Where is the cut-off for “High Grade”?

If we’re discussing where the cut-off for “high grade” comics would be, in terms of condition, then there’s an answer based on the eye appeal of a comic.  It’s hard to see how a comic book rated at least Very Fine to Near Mint (VF/NM, or 9.0 on the 10 scale) wouldn’t be a “high grade” comic according to its appearance.

However, if the comic was produced last week and was a 9.0 condition, it would actually be “low grade” relative to the quantities which would be available at 9.4 (Near Mint) and above.

It would be hard to say that 9.6 or higher is required for a comic to be “high grade” (regardless of age) since there are older comics which may not even exist in grades above 8.0, particularly comics from the beginning of the superhero genre of the late 1930s to 1940s.

Using the decades of the comics as a guide, and offering possible cut-off points as a percentage of CGC graded copies (Universal and Signature), the following chart provides some extra information to the discussion.

There isn’t a definite conclusion to be made from the numbers, and there isn’t a definite answer to when comics no longer “look high grade” from an appearance standpoint (being in the eye of the beholder), but more than 3,000,000 CGC graded comics were analyzed to produce the chart above. That’s at least a little more information than we had before.

Highest Graded! But is it Single Highest Graded?

There is a natural desire to celebrate owning (or offering for sale) the “Highest Graded” copy of a comic book, which can be determined by looking at the CGC Census.

There is also a difference between the “Single Highest Graded” copy of a comic book and owning one of the “Highest Graded” copies (are there 2 or 200?) graded (so far).

Here’s a breakdown of “Highest Graded” for Universal and Signature Series CGC graded comics, as of October 3, 2017 CGC Census:

172,631 different comic books on the CGC Census, 3,546,449 CGC graded comics, and 3,475,440 are Universal or Signature Series (about 71,000 are either Restored or Qualified grades).

There are 1,004,156 CGC graded comics which are technically “Highest Graded” – that is, 28.3% of ALL CGC graded comics, more than 1-in-4 CGC Graded comics are also “Highest Graded” copies.

There are 95,628 “Single Highest Graded” copies, and over half of them are also the “Only Graded Copy”… so 54,811 are single highest without any “competition”.

That leaves 40,817 “Single Highest Graded” copies which have at least one other lower graded copy on the CGC Census. That means 4% (about 1-in-25) of the 1,004,156 comics that can claim to be “Highest Graded” on the census are also “Single Highest Graded” with at least two copies graded.

Here is the breakdown of the 95,628 “Single Highest Graded” copies:

54,811 are “single highest” and “only graded copy”

13,101 are “single highest” and “one of two copies graded”

6,108 are “single highest” and “one of three copies graded”

3,668 are “single highest” and “one of four copies graded”

9,330 are “single highest” with 5 to 10 copies graded

4,165 are “single highest” with 11 to 20 copies graded

2,775 are “single highest” with 21 to 50 copies graded

797 are “single highest” with 51 to 100 copies graded

804 are “single highest” with 101 to 1,000 copies graded

69 are “single highest” with more than 1,000 copies graded

The “Single Highest Grade” in terms of highest total Universal and Signature Series copies graded are:

Rank as of Oct. 3, 2017 Universal and Signature CGC Submissions Highest CGC Grade Comic
1 13,301 10 New Mutants 98 (1991)
2 8,772 9.9 Incredible Hulk 181 (1974)
3 7,556 10 Wolverine 1 (1988)
4 4,026 10 Web of Spider-Man 1 (1985)
5 3,792 9.9 X-Men 141 (1981)
6 3,411 9.9 Uncanny X-Men 142 (1981)
7 3,067 9.9 Avengers Annual 10 (1981)
8 3,008 9.9 New Teen Titans 2 (1980)
9 2,577 9.9 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 1 (1986)
10 2,573 9.8 Amazing Spider-Man 1 (1963)
11 2,541 9.9 X-Force 2 (1991)
12 2,516 9.8 Amazing Spider-Man 14 (1964)
13 2,222 9.9 X-Factor 24 (1988)
14 1,936 9.9 Incredible Hulk 271 (1982)
15 1,930 9.9 The Marvels Project 1 Sketch Cover (2009)
16 1,874 9.9 Walking Dead 19 (2005)
17 1,858 9.9 Uncanny X-Men 244 (1989)
18 1,842 9.9 X-Men 140 (1980)
19 1,815 10 Amazing Spider-Man 363 (1992)
20 1,781 10 Amazing Spider-Man 316 (1989)
21 1,770 10 Deadpool 1 (1993)
22 1,767 10 Rai 0 (1992)
23 1,767 9.9 Shazam 1 (1973)
24 1,752 9.9 Iron Man and Sub-Mariner 1 (1968)
25 1,699 9.9 Batman 404 (1987)


Most Popular Comic Book Publishers Submitted to CGC

The most often submitted publishers to CGC, as of the January 17, 2017 CGC Census.  To date, at least one submission has been made for 2,476 different publishers.

58% of all submissions are Marvel comic books, and 20% are D.C. Comics.  Marvel can also claim another 0.4% each for Timely and Atlas titles, while D.C. also adds 0.6% for Vertigo titles.

Image Comics has also published as Skybound and Top Cow, to total more than 6% of CGC submissions.  Only two other publishers total at least 1% of CGC submissions, Dell Publishing and Valiant Comics.

CGC 10: The Oldest Comics Graded ‘Perfect 10’

After more than 3,200,000 comics graded 2000 to 2016, this is the Top 25 list of the oldest CGC 10 comic books.

