#4421055 - 11/28/1010:50 AMAn In-Depth Comparison of Green Label and Blue Label Grading
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Loc: Central California Coast
Lately, there have been a number of inquiries about CGC Green Label “qualified” grading, including (1) what types of defects result in a Green Label, and (2) how should Green Label books be valued. In my opinion, both questions are worthy of further discussion.
All of the images included herein were taken from the Heritage Auction Galleries (HA) archives. Over the years, HA has sold over 300,000 comic-related items, including approximately 630 unique CGC Green Label slabs. Even though the archives contain only a fraction of the books encapsulated by CGC, I believe the number of examples contained therein is large enough to guarantee that the HA sample population is roughly representative of the whole.
Let’s begin by identifying specific defects that have led to encapsulation in a Green Label Qualified Grade holder. For simplicity, I’ve subdivided these defects into seven categories, as shown below. The second column represents the defect, while the first column represents the number of occurrences of that specific defect.
Green Label Category 1 Examples:
Green Label Category 2 Examples:
Green Label Category 3 Examples:
Green Label Category 4 Examples:
Green Label Category 5 Examples:
Green Label Category 6 Examples:
Green Label Category 7 Examples:
Let’s now address the question of how Green Label books should be valued. Because it’s easiest to establish a book’s value once each and every one of its defects have been accounted for via a single representative grade, Blue Label equivalents will be shown for most of the qualifying defects enumerated above.
Blue Label Equivalents for Category 1:
Approximately 34% of the Green Label books in the HA archives are incomplete by virtue of a missing page, piece, coupon, or attachment (Category 1 in the table provided above). Fortunately, a few incomplete books have been encapsulated in Universal Grade holders, and some of those Blue Label examples are shown below. On this basis, it appears that the “true” grade of an incomplete book is either Poor (CGC 0.5) or Fair (CGC 1.0), depending on whether the specimen is missing a page (any page, story or non-story), a panel, or merely a coupon.
Blue Label Equivalents for Category 2:
Approximately 28% of the Green Label books in the HA archives have partially or completely detached covers, centerfolds, and/or wraps (Category 2 in the table provided above). Fortunately, many similarly flawed books have been encapsulated in Universal Grade holders, and some of those Blue Label examples are shown below. Since the detachment defect is the primary (or perhaps even sole) flaw, these high-grade examples reveal the approximate deduction that CGC takes for a specific detachment defect when it is not ignored. On this basis, it appears that: a lightly worn book with a cover detached at a single staple will have a Universal Grade of 7.0 to 7.5; a book with a completely detached cover will have a Universal Grade of 4.0 or lower (depending on the severity of its other defects); a pristine book with a centerfold detached at a single staple will have a Universal Grade as high as 9.2 or 9.4; and a lightly worn book with a completely detached centerfold will have a Universal Grade of 6.5 to 7.0. Note: DC comics from the mid-1960s were manufactured with relatively thin cover stock and are especially prone to suffering a “blown” staple.
Notes on Category 3:
Approximately 28% of the Green Label books in the HA archives have either a “married” component or “tweaked” staples (Category 3 in the table provided above). About half the books with staple modifications come out of only three collections: forty-eight books with cleaned staples (Four Color and Duck books) are from the Don Vernon Collection; another dozen or so books with cleaned staples (All-American, All-Flash, All-Star, and Flash Comics) came to market as a group during the summer of 2002; and ten books with cleaned or replaced staples are from the Pinnacle Hill Collection.
Notes on Category 4:
Less than 2% of the Green Label books in the HA archives have manufacturing/production defects such as missing staples, detached pages, missing ink, off-register cover colors, or an incorrect interior (Category 4 in the table provided above). I have not been able to find scans of Universal Grade books with identical flaws.
Blue Label Equivalents for Category 5:
Approximately 4% of the Green Label books in the HA archives have unwitnessed artist/creator signatures (Category 5 in the table provided above). CGC appears to treat books with unwitnessed signatures in the same manner that they treat books from recognized pedigrees that have the original owner’s name on the cover (Larson, Macon, Okajima, Winnipeg, etc). Since CGC does not offer a post-signing authentification/certification service (similar to what PSA/DNA offers for sports memorabilia), each buyer must decide for himself/herself how to value a book with a “qualified” signature relative to one with a “witnessed” signature and encapsulated in a Yellow Label Signature Series holder.
Blue Label Equivalents for Category 6:
Less than 3% of the Green Label books in the HA archives have cover stickers or binder/binding holes (Category 6 in the table provided above). The 1939 edition of the New York World’s Fair comic is normally awarded a Blue Label, in spite of the price sticker on cover. Books with binder holes or books removed from bound volumes are rarely slabbed, so there are only a few Blue Label examples in the archives. However, several hundred three-hole punched file copies were among the thousands of books found at the Eastern Color Warehouse in the mid-1970s, and sales of raw specimens have occurred with regularity during the past 30+ years. Most reputable sellers assign grades of GD/VG to VG to otherwise pristine punched specimens from this find. Likewise, scores of bound volumes have sold at public auction over the years. Most reputable auction houses use the VG price of the individual issues to estimate the fair market value of a well-preserved bound volume. This is probably as good a starting point as any for establishing the “unqualified” value of an otherwise well-preserved single book that was once part of a bound volume.
Blue Label Equivalents for Category 7:
Less than 2% of the Green Label books in the HA archives earned that status by virtue of a “common” defect, such as color chipping, a spine split, or a cover/page tear (Category 7 in the table provided above). The books in this particular category are all high grade (CGC 8.5 or better), and most are from pedigreed collections. However, the overwhelming majority of high grade submissions are encapsulated in Blue Label holders. So I’m at a loss to explain why a relatively small number of books were singled out for “special” treatment. Since CGC no longer lists significant defects on their Universal labels, self-evident Blue Label examples are difficult to come by. But here are a few from the early days of CGC:
Even with clickable thumbnails, the presentation is quite image heavy. So please use discretion if you feel a need to quote a portion either post. Also, please remember that CGC’s grading and/or slab labeling standards have changed (and no doubt will continue to evolve) with time. Therefore, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
#4421926 - 11/28/1007:17 PMRe: An In-Depth Comparison of Green Label and Blue Label Grading
FACT if I stop posting, trillions and trillions of transistors would be out of work.
Loc: Small Town Ontario
Category 7 is an interesting one. I wish that the CGC still did list significant (hidden) defects on the label (or, as has been talked about much in the past, on-line notes).
These would probably go a long way to helping people understand the vagaries of grading and provide some additional security when judging a book by its scan.
I try to imagine my collection as what could sit on the bookcase shelves of a slightly compulsive teenage boy who collects every Marvel, circa Christmas 1965. The collection would sit in neat piles beside a ball glove and an Aurora model of the Mummy.