I've created this page for those folks who have asked, or are considering asking, questions of me on www.AllExperts.com, where I have volunteered as a Comic Book Collecting Expert.

Hopefully, you'll find general answers to some of your questions here.  However, if you have more specific questions, please ask away! 

When asking questions, keep in mind the following:

  1. I can help you to grade your comics to help you better determine their value, but I am not an online price guide.  Value and price guide information is contained below.
  2. Value is subjective.  I can help you learn more about how collectable your particular comic might be.
  3. I am more than willing to help in any way I can with related questions, but I am not in the habit of assisting with related toys and other paraphernalia under www.AllExperts.com.  For questions of this nature, you should look under the site's section for toy collecting.
  4. Information on getting into the comics industry is not one of my strong suits and is, again, not the subject matter for my www.AllExperts.com volunteering.  There are online message boards with comics professionals that can provide much better information on this.
  5. Please read below to get a general sense of the types of information I can provide for you.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ON THE HISTORY OF COMICS
ON THE GENERAL VALUES OF COMICS
ON FINDING COMICS FROM YOUR PAST
ON THE "AGES" OF COMICS
ON STORAGE
ON GRADING COMICS YOURSELF
ON SELLING YOUR COMICS
ON THE VALUE OF PROFESSIONALLY GRADED (SLABBED/CGC) COMICS

ON THE HISTORY OF COMICS - As this is primarily a page for comic collecting, and as there is so much to discuss on the actual origins of comic books themselves or different publishers, titles and characters, please contact me through www.AllExperts.com regarding any historical question or inquiries on any publisher, title or character and I will do everything I can to provide good information and related books or websites that can further your understanding of comics and their rich history as Americana.  

RESEARCHING:
There are several books that chronicle the history of the comics industry - most notably, the first history by Jim Steranko (once a major industry writer/artist superstar). You can find Steranko's History of Comics at Amazon.com or any reputable bookseller. 
This type of information can also currently be found in Gemstone's Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide or issues of Comics Buyer's Guide Magazine (formerly a weekly newspaper).  

Gemstone Publishing also used to publish a wonderful historical magazine entitled Comic Book Marketplace, which was immensely successful at researching comics industry history. If you can find someone who has copies of articles from it, it is absolutely an invaluable resource. 

There is also a book entitled "All In Color for a Dime", which has, among it's many features on comics of a by-gone era, an article entitled "The Spawn of MC Gaines", which will allow you to understand how Mr. Gaines and his son, William, made comic book history a few times over. 

These books & magazines can usually be found through your local library.  For those of you interested in a quick history from its beginnings to today, read the following essay, otherwise, return to the top for the next section:

A ROUGH HISTORY OF THE COMICS INDUSTRY - 
A CRITICAL ESSAY by BRIAN G. PHILBIN:
The most basic history I can provide is that the comic strip was created as a purely American art form beginning with the success in the late 1800s of R.F. Outcault's "The Yellow Kid" in Joseph Pulitzer's "New York World" (and, later, William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal), spawning all kinds of comic strips & leading to color Sunday comics. 

Here are some significant signposts in Comics Publishing History:

M.C. (Maxwell Charles) Gaines had the idea of publishing these periodicals with reprints of newspaper comics in order to keep his presses running and, therefore, requiring less maintenance, and began the Comic Book Publishing industry with "Famous Funnies" and "Funnies on Parade" in the early 1930's and then began publishing as All-American Comics, which later became part of DC Comics.  

DC was originally National Allied Publications under the guidance of Major Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson, who came up with the idea of marketing comics that weren't reprints with "New Fun Comics".  This later became National Periodical Publications and then just "DC", which was an abbreviation of "Detective Comics", their third and most popular foray into publishing new comics.  DC then created a boom in the industry with the publication of Action #1, the first appearance of Superman, and following it with the first appearance of the Batman in Detective Comics #27, resulting in the proliferation of other "super" characters.

Marvel comics essentially started as "Atlas Comics", publishing their first comics as movie giveaways and then starting newsstand sales with Marvel Comics (later Marvel Mystery Comics) in 1939, which featured The Human Torch (not the one from the Fantastic Four) and the Sub-Mariner (yes, the same one) and later published Captain America Comics.

