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)

 

1930s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1930s: View a three-year “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1930 to 1939 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

1940s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1940s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1940 to 1949 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

1950s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1950s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1950 to 1959 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

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.

1990s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1990s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1990 to 1999 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

1980s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1980s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1980 to 1989 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

1970s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1970s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1970 to 1979 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

1960s Comics – Popular Submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015

Popular comic book submissions to CGC from 2000 to 2015 are fairly consistent, with the same comics appearing most years, but a few surprises do appear as recent events such as movie releases, character re-introductions, and television series impact the demand for their CGC graded key issues.

1960s: View the annual “Top 10” and an overall ranking for comic books from 1960 to 1969 in the chart below (enlarge), or as a printable PDF.

Case Study: Star Wars #1 (1977) CGC Submissions

A comparison of the number of CGC submissions for Star Wars #1 (1977) over time, including both the regular edition and the 35-cent variant.

The total submissions as of January 2017 are 5,895 copies of Star Wars #1 regular edition, and 195 copies of the Star Wars #1 35-cent variant.  The 35-cent variant is effectively a 1:30 variant of the regular edition (1 variant for every 30.2 regular), for copies of both submitted to CGC.

It is likely that the Star Wars #1 (1977) 35-cent variant is significantly lower than 3% of the existing/remaining supply, because lower grade copies of the Star Wars #1 regular edition are generally not “worth submitting” for professional grading when considering the resale value compared to the submission and grading fees.

Case Study: CGC Submissions for 1990s Valiant Comics

The purchase of 1990s publisher Valiant Comics intellectual property in 2005, the announcement of the return of Valiant Comics in 2007, and the return to regular publishing in 2012 had impacts on the number of CGC submissions for 1990s Valiant Comics.  The chart below shows the percentages of all 1990s Valiant Comics submission by the date they were submitted to CGC.

The above chart for Valiant Comics should be compared to the percentages for all 1990s comic books submitted to CGC to see the differences specific to the Valiant titles.

Though the announcements in 2005 certainly impacted CGC submissions for 1990s Valiant Comics more than the average for other 1990s comics, it should be noted that Valiant Comics (published by Valiant Entertainment, Inc.) announced an investment from DMG for publications and movies in March 2015.  The increases in CGC submissions beginning in 2015 for Valiant, even above the overall 1990s percentages, are likely attributed to that announcement.  In the fall of 2016, Valiant announced a web-based live action series beginning in 2017.

Case Study: Batman Adventures #12 (1993) And The Impact of Movies on CGC Submissions

The impact of comic book based movies on the back issue comic market is undeniable, but is it also quantifiable?

In the case of the first comic book appearance of Harley Quinn, the number of CGC submissions for Batman Adventures #12 (1993) is shown on the chart below by the take of the CGC census.  Though most CGC census updates were weekly, beginning around 2013, there were cases where the census may not have been updated one week and the next week may actually be the counts for two weeks, such as the gap visible just before January 2016.

The Suicide Squad (2016) was announced with a director in September 2014 and casting in October 2014.  The number of CGC submissions spikes initially in late-2013, and increases significantly beginning in early 2015.  The dates reflected are the CGC census updates, so it can be assumed that the books were submitted 4 to 8 weeks prior to being recorded on the census after grading, coinciding with the September-October 2014 announcements.