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Comic Book Grading Guide

As long-time users of Nostomania know, the value of a comic depends strongly on grade. A copy in pristine MT 10.0 condition can sell for over 1000 times the price of a ratty copy in PR 0.5. Therefore being able to correctly determine the grade of a comic is an important skill for buyers and sellers alike. Grading comics is an art, and it takes many years of practice to become an accomplished grader. Luckily, alternatives exist for those who don't wish to undertake the effort to become an accomplished grader. Third-party grading services exist that will grade and encapsulate comics for you. The oldest and largest service is provided by Comics Guaranty, LLC, aka CGC. Professional Grading eXperts LLC, aka PGX, also provides third party grading. Nostomania is an Internet partner of CGC and offers 10% off their prices when you submit your comics through us.

However, if you prefer to grade your comics yourself, we've provided a concise, complete comic book grading guide below, describing all grades, along with images of an example comic determined by CGC to be in the corresponding grade. This summary is not definitive; however, it is intended to allow you to quickly estimate the condition of your comics. To get much more detailed information on grading, we recommend "The Official Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide", 2nd edition, available for purchase on Amazon.com through the link on the right.

MT 10.0 Show Example

Absolutely perfect in every way to the naked eye. Overall look is as if it had never been handled or released for sale. Corners are sharp and square, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are centered, pages are white and supple. No soiling, no wear. This is the most misunderstood grade by far. If you think you have a MT 10.0 book, think again, you probably do not. This term is frequently misused.

Before assigning your comic book this grade, think again. Consider, the oldest known MT 10.0 professionally graded book is a Silver Age Thor. There are no known MT 10.0 Golden Age comic books, and in our opinion never will be.

Key Note: We disagree with CGC's policy of giving Golden Age books different consideration than Modern Age books. When grading, all items should be considered equal. If no MT Golden Age books exist, that's just the way it is, don't cut a book some slack because it's old. We can always dream, but it ain't going to happen.


MT- 9.9 Show Example

Nearly perfect. Overall look is as if it had just been hand-selected as the best copy from the newsstand and never read. Only subtle bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners are sharp and square, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are centered, pages are white and supple. No cover soiling, creasing, tearing, pieces missing, or wear.


NM+/MT- 9.8 Show Example

This comic book will have at most a few very, very minor flaws. Perhaps a slightly blunted corner. Or a spine corner showing a tiny hint of wear. Or a very tiny spine stress mark. subtle bindery or printing flaws, such as slightly off-center registration, are allowed. Corners are sharp and square, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are centered, pages are white and supple. No cover soiling, creasing, tearing, or pieces missing.


NM+ 9.6 Show Example

Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections. Overall look is as if it had just been purchased from the newstand and probably not even read. Subtle bindery or printing flaws allowed, including a 1/16" bindery tear. Corners are sharp and either square or with ever-so-slight blunting, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are generally centered, pages are at worst off-white and supple. No cover soiling, creasing, tearing, pieces missing, or wear.


NM 9.4 Show Example

Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections. Overall look is as if it had just been purchased from the newstand and carefully read once or twice. Subtle bindery or printing flaws allowed, including a 1/16" bindery tear. Corners are sharp and either square or with ever-so-slight blunting, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are generally centered, pages range from white to cream and are supple. No cover soiling, creasing, tearing, pieces missing, or wear.


NM- 9.2 Show Example

Nearly perfect with some minor imperfections. Overall look is still as if it had carefully read a few times. Subtle bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners are sharp and either square or with ever-so-slight blunting, cover inks are bright and reflective, spine is tight and flat, staples are generally centered, pages may be off-white to cream. No cover soiling, tearing, or pieces missing. One minor crease allowed in this grade.


VF+/NM- 9.0 Show Example

Outstanding with excellent eye appeal. Overall look is as if it had been read a few times and carefully handled. Limited number of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have very minor wear, cover inks are bright and moderate to highly reflective, spine is almost completely flat with a possible minor color break, staples may have slight discoloration, pages can be at worst cream but still supple. Very minor cover soiling or foxing is allowed. No tearing or pieces missing. Cover may have minimal surface wear with a possible 1/4" or smaller bend that doesn't break color.


VF+ 8.5 Show Example

Outstanding with excellent eye appeal. Overall look is as if it had been read a few times and carefully handled. Limited number of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have minute wear, cover inks are bright and moderate to highly reflective, spine is almost completely flat with a possible minor color break, staples may have slight discoloration, pages may be cream to light tan and supple. Very minor cover soiling allowed. A small tear is allowed, but no pieces missing. Cover may have minimal surface wear with a possible 1/4" or smaller bend and color break.