M.C. Gaines had sold All-American Comics in 1944 to his former partner after All-American merged with DC and kept only "Picture Stories from the Bible", which launched his new company EC (or, Entertaining Comics).  His son, William (or Bill) Gaines is best known nowadays for having headed up Mad Magazine until his death several years back, but he also was the headmaster of EC, which had faltered from its inception, but which he also revitalized after his dad's death, and a few years of experimenting, with horror (see "Tales of the Crypt"), war (Frontline Comics, Two Fisted Tales) and humor comics (Mad, Panic, etc.). The comics remain highly sought-after by fans and are considered a glimpse of what comics could be artistically - Stephen King was a tremendous fan and took many of his own story-telling cues from those comics.

Besides Marvel, DC and EC, the only other Golden Age publisher of note would be Fawcett comics, which featured Captain Marvel, Captain Midnight, Captain Video, Spy-Smasher, etc. They jumped on the bandwagon a bit late (1940), but were extremely successful - reputedly outselling Superman with their Captain Marvel titles, although the numbers from back then are inflated by some rather dubious measures (such as counting readers to whom the comics might have been passed on as part of their overall sales readership).

The comics industry experienced something of a rebirth in the mid-50s.  This was after flailing in post-war years and experiencing too much negative attention from Congress due to psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent" and subsequent smashing of one of their own (EC) with the Comics Code Authority.  The appearance of "The Flash", a science-fiction version of the Golden Age super-hero of the same name, showed that super-heroes had legs. The introduction of a few more Silver Age versions of Golden Age heroes later, The Justice League of America followed, which also, reputedly, led to the publishing of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man at Marvel.

Not much has changed since then, except that in the past few years, the Comics Code Authority was mostly abandoned by the industry as a whole and comics are mostly read by middle-aged men with no new readers coming in that anyone can quantify in any real sense. 

It used to be that you could see comics stand/spinner at a local supermarket, drug store, convenience store or a news stand or even a liquor store without having to look too hard.  They were impulse-buys that attracted young kids and encouraged them to read and enjoy fanciful adventures and even learn some decent behavior overall.  These were the times during which comics were distributed with other magazines and were returnable, making them attractive, low-cost items that generated income with little or no risk.

However, overall comic book sales in the 21st Century are in the gutter compared to what they were from the Golden Age up through the late 1980s, due to what is referred to as the "Speculator Crash" of 1994, but is likely mostly due to publishers becoming shortsighted and placing all of their efforts in single-point "direct distribution" (i.e., Diamond Comics Distributors) and effectively taking comics out of the impulse-buy locations that used to introduce kids to the pleasures of four-color drawings and word balloons.

You can still see a comic rack in Borders, and graphic novels/trade paperback collections of comics next to the Manga section at Barnes & Noble and the like, but kids would really have to know what they're looking for in order to come across a comic or comic shop these days.  The industry is populated almost solely by "collectors".

If you were to ask someone where to buy a comic book, many adults will reply "They still make those?" and kids will likely respond "What's a comic book?" because they've never seen or heard of one.  The growth and sustained health of the comics industry during the late 50s and through the 60s & 70s came from the actual promotion of these "comic book magazines" at the end of programs like "The Adventures of Superman", starring George Reeves or "Batman" starring Adam West and Burt Ward, or the subsequent cartoons of Superman, Aquaman and Batman on Saturday morning television.  Unfortunately, that opportunity is no longer as available to us, due to the lack of time available for credits on TV.

Several years ago, in conjunction with the release of the first Spider-Man movie, the comics industry started what became an annual stunt to "attract new readers" called "Free Comic Book Day" in conjunction with Comic Character Movie Release Dates (usually early in May), but - honestly - most retailers are content to give their wares to the same folks already buying weekly and don't really do much to promote the event outside of their normal avenues. They don't think to market with something as mundane as flyers to surrounding colleges, high schools or grade schools. This may be partially due to the fact that the industry has abandoned their interest in creating comics for young people.  Perhaps they think that it isn't worth it, or because they, themselves are aging comics fans who don't want people to think of comics as something for kids anymore.  One can only speculate on the motivations of comics creators and retailers, but the products and results are obvious.

There are a novel few retailers - and these will be pointed out as the norm, rather than the exception - who go out of their way to make sure the entire community is aware of the event. But those are too few and far between.  One looks forward to the day when comic books like "Teen Titans GO!", "Justice League Unlimited", "Usagi Yojimbo", Jeff Smith's "Bone", "The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century", "Amazing Spider-Girl", "Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius!", "Archie Comics", "Disney Comics", "Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four", "Looney Tunes", "Marvel Essentials" and "Showcase Presents" won't be just a minority of good comics for all ages.

