Review the 2003 Overstreet Price Guide

I have a confession to make. I used to sleep with Bob Overstreet. When his first price guide for comic books came out in 1970, I was determined that I would memorize all the prices and bibliographic data contained in his entire book. It was relatively thin in those days, so the 1970 Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide fit very nicely under my pillow. That allowed me to keep reading prices each evening, until my eyes finally closed from exhaustion. Unlike most 15 year-old boys, my dreams were not of winning at sports, or getting a date with the prom queen, but rather of finding huge piles of mint old comics. A dream, as many of you already know, I would miraculously bring to fruition only six years later.

The reason I was so fanatical about memorizing prices for old comics was that the old antiques dealer who was my mentor at the time endlessly quoted the mantra to me that in the fields of collectibles "knowledge is power!" That was a lesson I could easily understand, as it was clear to me that my owning a copy of the comics price guide gave me a huge competitive advantage. Especially when buying comics in competition with the antiques dealers in the monthly collectibles show that was my initial training ground. The antiques dealers simply had no idea of nationwide comics prices, so they would pass on books that I would eagerly buy for tiny percentages of their price guide prices. Seeing the immediate tangible results of having knowledge that others were not privy to was a lesson that I've never forgotten. To this day, I spend many hours each week on price research, especially when I am at comics conventions.

With that thought in mind, it should come as no surprise that I eagerly look forward to the publication each year of the new edition of the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. This year's edition arrived last week, and I've already spent many hours analyzing not only the price changes, but also some very important structural changes to the method in which that that is provided. I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks discussing this year's guide, and also using that basic topic as a springboard for tangets into other areas. Frankly, I have no idea how long this particular string of columns is going to run, as I feel there are dozens of interesting topics I could explore. My feeling is let's just start, and see where this takes us...

To begin, the 2003 Overstreet is a larger size than previous editions. This was necessitated by the addition of two "new" grades, Very Good and Very Fine/Near Mint. The size has grown by about 3/4 of an inch vertically, and a full inch wider. As a general observation, I like this new size very much. It allows for far more data to be presented per page. The smaller size was clearly becoming restrictive to the addition of more titles (at a certain point the book becomes so thick it is impossible to bind), and the addition of the new grades simply required a wider page to keep the type from becoming microscopic.

As regards the addition of Very Good as a price column within the Guide, I think it's about time this was done. Very Good is one of the most common grades in which older comics are found. After 32 years of figuring the split between Good and Fine in my head, I am relieved to know that Bob's team has finally done all the math for me. This new pricing column should be of great benefit to all comics collectors.

The addition of the new Very Fine/Near Mint pricing category is quite a different story. I've been grading comics since 1968. Since that time, millions of comics have passed through my hands, and I've personally hand graded many, many thousands of issues. That having been said, I seriously doubt if I could consistently separate 100 beautiful comics into categories of Very Fine, Very Fine/Near Mint, and Near Mint. I could easily do it once, but if confronted with exactly the same 100 books three months later, I'll bet that there would be at least a 10% deviation, and more likely a 20% deviation, from the my original grading split. Certainly there would be issues within those 100 random books which would clearly fall on one end of the spectrum, or the other. But when it comes down to individual analysis of very tiny flaws, I doubt if anyone could exactly separate 100 high grade books on a 90-day interval. That was why I qualified my earlier praise of the new Overstreet Grading Guide by pointing out the lack of clear differentiation of flaws in the grades above 9.0. That grading book is really an excellent tool for grading books below 9.0, but it by no means provides a foolproof methodology for the tough higher grades.

If grading the higher-end books is so darn hard, why would the Overstreet team add Very Fine/Near Mint as a category? I originally thought that it was so that they could list a price for some very rare books that never appear in NM. That logical approach doesn't wash, however, as the research I did today indicates that when there' not a price in NM, there's almost always not a price in VF/NM. So what's going on here?

To be continued...

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221

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