Comic Book Grading: Understanding the Basics and Labels

March 31, 2023
Keenan Flack

As the market for alternative investments continues to expand, comic books have emerged as one of the premier asset classes among collectors and investors. Understanding the grading process and the labels applied to comic books is a critical step for anyone looking to navigate this market. In this article, we'll explore the basics of comic book grading, including the differences between grading agencies, how each label is valued, and what determines which label is applied to a comic book.

The Grading Process

Comic book grading is the process of evaluating a comic book's condition based on a standardized set of criteria. The grading process takes into account factors such as the condition of the cover, the pages, the binding, and the overall appearance of the book. A higher grade indicates a comic book in better condition, while a lower grade signifies more wear and tear. CGC’s grading rubric goes from a familiar Gem Mint 10 to a 0.5 Poor. It describes a 10 as “The highest grade assigned. The collectible must have no evidence of any manufacturing or handling defects.”, whereas the description reads 0.5 “A heavily defaced collectible with a number of major defects. Some pieces will also be missing.”.

Grading is conducted by professional grading companies, and the two most well-known grading agencies in the industry are the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) and the Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS). Both companies utilize similar grading scales, but there are subtle differences in their methodologies that collectors and investors should be aware of.

Labels and Their Significance

Once a comic book is graded, it is encapsulated in a protective plastic case or a “slab”, and a label is attached to the case to display the grade and other relevant information. The label, commonly referred to as a "slab," serves as a certificate of authenticity and a way to easily identify the grade of the book.

There are different types of labels used by grading agencies, and each label carries its own significance:

Universal (Blue) Label: The most common label used by grading companies, the Universal Label indicates that the comic book is an original and unaltered copy. It is applied to comic books in any condition, from "Mint" to "Poor."


Signature Series (Yellow) Label: A special label applied to comic books that have been autographed by a creator or contributor and have been authenticated by the grading agency. Signature Series labels often carry a premium in the market due to their unique nature.


Qualified (Green) Label: The label applied to books with a  “significant defect” that needs further description. Usually, meaning a missing page or marking on the book. May also denote an unauthenticated signature, meaning one that was not supervised by the grading firm.


Restored (Purple) Label: This label is applied to comic books that have undergone restoration or conservation efforts to improve their appearance or condition. Restored comic books are valued differently from unaltered copies, as restoration can affect the book's long-term value.


Pedigree (Gold) Label: A label applied to books that come from a collection of great significance. CGC has a list of these 61 “Pedigree Comic Book Collections” that books might potentially belong/have belonged to. Collectible valuations are somewhat dependent on ownership history, also called provenance, so knowing the origin of a book has the potential to alter the value significantly.


The Value of Grading

Comic book grading provides several benefits to collectors and investors. A graded comic book offers a level of transparency and authenticity that is critical in the market. Grading also helps standardize the condition of comic books, allowing for easier comparison between copies and more accurate price determination.

Additionally, the grade of a comic book can significantly impact its market value. Higher-graded comic books often command higher prices, while lower-graded copies may be more affordable. Ultimately, the grade of a comic book is just one of many factors to consider when making an investment decision.

Deciphering Comic Book Population Reports

Population reports are distributed by grading firms to give collectors a snapshot of their graded population of books at a point in time. Knowing the distribution of grades received by a population of a specific book is very valuable information for collectors.

​By carefully analyzing population reports, collectors can gain valuable insights into the rarity of specific comic books and make informed decisions when buying, selling, or trading. Whether looking for a hidden gem or seeking to understand the relative value of an asset, population reports serve as an essential tool for navigating the ever-evolving world of comic book collecting and investing.


Comic book grading is an essential component of the alternative investment landscape. Understanding the grading process and the significance of different labels can help collectors and investors make more informed decisions as they navigate the exciting world of comic book investing.

Photo Credit: Erik Mclean-Unsplash

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