NostoNews, June 1, 2005
by Tommy Jasmin
This month I'm going to ramble awhile on professional grading, or "slabbing" services. Pros and cons, facts and opinions from myself. You know the idea - an unbiased, professional third-party examines, authenticates, grades, and encapsulates your collectible for a fee. The main advantage? When selling, especially for high dollar items and for Internet or mail order deals, the buyer has much higher assurance of the item's grade and authenticity.
For comic books, slabbing is relatively new in the collecting timeline. The major player is CGC (Comics Guaranty, LLC). The other two players are PGX (Professional Grading eXperts), and 3PG (Third-Party Grading). Four major concerns I have with slabbing comic books are:
My second concern is more complicated. Are the holders used by the grading services archival? I can't comment on 3PG, since they have never responded to my inquiries for information. I don't think the PGX holder is archival. As far as I know the inner sleeve is PVC (polyvinyl chloride), definitely not an archival material. CGC claims their holder is archival, but that's debatable. The material is Barex, made by Amoco. The chief technologist at Amoco says there are no long-term problems with Barex - that there are no additives, plasticizers or oils added. However, an independent lab who ran tests on various holders using FT-IR (Fourier Transform Infra-Red) scanning suggested that Barex is not very stable, breaking down over time. It seems to me both PGX and CGC could alleviate the archival concern by using a Mylar inner sleeve, with an acid-neutralizing sheet inserted into the middle of the book. However, I'm not an expert in this area so that's just an educated guess on my part.
As for my remaining concerns, in my opinion CGC has the advantage for authentication. The main issue here is restoration detection, and I believe the folks at CGC have excellent skills in this area. For grading accuracy, I've found both PGX and CGC to be extremely good graders. Cost and turnaround time favors PGX - it can take months to get your books back from CGC by the standard service. I'll summarize as follows: for lower value and modern books, where restoration is not much of a concern, go with PGX (much cheaper and faster turnaround), and for high value older books, go with CGC where you get a higher degree of assurance the books have not been tampered with or restored.
Storage and viewing are not an issue with coin slabbing. The holders are small, and you can see the entire coin clearly. The major concerns for coins are grading accuracy and authentication. Coin grading services have been around a long time, and there are many of them - PGGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG, PCI, ACG, and NTC to name a few. In a previous article, I noted the results for grading the exact same coin submitted to the various services will vary an almost disturbing amount. As Dean Albanese touches on in this month's coin news, the concensus in the collecting community seems to be that PCGS and NGC are the most trusted. They are the tightest graders and the best at detecting restoration. My view is that for high dollar, rare coins, they are your best bet. But for more common, newer coins like Statehood Quarters and modern bullion coins, why not go with a cheaper service like ANACS or PCI? PCI has a very attractive standard service at $10.00 per coin and an amazing five day turnaround time. Sure, you may end up with a notch or two of variance on the final grade, but not enough to justify the extra cost. I have a gripe with ICG though - they seem to give out MS-70 and PF-70 grades (a perfect score) way too freely. But grading is not a perfect science, so let the slab wars continue.
Don't forget, all you have to do is create a single Collection, Wantlist, or Salelist item during the appropriate month to qualify for our sweepstakes. Why not take a look and see what we're giving away (and gave away last month), free as always.
Thanks, we'll see you all next month.
Visit our NostoNews Archive.