Brand-New Official Overstreet Grading Guide

I recently received my copy of the brand-new OFFICIAL OVERSTREET GRADING GUIDE, by Bob Overstreet and Arnold Blumberg. This is the book that I first mentioned to you was in the works during the early part of last summer. At that time, I wrote an entire series of columns in which I protested strongly against certain proposed changes to grading standards in this new guide, especially as regards the higher grades. My primary concern at that time was that it seemed to me that the Overstreet team was leaning too heavily toward adopting the ridiculously restrictive grading standards that have been implemented over the past three years by Comics Guarantee LLC, better known as CGC. To review all those past columns on the subject of comics grading, and get the specifics on my objections, you can visit home page, and click on the "Tales From the Database" link.

Now that I am actually holding the finished book in my hands, I must say that the Overstreet team did a wonderful job of producing a book which accurately reflects the current state of comics grading. This is certainly not to say that I agree with everything contained within the book. In fact, I still strongly disagree with the absolute nitpicking of tiny flaws in the grades above 9.4 (Near Mint). That having been said, I still very much like this book, and highly recommend it to everyone. As I clearly state in the preface that I wrote for the book, grading comics is remarkably subjective. There are so many potential flaws that can manifest themselves in any individual comic book that, in the end, grading simply comes down to following a set of arbitrary standards that have been mutually agreed upon by the dealers and collectors of the entire comics industry. In that regard, I consider this book to be a brilliant exercise in compromise. The authors have thoroughly researched the various grading standards currently being employed in the comics market, and have come up with a median set of values that I believe that everyone can accept. Given the remarkably contentious nature of this hobby, finding that reasonable middle ground was an astonishing achievement.

What makes the new OFFICIAL OVERSTREET GRADING GUIDE an essential tool for all collectors are the 200+ wonderful photographs of actual comics which manifest specific grades, and offer representations of every possible grading flaw. As I mentioned earlier, these flaws are harder to discern in the photos of the higher grades, but below 9.4 they are quite detailed, and easy to see. There is also an individual listing page for each grade which carefully explains allowable flaws within that area of the 10 point scale. Aside from the tips on grading of standard comics, there are also two excellent articles dealing with restoration, a description of the painstaking methodology utilized by CGC to grade comics, a grading guide for Victorian and Platinum Age books, and an essay on how to grade oversize and odd size books. I honestly cannot envision how they could have made this book any more informative, or easier to use.

One disappointment I had in the OFFICIAL OVERSTREET GRADING GUIDE was that I had heard a rumor to the effect that CGC was finally going to reveal the actual criteria that they use in grading comics within this new book. That didn't happen. There is the article on their grading methodology, but it deals only with the mechanics of how a comic book (very slowly) makes it way through their grading machine. No mention is ever made of their actual grading criteria. Nor has CGC made any public statement to the effect that they endorse these new compromise grading standards. Until they come forth with some sort of public announcement to the contrary, I have no choice but to continue to believe that CGC considers themselves to be a force with no need to be responsive to the comics community as a whole. That disappoints me greatly, as I had thought that by compromising with them that the Overstreet team could help them find a way to join with us in a single unified grading standard for comic books. If they don't join with the rest of us soon, I will be forced to revisit the issue of CGC's ridiculous grading standards in a forthcoming column.

In closing, I have to admit to a bit of irony. For all the controversy this book engendered prior to its publication, the OFFICIAL OVERSTREET GRADING GUIDE has sold a very modest number of copies within the comics collecting community. In fact, there are not enough books in circulation right now to even supply all the dealers in the country with a single copy! I find that astounding, as tens of thousands of fans religiously purchase new price guides each year. Hello? Which part of the fact that the price guides set their prices based on specific grades, and the current parameters for grading standards are set within this new book, is not getting through? I have absolutely no financial interest in this book, so I can say without any conflict that if you're trying to grade comics right now without having first studied the new standards, you're working in the dark. I don't know about you, but I certainly can't grade comics in the dark... I highly recommend that you ask your local comics dealer to order you a copy of the new OFFICIAL OVERSTREET GRADING GUIDE today. It may well be the best $24 investment you make for the entire year.

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Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
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