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Slabbing comic books...I don't get???
It's like throwing it in jail and only being able to look at it through the cell window.
reading this thread makes me feel a need
to post some real information about the comics hobby, CGC (and other
third-party graders) as well as it's relation to the movie poster hobby
first of all, in order
to understand the emergence of third-party grading, you have to understand why
it came about and As someone who had spent the majority of his life as one of
the top dealers of comics & comic art in the history of the hobby (starting
as a dealer in 1966), I know the dynamics and the history of the hobby as well
as almost anyone. Where the hobby has been and where the hobby went and where
it might be going.
before CGC and in the
middle to late 1980s timeframe, comics had become a top-level collectibles
arena, in a head-to-head match-up to coins and stamps and sport memorabilia,
which were the major collecting hobbies understood by the Main Street
population at large. By this time in history, comics had become big business,
and as a result, drew interest from the ranks of collectors and dealers of
coins, stamps and baseball collecting hobbies. At conventions, we began to see
a serious influx of big-money buyers from those other hobbies as well as Wall
Street investors looking for other places to put their money, where they could
also have fun... and comic books were the place.
However, there were
problems associated with this transitory path, with grading for one and the
discovery of unmentioned restoration for another (which was a common problem
with less-than-honest dealers).
Here is a true story:
at the San Diego Comic
Con one year circa 1986 (I believe that was the year), a coin dealer came into
the room carrying a briefcase. The briefcase was full.of.ca$h! The fellow's
intention was to buy top quality examples of top issues, but he also had a specific
wantlist which had the #1's of the major golden age titles.
He went from table to
table, dropping a few thousand here and there until he stopped at one dealer's
table and saw a Captain America #1 (1941), which was among his specific wants.
The dealer had this comic graded at Very Fine (on a poor to near mint scale).
Priced at $15,000, the comic fell right within his wheelhouse and he struck a
deal, paid cash and put the comic into his briefcase. Continuing down the same
aisle, he spotted another copy of this book, and considering that he wasn't
looking for single copies, but rather investments, he asked to see it. He was
immediately shocked. because this copy was graded as VG to Fine and priced at
half of the copy he bought - and it was in almost exactly the same condition as the copy he had just shelled out a
huge chunk of cash. Flummoxed, as he was no expert in the comics field, he
pulled out the copy he bought and showed it to the dealer who explained it
appeared to be over-graded and therefore - overpriced. This would of course
piss off anyone who felt they were cheated and he marched right back to the
other dealer requesting a refund. It was a big stink, but he got no refund. The
result was that he was pissed off, realizing he was cheated AND HE LEFT THE
FACILITY, WITH HIS BRIEFCASE FULL OF MONEY. NEVER TO RETURN.
This seminal episode
was one of the moments that gave rise to some of the major dealers getting
together and discussing how to prevent such an issue in the future, as seeing
hundrfeds of thousands of dollars walk off was at best, irritating. It took a few years, but by the
early 90's CGC (Comics Guarantee Company) was born.
Personally, I don't
care for the process. Some of us call slabbed comics 'Coffin Books' because we
feel they are dead. Be that as it may, it was an understandable outcome in the
comics hobby, where grading had always been rather subjective, regardless of
the Overstreet Price Guide definition guidelines.
CGC created a singular
grading system, that all comic dealers would eventually agree was necessary and
amenable to the hobby. The system does work.
Since then, 2 other
grading companies have sprouted, CBCS and PGX. CBCS was started by my pal Steve
Borock, who had also started CGC (recently the company was sold to Beckett). (note:
nobody gives a damn about PGX. They suck as graders)
Now, what importance
does slabbing have to movie posters collecting is a difference from comics, the
main reasons being that comics is a much larger hobby by many multiples where
condition is of great importance, and that there can be many many copies of
almost any comic book. This could not be more different from movie posters than
Texas is from New York.
In posters, very
frequently, some titles are known to exist from singular copies. Ergo, you
don't always have a choice between a vg and a nm copy. The grading is less
important than filling the hole in your collecting and a lobby card that has
been trimmed of it's borders is fully
acceptable to some, when no other cards are known. Another factor is that in
comics, a Fantastic Four #1 graded 9.8 might sell for 10x as much as a copy
graded 9.6, especially if it is the single copy graded at that level. (note,
that as more copies of a book in 9.8 surface, get graded and are added to the census, the values
drop, as does the ego of owning the only 9.8 copy). These dynamics do not and
will not survive in posters.
so moving on, what
relevance does slabbing have to lobby cards?
in actuality, not a
whole lot. Heritage sells few slabbed cards in relation to it's total listings,
while in comics, there are auctions that only offer slabbed books. Action
comics #1 in any grade get slabbed (as do most valuable issues). But such a
dynamic will never exist in posters, because it isn't a requirement and because
restoration has become far too accepted in posters (in my opinion, much to the
detriment of the hobby).