Despite the above, creativity has never been more diverse than it is currently and the industry is growing in several different directions in an attempt to regain footing lost over the past 13 years. It remains to be seen whether the publishing arm can catch up to it's former glory.  Hopefully, after the ups and downs that the comic book industry has experienced in the past, perhaps another great breakthrough will occur and possibly create an entirely new venue for comic books for everyone.

At any rate, those are the main significant items to look for in Comics Publishing History.

ON THE GENERAL VALUES OF COMICSThe "Bible" of pricing is Gemstone's Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and the next most reliable resource for most information is Comics Buyer's Guide (CBG).  Be aware that you can pick up a copy of Gemstone's Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in any bookstore (or at least look through it to find information on these books and their values). You may also find an older version of the Overstreet Guide at your local library.  Currently, you can also find a useful price guide in CBG, which has recently switched to magazine format and is very entertaining beyond it's guide.

There is also an online price guide (though, as with most comics enthusiasts, I prefer Overstreet or Comics Buyer's Guide) at:


http://www.comicspriceguide.com/

There are many ways of finding general comics values - the online site above has the advantage of being online, free and a quick general ballpark for many of the older items listed in determining Market Value.  However, Overstreet and Comic Buyer's Guide have a greater network and larger samples for mathematically determining their estimates and are generally more reliable.

However, a price guide is, quite simply, a guess at what the current market will bear nationwide. You can actually find this out by monitoring eBay.com for a few months and finding a similar item in order to get an idea of what value it might hold to collectors.

"Market Value", of course, is a retail value - meaning if you owned a comic book store, this is what you would likely be able to ask for the books and expect to be paid if you had a buyer.  This is a price that would not necessarily be expected to be attained in, say, a typical eBay auction.

ON FINDING COMICS FROM YOUR PAST - I frequently get questions pertaining to attempts to find a "lost" comic from someone's past.  This is something that everyone can do themselves.  I recommend organizing your memories as specifically as possible in the following order:

1.  Time - When/what year do you recall seeing the comic?
2.  Place - Were you in the US or elsewhere?
3.  Cover - Do you recall the cover image?
4.  Title - Do you remember the title of the comic?
5.  Character - Do you remember any specific "starring" or recognizable characters from the comic?
6.  Publisher - Do you remember whether the comic was from DC, Marvel, Gold Key or other company?

These questions will allow you to organize a search.  First, do a Google search with a description of the cover.  Sometimes the key words will pop up under a discussion board/comics forum that will have knowledgeable people about that comic.  Second, you can search by character or title by going to the Grand Comics Database at:

www.comics.org

This will provide you with an opportunity to view vast numbers of comics cover images that will help to narrow down your search and the cover galleries are listed in chronological order.  All of these factors will help you locate the book you're looking for.  Lastly, if you recall at least the publisher, there are discussion board/comics forums that have many fans who can help with the search, as well.  A Google search will likely reveal many of these.

ON THE "AGES" OF COMICS - Older comics from the Golden Age (circa 1938- circa 1946) or Silver Age (c. 1956 - c. 1969) are the most valuable of comics.  The "ages" typically begin with specific events, such as the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), heralding super-heroes as the big seller in comic books, or the first appearance of Barry Allen as The Flash in Showcase Comics #4 (1956), marking the return of super-heroes to comics, after an almost 10-year dearth (only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were published in an uninterrupted fashion from the Golden Age through to the Silver Age).

Be mindful that comics produced in the 80's and 90's were created during a very prolific time for comics where the print runs are high and the age of the books is recent (within the past 25-30 years) don't tend to have a a great deal of value as a result of that combined with their relative importance (or, in this case, lack thereof).  Books from circa 1971 - circa 1979 (now commonly referred to as the Bronze Age) are slightly more valuable than books that come in the following few years, but are not generally as sought after as those from 1969 and prior.  Bronze Age books are becoming more popular as the readers of those books are of an age of greater means and reach the age of their greatest buying potential, thus returning to the comics purveyors of today to obtain treasures of their youth and paying a premium for them.

