In the world of coins and bullion, the majority of us are at least relatively familiar with grading. However, unbiased grading services are not only utilized for coins. Another major market where grading has become critical is in collectible comic books.
While the concept of unbiased professional grading is the same in these two markets, the grading scales that are used have a number of differences. The grading scale that we are familiar with in the coin market, regardless of the service that a coin has been submitted to, is known as the Sheldon Scale.
The oldest and most trusted comic book grading service is provided by Certified Guaranty Company LLC, more commonly known as CGC. We’ll be taking a look at their grading scale for the purposes of this article.
Let’s start with what we’re familiar with, the Sheldon Scale. Essentially this is a 70 point grading scale. The Sheldon Scale has a maximum of 70, but some numbers on the scale are not used. For example, you may see coins certified in Very Fine 25 condition or Very Fine 20 condition, but you will not see a coin in Very Fine 23 condition.
For certain ranges on the scale, some grades are skipped over and in these areas, you will often see increments of 5. If a coin is anywhere in the uncirculated range, which is 60-70, then it will be assigned an exact grade such as MS61, MS62, MS63, and so on. The Sheldon Scale has a range of 0-70, but normally there are only about 29 grades used.
There are a number of companies that offer grading services for coins. Some are extremely reputable and trustworthy, while others are not to be taken seriously. The largest and most trusted grading services for coins are provided by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and the Professional Coin Grading Service, NGC and PCGS respectively. Plenty of coins certified by NGC and PCGS can be found at coin shows and shops of practically any size. These services were created to benefit buyers by taking the guesswork out of grading. The same general ideas apply when dealing with comic books and the CGC grading scale.
In general, CGC is set up the same way as NGC and PCGS as far as the grading process. When you submit a comic book to CGC, it is inspected before grading actually begins. Any obvious signs of restoration are noted and the comic book is given tracking information so that the exact comic book you sent can be located at any given moment during its time at CGC. Any invoices or other forms with your name are separated from the comic book before grading begins.
The grading is performed by several individuals. The scores assigned by any previous graders are not available while they make their own assessment. After being examined by several professional graders, a final grade will be awarded if the scores from the graders are similar enough.
Like a coin, once a grade has been assigned the comic book is sealed to preserve and protect it. Both coins and comic books are encapsulated by grading services before being sent back to their owners. Now that we’ve covered the grading process, let’s examine the scale itself.
The grading scale used by the experts at CGC has a maximum of 10. In this case, a 10 is a flawless specimen. It’s the equivalent of a Mint State 70 coin. Like the Sheldon Scale, the CGC grading scale also skips exact grades where it makes sense to do so. This is most visible on the lower end of the grading scale. As you look towards the top of the scale you can see that the gaps get smaller. For example, both 9.9 and 10 are regularly used by CGC. There are 25 standard grades that are regularly assigned by the experts at CGC ranging from 0.5 to 10.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the CGC grading scale for comic books and the Sheldon Scale for coins is the numerical range, or at least initially. At first glance, it appears drastic, but when you look at the number of grades that are actually used on each scale, they aren’t so different. The CGC grading scale typically uses 25 grades and the Sheldon Scale normally uses 29 or so. They’re reasonably similar.
Both coins and comic books are graded on their condition, primarily the presence or lack of post-production imperfections. In both cases, several professional graders assess each piece and the assessments are completed without bias.
Whether you submit a comic book to CGC or a coin to NGC, both items will be checked for restoration or tampering. Both are encapsulated at the end of their respective grading process.
If you want a tip to help determine what you’re looking at quickly, many of the adjectives used for the grades are very similar. Anything that’s Mint or Near Mint is clearly from the top of the scale. However, if you’re looking at top quality specimens, it’s good to remember that a certified 10 comic book is equivalent to a 70 grade coin. The 9.0+ range for comic books is roughly the same as the 60-70 range for coins.
The CGC grading scale and the Sheldon Scale appear fairly different at first, but they do have a number of similarities. The higher the number, the better the condition of the specimen. The Sheldon Scale has a maximum of 70 while CGC uses a maximum of 10. Coins and comic books go through a very similar process when they are submitted to a third-party grading service. These services were created to simplify the buying process and to give buyers extra confidence in their purchase by providing an unbiased assessment. Just remember what you learned here the next time you see a CGC-certified comic book or note.
CGC has recently partnered with the New Zealand Mint to grade their new “Star Wars: A New Hope” premium silver foils. We hope to see more products graded by CGC soon as they expand beyond comics!
||Brian Comp Jr. is a coin and bullion expert from Pennsylvania. He attended his first coin show at the age of 8 with his father in the late 90s. Brian has been working as a writer since 2011 and specializes in content that helps customers make good decisions. In his free time, Brian enjoys reading, checking out new coins, lifting weights, and drinking coffee. He’s always ready to answer questions, just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|