Here is another comic article transferred from the previous site. Some of my views have changed a bit but not significantly. I should also state I am not opposed to grading, I am just not enamored with it as many other folks are. Note you could probably find a few places where the facts could be modernized but I present it unedited. :
I have been leery of third party grading from the time I first learned of it. I thought that it would be a great thing, if they actually could stick to their plans. If they could truly be impartial then it could be a big boon to the industry.
For nearly a year I never heard much about the great CGC, but then all sorts of news started coming out of the prices that graded books were getting. I also heard lots of rumours of people submitting books that were better copies of some of the big names in comics and getting lower grades. So it seemed that from early on there were already questions of impartiality. However, graded books were garnering huge profits compared to “raw” counterparts so there was a growing trend to get high grade Golden and Silver Age books “slabbed”.
So it continued to the point where it is now clearly apparent to many of us that the return of speculators has taken place. Many people who whole-heartedly believe in grading would deny this, but often the book itself seems lost in all the talk about the grade and the money it could or should bring. Indeed, I don’t know how people could not say the speculator market has returned when there is the obvious attempts to cash in on high grade books of all ages especially moderns. How could anyone really believe that a 9.8 of any brand new book is really worth $29.95 the day it is released or just a month later?
Now the grading pundits would say that that price is fair considering just how rare 9.8’s are. What? Many of the modern popular new titles release thousands of copies of every issue each month and you are telling me that only a few of these will be 9.8’s? Has anyone actually put this to a test? How can places like Colossus Comics manage to fill its orders for slabbed 9.8’s every month?
Then there is the issue of deciding just what a 9.8 is. I wouldn’t doubt that the chance of the grading companies reslabbing a previously graded 9.8 as a 9.8 is only 50/50. Grading is very subjective, and without concrete standards, companies grade differently each day they work. After all, they will have several different excellent examples of the various grades throughout the day which they can hold all ensuing books to.
To be honest though, the sliding grading scales and speculators are really nothing compared to the changes to the “standards” and the lack of impartiality. These two factors are key to having truly third party service that has the potential to remove the unsavoury elements from the hobby.
When I hear talk of standards I think of solid indisputable “measures”, such as a kilometre or a centimetre. Standards also come in the form of rules and regulations that dictate actions to ensure that factors from the surrounding environment which could play a role in the work are eliminated or controlled. Regardless of whether the standard is a measure or a regulation they all must be universally accepted and accessible to be considered a standard.
Companies can say they follow a set of standards that are designed to protect the consumer or product, but if those standards are not available to the public or external regulators they are really not standards. If we do not know what the “rules” are that one follows how can we know they have been broken? So standards need to be known by all.
Once you have a set of rules and measures to follow you need to show that you are following them, so it is important for certified companies to record and monitor all aspects of their business that could bring question to their product’s integrity. These records then must be made available to those individuals that are responsible for ensuring that the company is following the regulations that are applied to them. These records, in turn, should be available to customers or the public should they be requested. This is all called transparency and it is crucial to any business that is certified. If the company has breach the terms of their certification then their product cannot be considered “safe”.
CGC and PGX have their own rules and try and absolve themselves of blame for mistakes by explaining them away as human error or trying to compensate in some way. Their gradings are considered subjective which is supposed to forgive the gaffs they make, and they have made some big ones. None of this really is actually doing any good because they are not really “punished” in any way and, since they have no public standards, they are not accountable in in any way and they are not really obligated to show anyone that they have taken steps to prevent any future mistakes.
Not too long ago it was found that one of the large volume submitters to CGC was allegedly passing trimmed books to CGC and these books were making it into blue “Universal” slabs. The blue “Universal” labelled books are considered to be free of most alterations and trimming is certainly not one of the “accepted” modifications. CGC’s response to this whole affair was to buy back some books from dealers, inspect them, admit their gaffs and tell people what they planned to do and certainly should have been doing in the first place.
Now if CGC had to conform to real standards applied externally they would have probably been shut down or lost their “certification” standard. They would further have to submit themselves to an external audit of sorts and other such internal and external investigations to find out how such mistakes happened and how they could be prevented. Then they would have to show that their corrective measures worked. Of course, if documentation of procedures was strictly followed, this should be an easy thing to do.
To provide such assurances that are supposed to go with the claims of CGC and PGX you have to have a business that is, in all aspects, impartial. If you do anything, however slight/minor, it can compromise that impartiality and, again, throw all of your work into question. To claim that you are an impartial service and then be seen with some of the bigwigs in the industry (and they are your biggest customers) is just not impartiality. Especially when the “impartial” system is one that you designed and regulate internally. CGC is even owned by one of the largest (comic) auction houses and the owner of CGC wants us to believe that there is nothing wrong with this.
Indeed there have long been the accusations of favouritism against CGC and it is plausible when you see how close to certain figures in the industry CGC employees are. Not that they are colluding in anything but appearances can be everything. The head of CGC should not be seen so close to his customers that it brings questions of lack of impartiality down on him. I know many of those same customers are friends, but when you are supposed be in the business of being impartial those very same friendships can come back to haunt you.
Now many people will take this as an anti-certification/CGC/PGX rant. Well, it’s not, but I think they could do things better if they truly are concerned about forcing the unsavoury elements out of the hobby. I am being idealistic but if certification was done properly it would be a strong and robust business that was not just located in two places in the world and be a service for those with more money. I would love to see it as a service available in many locations and to all level of collectors. This would remove a few thing that many of us hate about slabs: the premium they hold and the “fear” many of us have not to “free” the book from its slab.
Yeah I am dreaming, but it would be nice to have more than just CGC and PGX to choose from and also have a market mostly free of the greedy cheats that have tarnished this hobby for decades.