We now also have terms for in-between ages and pre-Golden Age comics.  The Platinum Age refers to Comic Books (Books with Comic Strips in them) from c. 1883 - c. 1935.  The Modern Age refers to Comic Books that more closely resemble comics as we are familiar with them - pamphlets of color - ranging from scarcely-remembered comics from 1929-1935 through the present day.  The Atom Age or Atomic Age is the period that bridges the Golden and Silver Ages from c. 1946/7 - c. 1955/6.  Current candidates for "ages" are the Dark Age, Speculator Age, Gimmick Age, Chromium Age, Hologram Age and Polypropylene Age, all referring to the period from 1988 - 1994 during which comics were printed with multiple covers and buyers purchased multiple copies of single issues with the same story inside.  Polypropylene Age is my personal favorite, as it appropriately refers to the period as an age of short-sightedness only concerned with the here and now and no thoughts toward building a future for the industry (Hologram Age is the runner up, as it refers appropriately to the manner in which the comics companies - well, mostly Marvel, really - held up sales of these gimmicks in an illusory fashion to attempt to represent their sales as a practice that was sustainable).

SIDE NOTE:  I, personally, would like to vote for the extremely creative and prolific period from 1979 - 1987 to be considered the Kalish Age.  Carol Kalish was the Marketing Guru for Marvel Comics during this period and no one was likely more single-handedly responsible for the great proliferation of solid comics stores during this period.  Her sudden and untimely death in 1991 was likely the precipitating factor in the industry losing its sense of self and heading on a path of self-destruction culminating in the crash of 1994 after DC decided to go exclusive with Diamond Distributors and Marvel decided to self-distribute.  During the Kalish Age, the best we were to see saw print under the Big Two and many, many other imprints came into being and some of our most established talent today was discovered or had their most wondrous periods of creativity.

ON STORAGE - Prior to 1990, most comics were printed on newspaper-grade paper, which is a poor quality, acidic and extremely weak paper that requires considerable conservation in order to preserve.  In the mid-1980s, DC began utilizing Mando paper, a less acidic and considerably stronger and whiter paper that provided markedly improved printing results.  Later, many comics companies went to Baxter paper, which is the type of paper utilized in magazines and what used to consist solely of the cover in comic books.  This shiny paper has resulted in the inability to read sections of comics in direct light or sunlight, which has also hampered the unfettered reading of comic books, which were previously an extremely portable form of entertainment.

Do you use comics bags?  This is important - regular plastic/polypropylene tends to deteriorate after anything more than a year and a half to a maximum of two years.  This deterioration yellows the plastic and leeches onto the paper, further yellowing it as well as creating an atmosphere for further decay in the future.  

You might not notice it at first, but try taking the plastic bags off of several of them, placing them one over the other in sunlight or good light, and you'll notice that they are lacking in clarity and exhibit a greenish-yellow color as a result of age.  The only practical use for plastic/polypropylene bags is solely as short term storage or to change all the bags every year or else purchase Mylar D sleeves to put them in if you intend to store them on a longer term basis.

Storage of comics is crucial to their longevity, mostly because comics were printed on cheap newsprint from 1934-1983, as they were intended as "disposable" entertainment (i.e., folks bought them, read them & threw them away or put them with their newspapers for paper drives, recycling, etc.).  This cheap paper is highly acidic and not prone to longevity unless it is kept away from heat, light and varying humidity.  Oxygenation is also a factor, but we'll get to that later.

It's the "varying" part of humidity that impacts the paper mostly - if there is a stable humidity of around 50%, they'll stay in good condition and last much, much longer than they would otherwise.  While 50% is optimal, higher or lower humidity - as long as it's stable - is typically just fine.  Since most of us don't have a place where we can retain such a stable environment, those who live in areas where basements are typical (with no history of flooding, of course) are in the perfect place to store their comics.

The Edgar Church Collection (or "Mile High Collection") of comics was discovered in a basement, where they had been for decades - piled neatly in stacks, several feet high in some cases. Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics, who discovered the collection upon approach from Mr. Church's surviving relatives, relates that the comics sometimes would "pop" open like they'd never been read and that the pages were supple and clean and that in the cases where there was poor condition, it was typically the edges of the pages that suffered because they had been exposed to light over a long period of time. The stacking of the books helped to "squeeze out" any air and to protect the rest of the books from light. This left the interior of the books in remarkable condition.

Oxygen and pollution contribute to the deterioration of comics significantly over long periods of time. Oxygen allows the paper to deteriorate as it normally would, and pollution adds acidity to the pages, as well.  

Also, you'll want to keep the comics away from other paper that deteriorates - in this case "one bad apple" can leech acidic qualities into other comics around it.  Same for old plastic sleeves made of polymer.

