6 NM+ has a price guide value of $108, whereas it’s raw value is $22. So if you have ambitions to make a few dollars off your comics by selling them, then having them graded could be a good way to increase your ROI on the sale of your comics.
Then there’s the obvious reason of having your comics sealed in a slab will help preserve their condition for the long haul.
WHAT KIND OF COMICS SHOULD I SUBMIT TO CGC?
Once again, this is totally dependent on you, the comic collector. For me, I’m submitting comics that are in my collection that are currently in demand, or that I speculate demand for will increase in the near future. Usually these are key comics related to movies or tv shows that are about to come out. You can’t ignore the fact that media increases awareness of certain issues of comics which increases demand and the market reacts accordingly. For sellers, your goal is to sell your comics when demand exceeds supply so you can maximize your ROI.
For example, as I was writing this article, the rumor hit that Sylvester Stallone will be playing Starhawk in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Already we’re seeing the market react with increased prices for CGC and raw issues of Defenders #28 (first full appearance of Starhawk). If you happened to have this issue and wanted to sell it, having it graded and available for sale as the movie hit theaters would give you the best shot to maximize your ROI.
Not sure if it would be profitable to have a comic graded? Try the Should I Grade It? CGC Grading Calculator.
If you don’t have interest in selling your graded comics, then it really comes down to how much you’re willing to pay to preserve and slab any particular comic.
A real life example for me is I just shipped off my G.I. Joe #1 to be graded. It’ll probably come back in the 7.0 F/VF range, and that’s ok with me as I have no intentions of selling it (at this point). I’m simply a huge G.I. Joe nerd who wants to proudly display this comic in my man cave.
CAN I SEND COMICS TO CGC MYSELF?
When I first learned about CGC, I was under the impression that only comic shops were able to submit comics to be graded, or you had to go to a comic convention where CGC personnel were on-site to take submissions directly. Turns out I was wrong. Anyone who becomes a CGC member can submit comics directly to CGC to be graded. That means everyday comic collectors have the ability to have their comics certified and graded.
HOW MUCH DOES A CGC MEMBERSHIP COST?
There are three different levels of CGC membership, and all levels allow you to submit comic books directly to CGC.
Please note that effective January 1, 2018 CGC lowered the cost of the associate membership from $39 to $25 annually. They also reduced the discount for grading tiers from 10% to 5%.
$25 Per Year
Includes direct submission privileges, free grader notes and 5% off Grading Tiers.
$149 Per Year
Includes the benefits of the Associate Membership plus a $150 credit to use with CGC.
$299 Per Year
Includes the benefits of the Premium Membership, plus 15% off Grading Tiers and more!
HOW MUCH DOES CGC GRADING COST?
Once you become a member, you can now submit your comics directly to CGC. Below are the costs associated with having your comics graded by CGC. These costs do not include shipping (to CGC), handling, or return shipping once your comics have been graded.
|Grading Service||Notes||Estimated Turnaround||Price Per Book|
|WalkThru||Each comic, unlimited value||Same Day||3% Fair Market Value. Mininum charge $150 per book, Maximum $3,000 per book.|
|Express||Maximum value of $3,000 per book||5 Business Days||$100|
|Standard||Maximum value of $1,000 per book||19 Business Days||$65|
|Modern||Limited to books published 1975 to the present. Maximum value of $200 per book||25 Business Days||$20|
|Modern Fast Track||FastTrack reduces its corresponding tiers turnaround time.||8 Business Days||$30|
|Economy||Maximum value of $400 per book||53 Business Days||$38|
|Economy Fast Track||FastTrack reduces its corresponding tiers turnaround time.||18 Business Days||$48|
|Value||MINIMUM SUBMISSION OF 15 BOOKS. Maximum value of $200 per book||66 Business Days||$27|
|Value Fast Track||FastTrack reduces its corresponding tiers turnaround time.||24 Business Days||$37|
|ReHolder||Service is for chipped, scratched or cracked holder that has not been opened or had its seals broken.||34 Business Days||$15|
*The pricing and turnaround information above has been updated as of 1/14/2019
Shipping (to you) and handling costs are included in your invoice after you create a submission order, and then you have to add in the cost of shipping to CGC’s facility.
