Pricing Your Comics 101

As I've mentioned before, I believe that most comic book collectors are not collecting in hopes of making a fortune by buying and reselling comics at an enormous profit. That said, however, it is kind of fun to figure out "what my collection is worth". So, in hopes of aiding anyone who's interested, I've tried to compile as much information as I could find, into a somewhat concise, usable format, to help you "price" your comics. So onto the details, and happy collecting.
 
There are 2 primary price guides of which I am aware - Overstreet's Annual Price Guide, and Wizard Magazine's monthly price guide. Overstreet also produces (at least as of this writing) it's monthly magazine Fan, which also contains price guide information. I've attempted to take information from all, and combine them wherever possible, and note the differences where necessary. For a little more detail on the different Price Guides and their various idiosyncracies, check out The Joy of Pricing Comics, a little essay I threw together after considerable frustration with this somewhat silly, little exercise.
 
Most of us are well aware of the general condition categories, known as grades, into which comics can fall - Mint, Near Mint, Very Fine, etc.
 
Overstreet designed a 100 point grading system to be used along with these grades in an attempt to establish a method by which collectors could more accurately, and with geater precision, define the condition of a book within a particular grade. A good analogy is that of a test grade, where 93 to 100 is considered an "A", 85 - 92, a "B", etc. As far as I can tell, this system never really caught on universally, but it is out there if you want to use it.
 
The number you assign to represent the condition of any book on a scale of 1 to 100 is called the Overstreet Numerical Equivalent or ONE.
 
Overstreet has also developed a system for grading the color degradation of the paper. It is called the Overstreet Whiteness Level or OWL. The OWL is based on a 10 point scale, as opposed to 100. This grade is used to define the average whiteness of the pages of a comic. I'm in the process of trying to get more information on specific rules for how the OWL grade relates to the overall value.
 
So, now that you know about all 3 components of pricing (assuming you didn't before), the condition (MT, NM, etc.,), the ONE grade and the OWL grade, you may recognize seeing comics graded using the following format: NM92/9. This means the comic is in Near Mint condition, with a ONE of 92 and an OWL of 9. A grade of FN60/7 means the comic is in Fine condition, with a ONE of 60 and an OWL of 7.
 
For each of the letter grades (MT, NM, etc.,), Overstreet has established a ONE range that applies to that grade. The ranges can be found in any of the Overstreet Annual Price Guides, and are listed below.
 
Note: The ONE range is not the same thing as the percent of book value. It is a component in determining the percent of book value. This is a fact that eluded, and confused me, for some time. I have included the percent of book value range for each grade from each of the major price guides, in addition to the ONE range. Scroll further down, or click on the condition to see a very detailed description of what is allowed in order for a book to be graded as the selected condition. This should help you in grading your own comics.
 
Cond Code ONE Range Overstreet % of Book Wizard % of Book
Mint MT 100-98 125% - 150% (pre 1970); 100% post 1970 125% - 150% (pre 1970); 100% post 1970
Near Mint NM 97-90 90% - 100% 100%
Very Fine VF 89-75 60% - 80% 75% - 80% (pre 1970); 70% post 1970
Fine Very Fine FVF NA NA 50%
Fine FN 74-55 45% - 55% 40%
Very Good VG 54-35 30% - 40% 15% - 25%
Good G 34-15 15% - 25% 10%
Fair FR 14-5 10% 3%
Poor P 4-0 5% 1%
 
Listed below are detailed explanations of each grade. These are compiled from each of the major price guides, Overstreet Annual, Overstreet Fan and Wizard, and any information I could find elsewhere. Of course, none of this is written in stone, but it should give you a framework from which to start.
 
Mint Condition (NM: ONE range: 100-98; 125% - 150% of book)
General Near perfect in every way
Cover Flat with no surface wear; centered; firmly secured to interior pages
Cover Inks Bright with high reflectivity and minimal fading
Corners Square and Sharp
Staples Centered, clean with no rust
Paper Supple and fresh
Spine Tight and flat

 

Near Mint Condition (MT: ONE range: 97-90; 90% - 100% of book)
General Nearly perfect
Cover Flat with no surface wear; centered; firmly secured to interior pages
Cover Inks Bright with high reflectivity and minimal fading
Corners Square and sharp with ever so slight blunting permitted
Paper Supple and fresh; like new
Spine Tight and flat
Tears None allowed
Corner Bends Only allowed if hardly noticeable
Spine Stress Marks Only allowed if hardly noticeable
Staples Centered, clean with no rust
Writing None allowed with the exception of autographs
Rubber Stamps None allowed
Tape None allowed
Pieces Missing None allowed with the exception of tips of pages nicked during the production process
Fingerprints When noticeable they drop the comic down to Fine
Water Stains None Allowed
Browning Paper None allowed except in the instance of older comics (such as a 12 cent comic) that may have oxidized due to their extreme age - even then, it must be hardly noticeable
Spine Rolling None allowed
Off-Center Printing Only allowed if hardly noticeable
Cover Scuff Marks Only allowed if hardly noticeable

 

Very Fine Condition (VF: ONE range: 89-75; 60% - 80% of book)
General An excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal
Paper Can be yellowish/tannish (at the most) but not brown and will usually be off-white to white
Tears Only very minor tears allowed - 1/8 inch
Corner Bends Slightly noticeable bends allowed
Spine Stress Marks Slightly noticeable bends allowed
Staples Clean, no rust, centered, but may be a bit loose
Writing None allowed with the exception of autographs
Rubber Stamps None allowed
Tape None allowed
Pieces Missing None allowed with the exception of tips of pages nicked during the production process
Fingerprints When noticeable they drop the comic down one grade
Water Stains None Allowed
Browning Paper None allowed except in the instance of older comics (such as a 12 cent comic) that may have oxidized due to their extreme age - even then, it must be hardly noticeable
Spine Rolling None allowed
Off-Center Printing Very slight deviance is allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Only allowed if hardly noticeable