But why does HA offer
any slabbed cards at all? Let's take the 1931 Maltese Falcon cards they just
sold. Realistically, HA wanted those slabbed so that people would know these
already incredibly rare cards (I don't believe more than a few were known to
exist previous to these being discovered) were in a league of their own -
super-rare and in incredible condition, and they would naturally attract a specific
type of buyer who was looking for cards in what some may call "Deke
Mint" (in reference to Deke Richards, who only collected top-notch
condition items). Slabbing translated to a higher value, and everyone who sells
wants a higher value.
Is there a 'tulipmania'
in comics? Well, yes and no. While I fully expected the hobby to implode 20
years ago, it not only has been going strong, it has outshone virtually every
other hobby extant other than cars and fine art. There is no hobby like it, so
I have to admit that my prediction the hobby was in inevitable collapse was
wrong and the hobby is going to continue to thrive, in all it's various forms,
even after physical comics cease being printed for new audiences.
Action comics #1
continues to get higher values and is generally reflective of the hobby and I
would say is going to be doing better than movie posters for at least another
protectors.. are they a bad thing? NO. Why would they be? Is a vinyl cover for
your vintage Mercedes Gull-Wing a bad thing? It does protect your car, doesn't
it? If the slab was an investment, why should protecting the slab not equally
be an investment? Similarly, why should UV protectors be considered a negative?
How many of you get UV plexiglas when you frame your posters, to prevent the
same fading from the same damaging light rays? Insinuations that these
protective measures are not positives is one of the silliest notions there are,
when it comes to protecting your financial investment. How many times have we
seen posters that have been faded that result in lower values for the posters
at auction, like say for instance the Invasion of the Body Snatchers spotlight
style half sheet that sold for a paltry $2255.00 just 4 weeks ago, or the
style-A that was also faded and sold for a pittance at $310.00? So protecting
your investment with any kind of device
or method that is not invasive is a net positive.
Can movie posters be
pushed to the same arena as slabbed comics?
Unlikely. The main
reason being the size of the hobby is infinitely smaller and the supply of the
type of merchandise that might require slabbing is also infinitely smaller. The
100 or so Frankenstein lobby cards don't trade frequently enough for a player
to say "I'm going to put together a set in NM 9.4 or better" and even
if they did, there aren't enough cards in those grades available. Many titles,
we don't even know of a complete set extant, in any condition, with some titles
known by single cards! This is why some people who do have 8 cards have some
missing corners, missing border sections, painted over titles...
(note: anyone who wants
a complete Frankenstein set in NM should just give Feiertag the million he’s
asking for his set. It’s their best chance of such a task)
Plus, only some sizes
can be slabbed. Lobby cards and stills are obvious. They are small. Maybe
window cards, but the grading companies have to see a financial value to the
costs of designing a slab for inserts and half sheets and then having a fabrication company create the die
from which the slabs are produced. It's not happening. This is expensive work.
Then you have to get to
another simple fact - in comics, all dealers are willing to accept CGC
or CBCS slabs as accurately graded comics regardless of differences in opinion.
So every dealer is willing to accept a grading standard of C-2 for good and C-10 for Mint, but this
situation does not exist in posters as long as any dealer uses a proprietary
grading method that does not fall in line with all others. Either everyone adopts a singular standard,
or there is no standard.
Ergo in movie posters,
slabbing is unlikely to hold the same position as it does in comic books and
baseball cards, for those very simple and obvious reasons.
The next subject - If
you want to consider 'tulipmania type signs', I say that movie posters are far
from immune to such a situation. For instance, as a much smaller hobby, one
thing that isn't good for the hobby is a regular over-abundance of material
dumped into the hobby on a weekly basis. The size of the hobby cannot support
many mutliples of any title being sold in a fore-shortened time frame, no
matter how valuable, before prices fall, especially in a hobby that eschews a
price guide to begin with. That is one thing the comics hobby has that prevents
a collapse. For the most part, all dealers get the same prices for comics -
within a range - that does not exist in posters. In posters, some people price
a Barbarella poster at $395 and others price the same poster at $1495 to a
different market. But what if every dealer at one convention had a Barbarella
40x60 at their booth? How would any dealer there get more than the lowest
priced copy available? The poster business has a different dynamic working.
The tulipmani portion
is not restricted either. Factually, once you get passed the top items of any
genre, many prices are in freefall, because everyone is competing against the
lowest prices achieved by one dealer in an auction format.
How many times do you
dealers hear "well, they have sold this poster you're asking $100 for just $15 at auction recently. Why should I
pay you more? I want to give you the same $15!"? So there is a tulipmania,
but it's forced by an outlier in this way. This doesn't even speak of the
tulipmania that has affected things like B-westerns, Film Noir posters in the
(previously) under $500 area and posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood,
where the actors and films have been forgotten.
While I hate to admit
it, in many ways, the comic book got it 'right'. Until there is a meeting of
the minds in posters, such cooperative methodologies are at best, a pipe dream.
Slabbing comic books...I don't get???It's like throwing it in jail and only being able to look at it through the cell window.