That said, the best way to store comics is one of two ways: either in archival, acid-free quality file boxes, which will require you to stack the comics inside - or in acid-free comic book boxes.  Store them in Mylar sleeves, keeping boxes 6-10 inches from the floor to allow for any spills or flooding.  Keep the boxes in a stable temperature (around 74 degrees works) and humidity (around 50% is optimal).

The best comic-sleeve protection you can find is available from two separate sources, who make their own Mylar products for the comics market:

E. Gerber Products - www.egerber.com 
Bill Cole Mylar - www.bcemylar.com

They both have the highest quality products available at the best prices for Mylar that you'll find.

ON GRADING COMICS YOURSELF - If you decide to grade your comics, be aware that comics buyers examine comics as if they were a rare jewel and will be extremely finicky about the grade.

Here are some guidelines.  Be sure to note that as you move up the grade ladder from the bottom (Poor to Mint), each item that says "No ___" should be adhered to at the level indicated and everything above, as it is not repeated in the next grade up (it is presumed that the copy met the previous grade and then some, which was why one moved to the next grading level).  Look for the following defects* as you go:

Browning (of the pages), chips, corner bends (cover), edge wear, fanned pages, fingerprints, folds, missing pieces, off-center printing, rubber/arrival/date stamps (on cover), scuff marks, spine rolling, spine stress, staining, staple rust, tape, tears, warping/wrinkles, writing (on cover or pages) and anything else that could possibly be considered a defect.

Condition of the color of any page is mentioned in many of the above grades. Setting a standard that everyone can adhere to is a little difficult, but Overstreet has made what many consider the best attempt with the "OWL" scale (standing for Overstreet Whiteness Level). The scale also goes from 0 (the most brown and brittle) to 10 (the whitest and most supple). You would need an "OWL" card of recent printing to be able to appropriately guage the whiteness of any comic, although your local comic dealership might be able to give you an OWL rating with their own, as most reputable dealers working with older, back-issue comics have one on hand.

Here are the grades as they are generally used (the number in parentheses is on a scale of 1 - 10 and is utilized by most professional comics graders - the ONE system, or Overstreet Numeric Equivalent, is the basis for all of these grading systems, including CGC):

COVERLESS (0.0):  Comics without covers are generally deemed without value - however, there is some interest in coverless comics, and you never know who is out there that might greatly appreciate a coverless comic. 

POOR (0.5):  A very worn copy.  Cover is present, but may be detached or damaged with pieces missing. Possible pieces missing from interior, brown or brittle pages, rips, tears, folding, creasing, etc. evident at first look.

FAIR (1.0):  Has all pages and cover - possibly small pieces missing from either the cover or interior pages.  Creases and folds acceptable. Corners can be rounded. Pages may be brittle.

GOOD (1.5-2.5):  A complete copy.  No brittle pages, but defects are apparent and cover gloss can be low.  No pieces missing allowed except for the smallest of tears or the smallest of chunks.  Still in collectible condition with some sharpness to corners and structural integrity is sound.

VERY GOOD (3.0-4.5):  The average used comic book - has moderate wear, can have a reading or center crease or a rolled spine, but has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is not a desirable copy.  Browned pages can place an otherwise Fine copy into this grade category.  No small chunks can be missing, though a very minor tear to the cover or an interior page is acceptable.

FINE (5.0-6.5):  A complete copy with signs of wear somewhat evident (some spine wear and possibly a few minor defects).  Some slight browning acceptable.  No substantial reduction in reflectivity on cover.  No pieces missing.

VERY FINE (7.0-8.5):  A clean, complete copy with some signs of wear (perhaps some slight spine wear and possibly a minor crease or two).  No scratches on cover.  Off-cream to creamy pages.

VERY FINE TO NEAR MINT (8.6-9.0):  This is a copy that has all of its original gloss, some minor signs of wear beginning to show, with creamy pages and possibly one or two minor flaws (some small chipping or a minor tear on the cover), no spine wear or bending and all in all a clean flat copy with defects only found upon close inspection.

NEAR MINT (9.1-9.4):  Only the most minor of imperfections allowed.  Perhaps two minor flaws that keep it from attaining the next level.

NEAR MINT TO MINT (9.5-9.8):  This is a copy that has all of its original gloss, with off-white/white paper and is flawless except for possibly one minor problem (a very minuscule tear or chip on the cover which is almost unnoticeable).  A near-perfect copy in new condition.