Here’s what the pricing looked like when I shipped 4 modern comics to CGC to be graded:
Modern Tier Grading: $18.00 per comic (CGC Associate Member Price, 10% Off)
Return Shipping: $19.00
Shipping to CGC: $14.15
Total Cost: $105.15
Cost Per Comic: $26.28
There are a few factors that could make the cost per comic either lower or higher, but for someone who’s just getting started having their comics graded and is dealing in modern age comics, you can expect the total cost to have a comic certified graded be right around $25 dollars.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE YOUR COMICS GRADED BY CGC?
Once CGC receives your comics, it can take anywhere from 6 to 40 days depending on the level of grading service you paid for. That does not include the time it takes for your comics to arrive at CGC, or the time it takes for them to be shipped back.
See the table above for turnaround times. Also note that these turnaround times are subject to change based on how many comics CGC has in its queue to grade.
HOW DO I START A SUBMISSION ORDER TO CGC?
When I first looked into submitting comics to CGC, you had to print out and fill in what I considered to be an overly complicated form. Today however, CGC now has an online form that you fill out that makes the process so much easier.
THE CGC GRADING SCALE
After your comics arrive at CGC, up to three graders will inspect your comic before a final grade is given. It’s a complicated process, and if you want to know more about it you can read how it works for yourself here.
The short version is that once your comic is inspected, a grade is assigned to your comic according to the chart below.
|9.6||Near Mint +|
|9.2||Near Mint -|
|9.0||Very Fine / Near Mint|
|8.5||Very Fine +|
|7.5||Very Fine -|
|5.0||Very Good / Fine|
|4.5||Very Good +|
|3.5||Very Good -|
|3.0||Good / Very Good|
|1.5||Fair / Good|
DON’T SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH
As comic book collectors, sometimes we have the tendency to look at our comics with mint colored lenses. Meaning we buy them at the shop, we bag and board them immediately, and when we read them we do so every so carefully. So in our minds (or at least my mind), every comic we’ve ever bought is in near-mint to mint condition.
Just remember, your comics are being evaluated by professional graders with keen eyes. They are more likely to detect imperfections in your comic books that you might otherwise miss.
I can speak personally to this. When I was picking which of my comics to ship off to CGC first, I was 100% confident that each would come back graded in NM/M 9.8 condition.
I was wrong.
Of the four comics I shipped, one came back as a 9.6, two were at 9.4 and one was a 5.0 (oops!). Needless to say I was disappointed that my comics came back with a grade lower than I had anticipated. But that being said 9.4 and 9.6 grades are fantastic, especially for comics that I had personally purchased 25 years ago – proving that if nothing else, I know how to take care of comic books.
My point here is if you’re looking to sell your comics after they’re graded, be sure to inspect your comics as if you’re seeing them for the very first time. The last thing you want to do is anticipate getting back a batch full of 9.8 graded comics only for them to fall short of the mark.
If you’re just having your comics graded for personal reasons, then the difference between a 9.4 to a 9.8 may not matter as much to you. But as a seller, the difference between 9.4 and 9.8 can be a significant amount of money.
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO HAVING YOUR COMICS GRADED?
This is a pretty subjective question, however I think it’s worth noting the obvious that once your comic book has been graded and slabbed, you won’t be reading it anymore. For some, this alone is a reason not to have your comics professionally graded and slabbed.
However, with the proliferation of digital comic book apps like ComiXology and Marvel Unlimited, there’s a good chance that a digital version of your comic is available for you to read at your leisure, while your original graded copy remains safe and sound inside it’s protective casing.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE COMIC BOOK GRADING SERVICES?
While CGC is the most popular company that grades and certifies comic books, there are two other companies that offer this service as well.
It’s probably worth noting that I’ve never used either of these services so I can’t speak to their offerings, however I would assume that their services are very similar to what CGC has to offer.
If you have any first hand experience with either CBCS or PGX, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
I think that about covers everything you need to know about submitting comic books to CGC, however there may be a nuance or two that I missed. If you feel there’s any vital information missing from this blog post or if you just want to share your thoughts, please leave a comment. Thanks!