VF 8.0 Show Example

This grade still has excellent eye appeal. Overall look is as if it had been read a few times and accrued minor handling wear. Limited number of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have minute wear, cover inks are still moderate to highly reflective, spine is almost completely flat with a few possible stress marks, staples may have slight discoloration, pages can be cream to very light tan. Minor cover soiling or a small tear allowed. A small piece may be missing only if it is a printing/bindery defect. Covers may have minimal surface wear with a possible small crease or two.


VF- 7.5 Show Example

Still nice eye appeal. Overall look is as if it had been read a few times and carefully handled. Limited number of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have some wear, cover inks are moderate to highly reflective, spine is almost completely flat with possible minor color breaks, staples may have slight discoloration, pages are cream to light tan and still fairly supple. Some cover soiling or minor tearing. Still no pieces missing. Covers may have minor surface wear with possible minor creasing.


FN+/VF- 7.0 Show Example

Above-average copy that shows minor wear but is flat and clean with good eye appeal. Overall look is as if read a few times and handled with moderate care. Some accumulaton of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have blunting, cover inks may be less bright or have reduced reflectivity, spine may have a minor roll with a possible 1/4" split or color break, staples may have minor discoloration, and pages can be tannish but fairly supple. Minor cover soiling and staple tears allowed. No pieces missing. Cover may have minor surface wear with minor to moderate cover creases.

Key Note: The CGC graded image example for this grade has a small amount of writing on the cover. CGC has not downgraded the book for this. We agree fully with this policy. In fact, when the writing is small, and clearly not intended to be defacing, such as the original owner's name (as in this example), we feel this should not affect the grade in any way all the way up to 9.8. On Golden Age books, such markings are often key in determining provenance, and add to the unique characteristics of an item.


FN+ 6.5 Show Example

Above-average copy that shows minor wear but is fairly flat and clean with good eye appeal. Overall look is as if read a few times and handled with moderate care. Some accumulaton of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have blunting, cover inks may be less bright or have reduced reflectivity, spine may have a minor roll with a possible 1/4" split and minor color breaks, staples may have minor discoloration, and pages can be tannish but fairly supple. Minor cover soiling and small staple tears allowed. A very tiny piece may be missing. Cover may have minor surface wear with minor to moderate cover creases.


FN 6.0 Show Example

Above-average copy that shows minor wear but is fairly flat and clean with decent eye appeal. Overall look is as if read a few times and handled with moderate care. Some accumulaton of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners may have blunting, cover inks may be less bright or have reduced reflectivity, spine may have a minor roll with a possible 1/4" split and minor color breaks, staples may have minor discoloration, and pages can be tannish but fairly supple. Minor cover soiling and staple tears allowed. A very tiny piece can be missing. Cover may have minor surface wear with minor to moderate cover creases. Centerfold may be a little loose.


FN- 5.5 Show Example

Above-average copy that shows minor wear but is fairly flat and clean with decent eye appeal. Overall look is as if read a several times and handled with moderate care. An accumulaton of bindery or printing flaws allowed. Corners typically have blunting, cover inks may be less bright or have reduced reflectivity, spine may have a minor roll with a possible 3/4" split and minor color breaks, staples may have minor discoloration, and pages can be tannish and somewhat supple. Minor cover soiling and staple tears allowed. A very small piece may be missing. Cover may have minor surface wear with minor to moderate cover creases.

Key Note: The example image for this grade is a classic example of CGC overgrading a Golden Age book. First, it has tape, which should not allow it to breach FN territory. Second, they are not taking page quality into account in the grade. Brittle pages are a very serious defect. This book is almost dead. Books with brittle pages can grade at most 1.8.


VG+/FN- 5.0 Show Example

Average used copy with moderate wear. Overall look is as if read many times and handled with some care. Corners may have blunting, cover may have low reflectivity, spine may have a moderate roll or up to a 1" split, staples may have discoloration, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Cover soiling and minor to moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 1/4" triangle may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have moderate to significant surface wear with moderate cover creases. Cover and centerfold may be loose, but may not be detached.


VG+ 4.5 Show Example

Average used copy with significant moderate wear. Overall look is as if read many times. Corners may be blunted and worn, cover may have low reflectivity, spine may have a moderate roll or up to a 1" split, staples may have discoloration, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Cover soiling and minor to moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 1/4" triangle may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have moderate to significant surface wear with moderate cover creases. Cover may have a full-length subscription crease. Small piece of tape allowed. Cover and centerfold may be loose, but may not be detached.