MINT (9.9-10.0):  Absolutely perfect, save for most minor of printing errors (a cover cut slightly off-center, perhaps).  A minor arrival date stamp acceptable.  No bending in the spine, no looseness to staples. Perfectly white and supple pages.  Cover gloss is perfect, no scratches.  Square corners - tight, flat, sharp copy, no fanning of pages or spine roll.

There used to be a grade indicated as "PRISTINE MINT", which indicated that not only was the cover perfectly centered, but the cover was also cut perfectly with no overrun from the next copy.  That would be a perfect 10.0 grade from CGC, the professional grading house for comics and they refer to this as "GEM MINT", which is their own term.

A general guideline for the difference in price between Near Mint (which is the price most price guides are operating on) and Very Fine is about 50 percent.  Very Good is then typically 75 percent less than Near Mint.

Mint is practically impossible to find for comics that are pre-1980 unless there have been remarkable storage conditions with proper temperature/humidity control and an absence of other paper products, oxygen and light.  Because of this fact and the rarity of such comic books, values can vary widely when a book is found in Mint condition and is beyond the condition of other existing copies, resulting in a dramatic increase in its desirability.

DEFECTS: Here are the definitions of said defects.  Defects come in many shapes and sizes, but typically, when a novice is looking at a book, they're overlooking some of the more common items either because they're accustomed to poor-looking comics, or aren't looking on the back cover. Always check the back cover!!!  These are some of the defects you might find on your average comic book if you look closely enough: 

Browning (Pages): This is an effect of oxidation and exposure to light. Paper - particularly newsprint - degrades and decays over time and becoming yellow, then brown is the most common result.
Chipping (Cover): This is usually the result of a specific printing and trimming process - mostly found in older Marvel comics and also known as "Marvel Chipping" - which occurrs when pieces, or even the color itself, actually separates from the rest of the paper/cover. Mostly, it occurs on the edges of the cover, but can occur in other places, as well. This also resulted in "trimming" of comics to cover up the defect and make the book look nicer than it actually had been, giving it sharper edges, but also reducing the actual size of the book and, when done poorly, the eye-appeal, as well (the opposite result of the intent).
Corner Bends: This can exhibit itself in a number of ways, but typically refers to a crease or line near the corner.
Edge Wear: This is mostly from "paging" the book with one's thumb or fingers, but can also be from holding the edges and just reading the book over and over while holding the same area, eventually eroding the crispness of the page.
Fanned Pages: Just like a folding fan, the pages of a comic can "fan"if the book isn't straight. While usually caused by Spine Roll (see below), it can also be caused by bad printing or just sitting on the book or folding it accidentally.
Fingerprints: Usually the result of oils on the fingers, or other contaminants - can happen on the cover or the pages. Be sure to look through your book before buying!
Folds: Just what it sounds like - this can happen to the cover alone, one page or the whole of the book.
Gloss (loss of, on cover, due to something other than the other listed defects): Oxidation or just plain wear can reduce cover gloss.
Missing Pieces: In the pages or the cover - if it's a cut-out, the book is doomed.
Off-Center Printing (this isn't really too much of a defect on older comics, but it is in the current market): In the "olden days", this was a matter of the printing press not cutting at the right time, resulting in a runover and an off-center cover. If it's the whole book, forget it, but the cover is usually not the problem.
Rubber Stamps (on cover): Acceptable on most grades, as it was sometimes was the price of doing business.
Scuff Marks (Cover): This can happen either because it was pressed too hard against the bindings that the book was shipped in or rubbing against some other surface.
Spine Rolling: Comes from either rolling the comic into a tube or cylinder and putting it in your pocket, or rolling the comic in one's hand while reading.
Spine Stress: Comes from holding the comic open while reading, eventually pulling at the center of the comic. Shows up as general wear or, in some cases, chipping of the coloring from the cover.
Staining: Can be from water or other liquids, or even something goop-ey, but whatever it is, it stays on the paper and results in discoloration or malformation of the paper and effects the overall eye-appeal of the book.
Staple Rust: Shows evidence of humidity and poor storage and can also contaminate the paper.
Tape: Baaaad, BAD comic repair attempt-er! The chemicals from tape adhesive leach into the paper and ruin the cover/page. This can only be removed by a professional, and then you're looking at considerable cost and a restored comic, which is less desirable.
Tears: Happens all the time, but very minor ones are acceptable if they're the only defect in the comic all the way up to Near Mint.
Warping/Wrinkles: Looks just like it sounds. From poor storage or contamination.
Writing (on cover or pages): Not the best thing, but not the worst, either. If light and small, it can end up affecting the eye-appeal very minimally.

