CGC Comic Grading: Allowable Defects in a CGC 9.8
After many painful submissions, I wanted to share my hands-on experience and discuss what defects CGC will allow while still awarding the grade of 9.8. While CGC has not published its grading criteria anywhere, I’m basing this information on personal experience. Here’s the thing: I have a lot of CGC 9.8 slabs, I’ve submitted a lot of CGC comics, and I’ve bought a lot of 9.8’s over the years. So, I have a good idea of what CGC will consistently allow in a 9.8.
The books that we’re going to look at are books that I’ve submitted with a prescreening, books I’ve submitted without a prescreening, books I’ve bought from other people, books from across many different submissions, books that were submitted a few months ago, and books that were submitted years ago. It’s essential to mention my various methods — these aren’t just defects that passed in a single submission where CGC was having an off day. In fact, CGC doesn’t really have ‘off days’ as three people evaluate the book before it receives a final grade. Nonetheless, I’m using submissions from over the years to provide consistent and reliable data. For a defect to make it onto my list of an “allowable defect in a 9.8,” I’m going to need to see at least five examples from books in at least two different submissions. Here’s everything you should know about CGC comic book grading.
The Grading Scale
For those of you who don’t know, the grading scale goes like this: 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 1.8, 2.0, then 0.5 increments until you get to 9.0, then 9.2, 9.4, 9.6, 9.8, 9.9, 10. So a 9.8 is not mint; it’s technically near mint/mint. There are still two grades above it, 9.9 MINT and 10.0 Gem Mint (like our boy Gem Mint). Although CGC hasn’t published their actual grading criteria, they have published their grading scale. The grading scale describes the grades, but not in the detail that you and I are looking for.
What are “Negligible Handing or Manufacturing Defects?”
A submission can have several “negligible defects,” as long as the total of all the defects still results in a nearly perfect comic with negligible defects. In other words, the severity of the defects plays a role, and the sum of the defects plays a role.
The first thing that I think we can all agree on — and that I see in probably 95% of my 9.8’s — is bindery tears at the top and bottom of the spine. The question is, how big of a bindery tear is allowed? I attempted to measure the tears to come up with a solid number. So, with five books that all have bindery tears at the top and bottom, the tears go up to ⅛” in size. That’s two of the smallest lines on a standard tape measure.
The next defect that made it onto my list as an allowable defect in a 9.8 is spine ticks that typically don’t break color, are less than ⅛”, and you can’t see when looking at the comic straight on because you must catch it in the light.
I took five books to review their spine ticks: all from different submissions, some prescreened, some not, some from years ago, and some from last month.
This is where the term “negligible” comes into play. If I’m grading the comic, I see the book has sharp corners, lays flat, no creases, but I have to hunt for these spine ticks and hold them just right in the light to see it. That is considered negligible. If I can see the spine tick in any light, looking straight on, then that’s a 9.6 or less. This is still slightly controversial because it’s ambiguous; it’s open to the grader’s interpretation. But, what is undeniable is that a 9.8 can still have spine ticks. At this point, I’ve only looked at five samples. Remember, 9.8 is nearly perfect, not perfect. 9.9’s and 10’s can have 0 handling defects which a spine tick falls under.
Another allowable defect in a 9.8 is a slight waviness to the book; waviness should be subtle enough that the grading process presses it out. Color rubs are also acceptable defects, but they’re somewhat ambiguous.
A Closer Look at Miswraps
The next notable defect is miswrap. This makes it onto my list as long as the miswrap is 1/16” or less, one little line on a standard tape measure. That’s quite a large miswrap; you can see it looking straight on.
Here’s an example of this on Nick Fury Agent of Shield 1 in a 9.8. I picked this book to show because I have a 9.6 with the same miswrap and all copies in high grade that I’ve seen have it.
Here’s an ASM 129 9.8 with a similar miswrap to my last example. Miswraps are harder to find in modern books. Here’s an x-men 119 in 9.8 and an x-men 132. So while this might affect your decision when buying a book, it won’t affect the grade unless it is a wild miswrap, definitely greater than 1/16 and probably even more significant than ⅛.
The next defect that I’ve always wondered about but now have confirmation on is spine rub from shipping. This is considered a negligible defect and can run the length of the spine. Now that I get books directly from Diamond comics, this is standard in all Marvel books because they use cheap paper. Almost 100% of modern Marvel books have a white line down the length of the spine from rubbing against the cardboard box that they are shipped in. Indie comics are less likely to have this because they use higher-quality paper.
My List of Allowable Defects in a 9.8:
- Spine Ticks ⅛” or less that you can’t see when looking at the comic straight on.
- Bindery Tears at the top and bottom that are 1/16” or less
- Spine Rub that goes the length of the spine from shipping and rubbing on the cardboard box.
- Miswraps of 1/16” or less (sometimes more but definitely will pass if 1/16” or less).
- Color Rub measuring a total area of 1” or less.
- Slight waviness to the book.
It’s important to remember that the keyword here is “negligible.” If you can look at the book and say, “This book is nearly perfect, yeah it has this and this, but it is nearly perfect,” then it can get a 9.8. Also, it can’t have all of the previously mentioned defects that would get a lower grade. It can only have one or two of these defects, possibly three, if all defects are super minor.
Grading is still subjective and open to the grader’s interpretation, but this list should give you an excellent starting point for what is allowed. I hope it helps you in your submissions! Best of luck.
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