Key Note: This is the highest grade that can be assigned to any comic with tape.


VG 4.0 Show Example

Average used copy with significant moderate wear. Overall look is as if read many times. Corners are probably blunted and worn, cover likely has low reflectivity, spine may have a moderate roll or up to a 1" split, staples may have discoloration, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Minor cover soiling and minor to moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 5/8" piece may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have moderate to significant surface wear with moderate cover creases. Cover and centerfold may be loose, and centerfold may be detached at one staple.


VG- 3.5 Show Example

Average used copy with significant moderate wear. Overall look is as if read many times. Corners are probably blunted and worn, cover may have low reflectivity, spine may have a moderate roll or up to a 1 1/2" split, staples may have discoloration, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Cover soiling and minor to moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 5/8" triangle may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have moderate to significant surface wear with moderate cover creases. Cover may be loose, and centerfold may be detached.


GD+/VG- 3.0 Show Example

Used copy with substantial wear. Overall look is as if read many times, but is still complete. Corners may have rounding, cover may have low or no reflectivity, spine may have a roll or up to a 2" split, staples may have discoloration or some rust, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Moderate cover soiling and moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 1/2" piece may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have significant surface wear with book-length cover creases. Cover may be detached at one staple, centerfold may be completely detached.


GD+ 2.5 Show Example

Used copy with substantial wear. Overall look is as if read many times, but is still complete. Corners are likely rounded and worn, cover may have low or no reflectivity, spine may have a roll or up to a 2" split, staples may have discoloration or rust, and pages can be tan but not brittle. Moderate cover soiling and significant staple tears allowed. Up to 1/2" piece may be missing on corner or edge. Cover may have significant surface wear with book-length cover creases. Cover may be detached at one staple, centerfold may be completely detached.


GD 2.0 Show Example

Used copy with substantial wear. Overall look is as if read many times, but is still complete. Corners are likely rounded and worn, cover may have low or no reflectivity, spine may have a roll or up to a 2" split, staples may have discoloration or rust, and pages can be tan or even brown but not brittle. Moderate cover soiling and moderate staple tears allowed. Up to 5/8" piece may be missing on corner, edge, or interior page. Cover may have significant surface wear with book-length cover creases. Cover and centerfold may be detached.


GD- 1.8 Show Example

Overall look is very rough, but is still complete. Corners may be very worn, cover may have low or no reflectivity, spine may have a roll or up to a 3" split, staples may have discoloration or rust, and pages can be tan or brown but not brittle. Heavy cover soiling and staple tears allowed. Up to 3/4" triangle may be missing on corner, edge, or interior page. Cover may have significant surface wear with book-length cover creases. Cover and centerfold may be loose or detached.


FR+/GD- 1.5 Show Example

Used copy with heavy wear. Overall look is as if read many times with little care, but is still complete. Corners likely very worn, cover may have no reflectivity, spine may have a roll or up to 2/3rds split, staples may have discoloration or rust, pages can be tan or brown, and edges may show some brittleness. Cover soiling and staple tears are common. Small pieces of front or back cover or interior pages may be missing, but nothing affecting the stories. Cover may have considerable surface wear with book-length cover creases, significant tears and folds. Cover and centerfold may be loose or detached.

Key Note: A book graded this low can still be very valuable. Our example image book, a FR/GD 1.5 Detective Comics 27, sold for $83,650.00 through Heritage Galleries!


FR 1.0 Show Example

Very heavy wear. Often the only thing separating a FR 1.0 comic from PR 0.5 is the fact that a cover in some form is present. The cover may be detached or have chunks missing from the front and/or back, but it is there. The spine may be completely split. Cover soiling and staple tears are common. May have many tears and folds. Centerfold may be loose or detached.


PR 0.5 Show Example

Heavily used copy, may be incomplete. Overall look is not good, but hey, at least the thing's still around. Although in some cases, maybe it's best if it's not. If it's for example a Modern Age Rob Liefeld book, do us a favor and just toss it on the fire.

Key Note: Any coverless book automatically gets assigned this grade. While PR condition comics typically have very low value, a coverless copy of a key book may command very high prices. One reason: a collector may have a cover for that book, and will "marry" the cover to the coverless copy. One example: a coverless Superman 1 sold for over $3,500.00 in early 2009.


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