 

Fine Condition (FN: ONE range: 74-55; 45% - 55% of book)
General An exceptional, above average copy that shows minor wear but still relatively flat, clean and glossy with no subscription crease or brown margins
Cover Minor surface wear, light crease allowed
Cover Inks Beginning to show a significant reduction in reflectivity but is still highly collectable and desirable
Paper Minor fellowing/tanning to interior pages
Tears Only very minor tears allowed - 1/4 inch
Corner Bends Minor noticeable bends allowed
Spine Stress Marks Light spine wear allowed
Staples Clean, no rust, centered, but may be a bit loose
Writing None allowed with the exception of autographs
Rubber Stamps Allowed only in the case of international price stamps or small blue star which shows that it was sold at a Stars & Stripes newsstand at a military base
Tape None allowed
Pieces Missing Only if less than 1/8 inch square
Fingerprints Fingerprints are allowed, but excessive or ugly fingerprints can drop the grade to Very Good
Water Stains None allowed with the exception of stains on the back cover due to high humidity. No wrinkling or warping allowed.
Browning Paper Very light browning is allowed, but no brittleness
Spine Rolling Allowed only if very minor
Off-Center Printing Slight deviance is allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Light scuffing is allowed, but is minor. This shows up mostly on comics with dark covers

 

Very Good Condition (VG: ONE range: 54-35; 30% - 40% of book)
General The average used comic book, that has not been taken care of by proper handling and bag & boarding, most commonly found. The comic shows moderate wear but eye appeal has not been reduced to the point that it is not desirable.
Cover Minor markings allowed
Tears Several minor tears or one major tear allowed
Corner Bends Allowed
Spine Stress Marks Always allowed and is very evident; can be lighly creased along spine
Staples Clean, no rust, centered, but may be loose, but still must be joined to all the pages. No tearing allowed.
Writing Very neat, small penciled prices on the interior page or cover of a comic allowed. Otherwise, not allowed.
Rubber Stamps International price stamps and small blue star stamps are allowed. Name and store stamps are allowed only if on back cover and done neatly. Crooked stamps drop it a grade.
Tape None allowed
Pieces Missing Allowed if smaller than the size of a postage stamp and the comic is not too worn. Otherwise a worn comic with a piece that size missing would be Good.
Fingerprints Fingerprints are allowed, except in the case that they are caused by an external agent such as oil on someones fingers.
Water Stains Only a small, single drop, water stain allowed and only then if hardly noticeable.
Browning Paper Browning is allowed, but no brittleness.
Spine Rolling Allowed only if very minor
Folds The cover may have some folds, but the comic must not have been bent in half.
Off-Center Printing Allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Allowed, but must be minor.

 

Good Condition (G: ONE range: 34-15; 15% - 25% of book)
General This comic has all pages and covers, although there may be small rips or tears. Commonly creased, scuffed, abraded, and soiled, but books in this grade are completely readable. Paper quality is low, but not brittle.
Tears Tears are allowed short of the cover being torn in half
Corner Bends Evident
Spine Stress Marks Spine can have some tears, usually around the staples. Tears must be less than 1/4 inch.
Staples Loose staples with some rust allowed
Writing All writing allowed except in excessive cases where large magic markers are used or if it detracts from the story in some way
Rubber Stamps Allowed unless excessive
Tape Allowed unless excessive such as duct tape
Pieces Missing 2 inch square pieces on cover, 3 inch square on back, and 1 inch square from interior corners allowed. Clipped coupons from back cover allowed, but not from interior. Note, this is not the same as coupons used to redeem "free" comic books.
Fingerprints Allowed
Water Stains Allowed unless excessive
Browning Paper Browning is allowed, and slightly brittle
Spine Rolling Allowed
Folds Allowed
Off-Center Printing Allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Allowed

 

Fair Condition (FR: ONE range: 14-5; 10% of book)
General Very heavily read and soiled, but still complete. Damaged beyond collectability for most collectors, brings 30 to 50 percent of the good price.
Tears Tears are allowed short of the cover being torn in half
Corner Bends Evident
Spine Stress Marks Spine can have tears, usually around the staples. Tears must be less than 1 inch.
Staples Loose staples with rust allowed
Writing All writing allowed except in excessive cases where large magic markers are used or if it detracts from the story in some way.
Rubber Stamps Allowed unless excessive
Tape Allowed unless excessive such as duct tape
Pieces Missing Missing pieces allowed, but the story is still readable. Clipped coupons allowed.
Fingerprints Allowed
Water Stains Allowed unless excessive
Browning Paper Browning and brittleness allowed
Spine Rolling Allowed
Folds Allowed
Off-Center Printing Allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Allowed

 

Poor Condition (FR: ONE range: 4-1; 5% of book)
General Sufficiently degraded so as to have little or no collector value. Often severely stained, abraded, defaced, or damaged beyond readability.
Tears Tears are allowed short of the book being torn in half
Corner Bends Evident
Spine Stress Marks Spine has tears
Staples Loose staples with rust allowed
Writing All writing allowed
Rubber Stamps Allowed
Tape Allowed
Pieces Missing Allowed
Fingerprints Allowed
Water Stains Allowed
Browning Paper Browning and brittle
Spine Rolling Allowed
Folds Allowed
Off-Center Printing Allowed
Cover Scuff Marks Allowed