One of the coolest parts about having a well trafficked online comic shop, is the constant flow of people reaching out via email or DM asking me their most burning comic related questions.
I take great pride and care with responding to each and every question that comes my way, and while it can get tiring sometimes, I just don't have it in me to leave people hanging.
That said, I learned a lesson about 7 years ago that I still follow to this day, and before I dive in to answer the question posed in the title of this blog, I wanted to share it with you here:
"If more than two people ask you the same question, publish a blog (or video, or podcast) that answers the question"
The theory is that if two or more people directly asked you the same question, that means there are likely dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other people out there right now with the same question searching for the answer on Google or YouTube. So if you have a content platform, it will do both you and collector's a ton of good if you take the time to craft quality A's to these Q's.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's get into the meat of this blog post.
The #1 question I get asked these days by comic collector's is about the options that are available for having an unwitnessed, signed comic graded.
It's no coincidence that I'm here on ComicTom's blog writing this post because I just got done responding to an email from a customer who sent me this very question, here's what he wrote:
Hey Jason, I have some comics that were signed without a CGC witness, but I still wish to have them graded. There are three comics total, and all have signatures written on the front or inside cover. What do?
As I mentioned, I get this question A LOT via email or through my Should I Grade It? service. And while on the surface the answer can seem somewhat confusing, it's actually pretty straight forward once you understand the options that are available.
So what can you do if you have a signed comic that was not witnessed by a representative of a third-party grading company but still want to have it graded? Here are your options:
1. SUBMIT IT TO CGC ANYWAY, BUT BEWARE...
While CGC's Signature Series is the gold (yellow?) standard for witnessed and authenticated signatures on comic books, that doesn't mean they won't grade a comic with an unwitnessed signature, because they will.
There's just one Hulk-sized caveat:
When grading a comic that has writing on cover or inside pages in the form of a signature, CGC will grade the issue as normal, however they apply the Green Qualified Label (of Doom?) to the holder with a notation on the label stating what caused the comic to be graded as "qualified".
Now on the surface this doesn't seem like too big of a deal, right? I mean who cares if the label is Blue, Yellow, Green or Purple? As long as YOU the comic owner knows the sig is legit, it's all good.
And that's the key. If you personally had a comic signed at a con or bought one online from your favorite creator's website and want to have it graded by CGC for your personal collection, then by all means go for it. Just understand it will be given the Qualified Label.
#ProTip: No, CGC doesn't care if you have an official C.O.A. to go with the signed comic. It will still get the Qualified Label.
Now, if your intention is to sell your previously signed comic once it's graded in hopes of turning a profit, then I have some bad news for you. You'd probably make as much money selling it raw as you would selling it graded with the green label.
The reality is that green labels usually carry a stigma amongst comic collectors that they are "less than desirable" compared to their blue or yellow labeled counterparts.
Because the "Qualified" designation can mean multiple things like married or missing pages, cut out coupons or writing on the cover, collector's tend to avoid these incomplete or otherwise scarred issues based on the color of the label alone. Personally I feel you can find some extraordinary value in comics graded with the Qualified Label, but that's a blog post for a different time.
To recap, if you want your signed comic graded for your personal collection, then CGC is a fine option. If your intent is to sell, then you may want to look into option #2....
2. CBCS VERIFIED SIGNATURE PROGRAM
In 2014, Steve Borok, the one time President and Primary Grader at CGC, founded the Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS) and re-entered the third-party comic book grading industry.
Meant to provide an alternative to CGC by expanding choices for comic book collector's to have their comics graded, CBCS has found a dedicated and loyal following.
One of their service offerings, in particular, fills a gap that had been sorely missing, and that is their Verified Signature Program.
The VSP service allows the owners of unwitnessed signatures on comic books, sketch covers and original art to have the signatures certified as authentic. Those collectors wishing to authenticate signatures on comic books, will have them graded without penalty or qualified labels.
You don't need to read between the lines to recognize that this is a shot directly aimed towards CGC.
That means if you have a comic that was signed by a creator at a comic-con, you can submit it to CBCS for grading and signature verification.
The actual signature verification is performed by the experts at Beckett Authentication Services, who are corporate cousins to CBCS. Once the signature on your comic is verified, then it's sent on to the team at CBCS for grading.
Upon completion, the comic will be placed in the CBCS holder along with their Red, Verified Signature label.
As you can see, this is the best (and only) way you can have an unwitnessed signed comic graded with the signature authenticated after the fact.
LET'S DO SOME MATH
Whether you're looking to sell your signed comic after grading, or just want to display it proudly in your Batcave, it would probably be helpful to talk about the associated costs with having your comics graded by CGC or CBCS.
As you might imagine, grading a comic using the VSP from CBCS is going to cost more than submitting to CGC under a standard grading tier.
Let's do a little math, but since that's not really my strong suit, we'll keep it simple for the non-rocket surgeons out there.
Let's say you have modern comic with a fair market value under $200:
CGC will charge $20 to grade the comic
CBCS will charge $18 to grade the comic + $25 to verify the signature
Of course you still have to shell out for the associated handling and shipping costs in addition to the grading fees, but right off the bat, it's going to cost you $23 more dollars to have your comic graded by CBCS. But remember, you get that signature verification. So you got that going for ya, which is nice!
If you do some advanced eBay searching for sold listings, you can see the verified signature slabs from CBCS hold their own when it comes prices people are actually paying for these comics.
It's worth noting that when filling out your submission form with CBCS, you have the option to still have the comic graded even if they are unable to verify the signature. I think for most people, that would be a no-go, so if the sig isn't verified, then your comic is returned to you ungraded minus the $25 cost for the examination.
So when it comes down to it, you have two options for grading that comic with an unwitnessed sig. Are you Team Red or Team Green? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!