The Expert’s Guide to Grading Comics

CGC's President Matt Nelson stopped by the Den of Geek Studio at San Diego Comic-Con for an in-depth conversation about the state of the grading industry.

CGC Comics Grading Guide
Photo: Den of Geek / Nick Morgulis / CGC

The gold standard in certifying a comic book’s quality is the grading system through Certified Guaranty Company, better known as CGC. Led by President Matt Nelson, CGC provides clients with a numbered grading system based on the condition of a submitted comic book while protecting it in a hard plastic case, or slab. Since launching in 2000, CGC has graded over 5 million comic books and isn’t slowing down, with the company now a major staple within the comic book industry and collectors’ market and the world’s largest grader of comic books and has expanded into grading other highly sought-after collectibles.

Nelson visited the Den of Geek studio, powered by eBay Collectibles, at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 to offer advice on collectors looking to get their comics graded and the value that CGC grading carries in the collectors community. Nelson noted that the CGC grade certifies the value and authenticity of a comic right upfront, adds it to the company’s online registry, and places it in a gorgeous way for collectors to safely display their most prized comics.

Nelson directed those with major questions about how grades are achieved to The Official CGC Grading Guide for Grading Comics, published this past October. Running at nearly 400 pages, the guide explains the common types of defects and other quality considerations taken into account when CGC graders assess comics and how each directly affects a given score. Grades are delivered impartially, with CGC graders not taking collectors’ identities into account at all during the process to deliver the most empirically accurate grade on a 1-10 scale.

For those interested in getting an official CGC grade on their comics, CGC takes both submissions directly through their website and through authorized dealers. Those submitting comics to CGC directly have four different subscription tiers to choose from, each with its own perks and submission privileges. There is a free tier that allows subscribers access to CGC’s online resources, including the registry, chat boards, and free grader notes for submitted comics, with select submission privileges for grading.

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The paid tiers come with annual fees, the first of which is an Associate level for $25 per year, allowing full access to online resources, full submission privileges, 10% off at the CGC store, and a $15 shipping kit voucher for new subscribers. The $149 Premium level includes all the Associate perks, along with a $20 shipping voucher for new subscribers and $150 in CGC credit set with the membership duration through its scheduled expiration. The $299 Elite level includes all the Premium perks, with 10% off CGC grading tiers.

After choosing a membership level, subscribers select which services they want from CGC, including pressing and custom labels, with an online submission form identifying the requested services. CGC then sends out comics shipping kits to subscribers, along with packaging instructions and protective materials to submit comics for grading to CGC’s headquarters in Sarasota. CGC offers two different shipping kits, one that can ship 1-10 comics and another that can ship 11-40. Graded comics are then shipped back to subscribers.

For fans visiting conventions who want creative teams to autograph comics and have their signatures CGC-authenticated along with an official grade, CGC offers its Signature Series service at many major conventions and at designated in-house signing events. Collectors will have a CGC representative present for the signing and have the comic graded, with a Signature Series gold label at the top of the case, authenticating the signature and when exactly it was signed. For those interested, please check CGC’s Signature Series site for schedules for upcoming events and to ask about participating in this prestigious experience.

For serious collectors looking to go that extra step to certify authenticity and quality, CGC truly is the industry’s most widely accepted form of comics grading. And CGC has made its grading process very intuitive and easy to follow for those looking to get their prized comics properly graded and displayed. An industry institution for over 20 years, CGC-graded comics are synonymous with quality for collectors everywhere.