Friday, April 3, 2015


I really like CGC.  As a comic-book collector, I like the idea that if I pay big money for a high-end collectible comic book, I am going to get the grade that I paid for.  If you are new to collecting slabbed comics, CGC stands for Certified Guarantee Company and they are the premier grading company in the business.

CGC takes your book, inspects it for any signs of restoration, and also assigns a grade to it.  They also put it in a hard plastic shell (usually called a slab by fans) and then you can handle the book without worrying that the value will plummet if you touch it, breathe on it or look at it funny.

There are a few reasons why you might want to get a book slabbed:
  1. The comic is very expensive and you want to sell it someday
  2. You don't want to risk having it decay or get damaged
  3. The comic is important to you on a personal level and you would like a cool showpiece.
Unfortunately, not every book comes back with a high grade.  The very first comic book I ever bought was Web of Spider-Man #1.  I recently submitted the comic to CGC and it came back with a much lower grade than I was hoping.  I knew that it wasn't going to be a 9.8 or a 9.6, but I was hoping for a 9.2.  Yikes it came back much lower, at a 7.0!  Well, there was no point in keeping it slabbed (since no one is going to pay a premium for a mid-grade book) so I figured I would just crack the slab and see what the inside looked like.
Oh well, live and learn.  Not every book will grade super-high.

Normally to unslab a book, you put a screwdriver in the seam and pop open the slab.  The slab is designed to be brittle so that you can't easily tamper with it.  When you pop the slab, usually the whole thing cracks up and looks like a smashed windshield.

Much to my surprise, I grabbed the slab, pulled on it, and came perfectly apart.

So now I had a mid-grade comic book worth about four dollars and a perfect CGC case.  I wondered: has this happened to anyone else?  

I would like to point out that I have absolutely no interest in ripping people off.  However, what would stop a person from printing a new CGC blue strip along the top?  Everyone these days has Photoshop.  While the comic book is fused into the plastic (kind of like a vacuum seal in hard but bendy plastic), the blue strip actually isn't welded into the slab at all.  It's just a piece of paper.  So in theory, I could take the 7.0 and make it anything I wanted - how about a 9.8?  How about a 9.9?  Maybe I add in a "printing error" variant or something that some collectors go gaga over?  

This book is worth only a few dollars, but here would be another idea.  Let's say I have a low-end silver-age Fantastic Four.  Maybe it's restored.  So I get it slabbed, and it comes back at a 2.5 restored.  Not great.  So I bust open that slab, change the strip to a blue 9.4 and then use this Web of Spider-Man slab, with the hologram, and glue it back up?  Now I have a silver-age Fantastic Four at a 9.4 or 9.6, and what was a $50 book is now on the market for $800 or $2000.  Yikes!

I took some close up photos of the book in the slab, but it is important to note that the slab in these photos is already broken open.  It looks (at least to a novice, or someone buying something on eBay with sub-par photos), that it is a perfectly acceptable slab. 

 I just stuck the slab back together.  

 With a bit of glue, I am pretty sure it would be "good as new" to an unsuspecting buyer...

So what's the lesson in all of this?  I am NOT trying to rail against CGC and claim that they are not good value.  I like CGC.  I buy CGC slabs.  I think that their slabs are not perfect, but that is not a crazy statement to make.  Nothing is 100% tamper-proof.  There are all sorts of scammers out there. 

Here's my opinion—if you are buying a slabbed book, especially an expensive one:
  • Look at the actual comic book.  A lot of collectors just pay attention to the slab.  Look at the book!  Does it really look like a 9.9?  Or even a 9.4?  Just because the slab says 9.8, that doesn't mean that you should not even glance to see if there is a big crease or a popped staple or something on the actual comic book. 
  • Check the slab.  Does it look pristine?  Are there any cracks?  Is it possible that someone replaced the book inside?
I have heard people claim that it is virtually impossible to crack a CGC slab without it busting into a bunch of unusable pieces.  I just wanted to show my experience—that without really trying, I was able to get two perfect CGC slabs with the CGC hologram totally intact.