Ranking Comic Date
1 Kolynos Presents the White Guard 1 1949
2 Thor 156 9/68
3 Snatch Comics 1 Third Printing 1969(?)
4 Aurora Comic Scenes 182-140 1974
5 Aurora Comic Scenes 184-140 1974
6 Aurora Comic Scenes 185-140 1974
7 Aurora Comic Scenes 188-140 1974
8 Aurora Comic Scenes 192-140 1974
9 Aurora Comic Scenes 193-140 1974
10 Captain Canuck 1 7/75
11 1984 3 9/78
12 Cerebus the Aardvark 6 10/78
13 Cerebus the Aardvark 7 12/78-1/79
14 Daredevil 157 3/79
15 Battlestar Galactica 5 7/79
16 Cerebus the Aardvark 15 4/80
17 Cerebus the Aardvark 21 10/80
18 Eerie 115 10/80
19 Fantastic Four 226 1/81
20 Amazing Spider-Man 216 5/81
21 Ka-Zar the Savage 7 10/81
22 Uncanny X-Men 156 4/82
23 Ghosts 112 5/82
24 Marvel Team-Up 117 5/82
25 Star Wars 59 5/82

A list of all CGC 10 comics 1949 to 1999 is available:
CGC10list.xls (Excel format)

There are 256 different comics in the list, some duplicate CGC 10 so the total number of CGC 10 slabs 1949 to 1999 is 547.

Earlier labels noted the grade as CGC 10.0, but the current standard label states CGC 10.

The Age Old Question…

Some traditional names for the ages of comic books have been in place for a while (Golden Age, Silver Age), and some are still being argued (Copper Age, Modern Age).

This website will usually refer to comic books by the decade of their release (or date printed inside), rather than by ages, Golden, Silver, Bronze, etc.

While there is little doubt that a comic book from 1939 and another from 1952 are both Golden Age, there is a significant difference in comics from the 1930s compared to comics from the 1950s.  The addition of a sub-age in the Golden Age (like Atomic Age) may be useful for some, but in all cases these ages are linked with years.

For clarity and to eliminate confusion, this website will say 1950s comic books when it means 1950-1959, rather than attempt to separate Golden Age, Atomic Age, and Silver Age… which can all lay claim to at least a portion of the 1950s.

Comics from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s will be referenced in the tags of articles and charts, when applicable.  Other age labels may be included, but will not be required.

Notes on CGC census information

The CGC Census is updated weekly at cgccomics.com and was updated periodically as early as 2003.  It is the policy of CGC to replace their census information with each update, so the author of this site created a database for prior CGC census data.  As each update was released, the database grew to the point that CGCdata.com was established to provide an easy method for searching current and historical CGC census information.  Permission was given by CGC for the compilation and provision of the historical CGC census data starting in 2003.  Earlier CGC census data files originally provided to the authors of the Standard Catalog of Comic Books from July 2001 and January 2002 were also provided to CGCdata.com.

Additional information is often requested which is not available in the CGC Census.  Examples include: grader notes, the identity of signatures, and individual submitter or dealer submission information.  That type of information is not available in the CGC Census, and is not available to CGCdata.com or slabdata.com.

The CGCdata.com and slabdata.com websites only contain information which was publicly available, which has been stored and compiled for analysis.

Percent of CGC Submissions Noted as Variants

The “rise of the variant” is clearly seen in the percent of CGC submissions which have any type of variant notification on the CGC label, separated by the date of the book.  The 1966 variant “spike” is related to Golden Record Reprints from Marvel, and the 1976-1977 “spike” is for 30-cent and 35-cent variants.  1990’s spike is primarily related to Spider-man #1 (1990).

What is slabdata.com?

Slabdata.com is a blog established in 2017, associated with CGCdata.com Census Analysis.  The CGC census data available is from July 2001 to present.  No information is available at CGCdata.com that was not publicly available on the official CGC Census at cgccomics.com.  The data has been compiled with the permission of Comics Guaranty LLC since 2003, and the search engine for CGC Census Analysis has been available at CGCdata.com since 2011.  Greg Holland is the administrator of CGCdata.com and slabdata.com.

… but what is a slab?

‘slab’ is the common term used to refer to professionally graded comic books.  The term ‘raw’ is often used to refer to any comic book which has not been professionally graded, in other words,’raw’ is the original way a comic book is published and distributed for reading and collecting.

In addition to receiving a third-party opinion on the condition of the comic book (including a check for restoration), slabbed comics are encapsulated and assigned a serial number by the grading company.

As of January 2017, only the CGC grading company has made their census data public.  When another grading company provides census data, it will be incorporated with their permission into the database and referenced on this blog.

Percent of All CGC Submissions that are Signature Series

The percentage of CGC submissions which are also part of the Signature Series program is shown in the chart above.  These are overall percentages for all comic years.  Specifically focusing on comic books printed 2010 to 2016, the annual percentage of books CGC graded each year from 2013 to 2016 was about 36% in the Signature Series program.

CGC Census Submissions Over Time – By Comic Decade

As of January 17, 2017, a total of 3,233,122 comic books appear on the CGC Census.

The following chart shows the total number of submissions (universal, signature, restored, and qualified) according to the CGC census data compiled at CGCdata.com, with the oldest decades at the bottom and newest at the top.  The numbers for 1930s comics are included, but are so low that they do not appear in the chart.

The portion of each CGC grading year(s) attributed to each decade of comic books is shown as a percentage in the chart below.