Remember that grading can be subjective, which is why third-party graders have come into the marketplace.  One way of improving your skills is to try your hand with E-Bigs, an online grading tool that can provide some visual guidelines to grading your books at:

http://www.e-bigs.net/freetool.php

Be aware that using this tool does not guarantee that you will be able to grade your books without any argument from another collector, but it will certainly provide you with a third-party reasoning for your grade, which you can then refer to when discussing the reasons for your grade. 

ON SELLING YOUR COMICS - If you are interested in selling your books, and want to go beyond just getting an average idea of their value, eBay.com is certainly the most likely place for you to be able to place books up for auction - particularly if you have a scanner.  Even if you don't have a way to get a picture of your comics onto eBay, it's still your best bet to get the best value for your books.  Other places are Krause.com or Collectit.net or Collect.com and there are other comics classified places where you can place an ad & put the books up for sale at no cost (though the fee for eBay is miniscule).

Also, you would truly need to list the book as distinctly as possible in order to get the desired response, using proper punctuation and capitalization.  On the very inside of each comic book (and other magazines/periodicals, for that matter) is typically indicia that lists the date, volume number and most importantly, publisher and title of the book itself.  It is best to use this information when listing the books or inquiring about their value.

Here is an example of where the Indicia appears:

Here's the Indicia close-up:



In modern comics after around 1998, indicia can also be found on the inside cover or near the letters column.

Now, there are several tricks to putting an item up for bid on eBay and you should look at the comics getting the biggest bids any how they are "marketed" on eBay, i.e., how the reserve is set or whether it advertises "no reserve", whether there is a big minimum bid or not, etc.

BE AWARE - Comics titles have been used repeatedly over the years.  You'll need a guide in order to determine the version of the title you're holding in your hands.  For instance, AVENGERS from Marvel is not the only "Avengers" comic out there.  There have been 5 different runs of comics named "The Avengers", including an A-1 Comic Magazine production and the Gold Key Television Series adaptation.  There are 3 runs of Marvel's "Avengers" and currently, there are modifications of that title on the shelves, such as "The Mighty Avengers" or "New Avengers", not to mention that they have had an "Avengers West Coast" and many Mini-Series featuring the name (Avengers Spotlight, Avengers Forever, Avengers Classics, etc.).  Always consult the Overstreet Price Guide - the most complete listing of all comics from the turn of the century on.  It's your best resource for ensuring a correct description of your comic.

PROFESSIONAL GRADING:
Currently, there is a very big push for the most pristine books available. CGC (Comics Guaranty Company, Inc.) is a Professional Third Party Grading Company that puts a grade on a comic and then seals it for sale by the owner.  Those comics that attain a 9.4 (CGC's Near Mint) rating or higher are nearly perfect.  These books are seeing prices in multiples of the values associated with the Overstreet Price Guide.  

ON THE VALUE OF PROFESSIONALLY GRADED (SLABBED/CGC) COMICS - If you feel confident that your comics are actually in pristine condition, then the best way for you to make them sure sales would be to send them to CGC or other grading authority to get graded and slabbed (placed in sealed plastic armor) and try to sell them on eBay - that's typically the best way to reach that niche collector who doesn't have these back issues available at a local comic shop and wants them in the best condition possible.

Lastly, be aware that after determining the grade of the book and the retail value thereof isn't the end of the story.  Costs vary by region, as well as by what one collector will pay another collector, as well as what a retail establishment will pay a collector, and so on.

If you have an assessment job you need done for insurance purposes or the like, I do offer my services - my schedule can be found here.

I hope that you've found this information useful.  If so, and you've used AllExperts.com to ask a question, please be sure to rate me upon completing your study of this page and the information I've provided. 

Thanks!

Brian G. Philbin

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BRIAN G. PHILBIN'S GUIDE TO THE BASICS OF COMICS, COMICS HISTORY, COMIC COLLECTING AND COMICS VALUES - text/index is Brian G. Philbin, 2004. If you have any question, comments or other items of interest to this page, please feel free to E-Mail Brian G. Philbin. All items which are highlighted in blue text and underlined are links to the named item!

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