Most collectors, no matter what their interest, generally like to have a bit of an idea of what their collection might be worth. Even if you never intend to sell it, knowing the value of your collection is always worthwhile. Knowing how to grade and value your collection is, well, valuab.e
The Grading System
While we all collect very different items, there are some general rules of thumb that you need to be aware of when trying to grade and then value a collection. The easiest way to start is to gain a basic understanding of what each grade is and what they mean. For most collectibles (action figures, comic books, trading cards), grades can be broken down as follows:
Mint/ Near Mint
Absolutely perfect. There is no damage whatsoever to the item or its packaging (if it comes in any). It looks like it just left the factory. Note that shrinkwrap does not need to be intact to achieve a Mint grade. If you have an item with the shrinkwrap intact, it’s an added bonus and often known as “factory sealed.” Sometimes these items can fetch a higher price than a Mint-graded item without shrinkwrap. Near Mint is an almost perfect item. There may be the smallest of blemishes; a small page crease or a very slight chip or dent but unless you were specifically looking for defects you’d not notice them. Usually, these objects are considered to look as they would on the store shelf.
Very Fine/ Fine
This is where most people’s collectibles are probably at. At the Very Fine grade blemishes can be more noticeable, but still hardly impact the overall quality of the item. Small corner creases in books or comics are acceptable, as are small patches of chipped paint on diecast cars. The item has obviously been handled, albeit very carefully. Slipping to the Fine grade, cover wear on books and comics is apparent but has not taken the luster from the colors, and small stress along the spine can be seen. Items such as toys and figures may have a little discoloration, and production errors such as color misalignment or slight defacements are allowed. These errors don’t jump out at you but are visible on inspection.
Very Good/ Good
Items in the Very Good/ Good grades have obviously been loved. Comics and books have been read, possibly multiple times, and toys have been played with. Books and comics have visible cover wear and the colors may have diminished somewhat, and may only have the smallest of chips. The same holds true for toys and cars; they have obviously been played with, and there may be some color chips, dents, and discoloration. Moving down to a Good grade, a book or comic cover may have medium corner tears, and the cover may have come partially detached from the whole (only one staple holding it on, for example). Toys will have a noticeable amount of color missing, but still not detract from the whole. Toys should still have all accessories with them, however.
Items that fall into the Fair and Poor grades are significantly defaced. Books and comics are dog-eared, their covers are mostly detached (or fully detached but still present for Poor), and there are several chips and/or tears in the cover and interior pages. Toys have been well played with, showing dents, paint chips, discoloration, and, in the case of a Poor grade, missing some accessories. Basically, there are unsellable/ valuable items.
A Note On Age
When it comes to grading your items the only thing that matters is the items’ condition. Age of the item does not come into the equation except in some particular cases. So the argument of “it’s in Near Mint condition for its age,” does not hold water. A comic book from 1964 graded as Near Mint should be in the exact same condition as a Near Mint graded comic from 2019.
There are also more specific criteria for certain collectibles, such as diecast vehicles.
Finding the Value
Once you’ve determined the grade of your items, you can start researching what their value might be. There are many ways to find this information yourself, some of which are completely free. There are books such as Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide that provide extensive–if not complete – values of items, or monthly publications such as the UK’s Collectors Gazette which provides sale values of recently sold and auctioned items. There are also many websites which offer similar information, some of which are paid and some of which are free.
One of the best tools to use, especially if you’re after the value of only a few specific items, is eBay. By using the site’s “sold items” search option and then sorting the results by highest price + shipping you can get a reasonable idea of what your item is currently valued at. It’s a good idea to average out the sold price of the top three to five listings to get the closest possible actual value as sometimes items can sell for a lot more – or a lot less – than they are actually worth.
If using eBay to find values be aware that it’s a good idea to try and find listings that match the grade of your own item. Also, if you’re selling something that comes in a box or with accessories, see if you can find listings that include those things. While it isn’t necessary it just gives you a better idea of your item’s value. If you can’t find a listing that matches perfectly with your items, a little bit of educated guesswork may be in order.
And of course, hobbyDB has an ever-expanding system of keeping up with current values for all kinds of collectibles.
Also, for certain collectibles such as action figures or diecast, the packaging itself can be an important part of the grade.
While you can determine the grade and value of your items yourself by using the above information, there are professional grading services that can do it all for you. While these services do of course cost money, they offer the most accurate and reliable grade/ value information for your collectibles.
Certified Guaranty Company, or CGC, is best known for their grading of comic books but also work with magazines, trading cards, and posters. Internationally regarded as a leader in the field, CGC will go over your items with a fine-tooth comb to give you the most accurate grading possible. Once graded, CGC will place your comic, magazine, or poster inside a special airtight casing to ensure that the grade does not diminish over time. Known as “slabbing,” this means you’ll not be able to read your comic or magazine again, however, if you are planning on having your item professionally graded chances are you’ll have another “reader” copy in your collection.
A similar method of professional grading can also be found for toys and figures. Businesses such as the Toy Graders Association will take your toys, be they boxed or no, and examine them to within an inch of their lives. As with CGC, this will guarantee you the most accurate grade possible. Toys can also be slabbed (although a better term would be “boxed,”) which means they won’t be able to be played with. But then, I’m sure that most people reading this don’t actually play with their toys.
Once graded and slabbed, your items are given a grading score. If you ever want to sell your items or are just curious as to their value, you can look up this score to find the corresponding price. Many price guides will list the slabbed value as well as the regular value, too.
A Final Word
Grading and finding the value of your collectibles can be a rather deep rabbit hole, but it’s a fascinating one nonetheless. It should be mentioned that while grading systems are unlikely to change, values are always in a state of flux so what something may be worth today may not necessarily be true tomorrow. Even then, there is no guarantee that your items will sell for any given price as it depends on who is currently looking. It’s always a bit of a gamble.