Comic Grading Guide

This Ain’t eBay:

or, Why Your "Very Fine" Comic Better Really be Very Fine

Comic collectors have established standard grades to describe the condition of the comics they’re buying and selling. In order for a buyer to have confidence that they’ll be getting what they paid for, it’s absolutely essential that you fairly and accurately grade the comics you’re selling.

This guide lists the descriptions of the official grades used by ComicBase and Atomic Avenue. Anyone who buys or sells comics on Atomic Avenue should familiarize themselves with what the different conditions mean to avoid misunderstandings and disappointments. While reasonable people can differ slightly in their evaluation of a comic’s condition, and even experienced graders can miss defects, a buyer has an absolute right to complain (and get a refund) if the comics you sell are not in the condition promised. If you habitually misstate the grades of the comics you sell, expect to get banned from the system (and not be allowed back—ever). This ain’t eBay.

Grading Tips

"But I’m no expert!" you say. "How am I supposed to list my comics with the right grades?"

Not to worry. Although grading is important, it’s actually not all that difficult. And a few tips can make it even easier:

  • Read the list of grades. There, we said it. Even we hate reading stuff like this, but at least it’s only a page or so in length. And let’s face it: there’s really no substitute for actually reading the list of grades to let you know what the different grades are all about.
  • Check out ComicBase’s Grading Wizard. Choose any comic in ComicBase, then use the Comics menu’s Grade Comic command to pull up the Grading Wizard. Then, just select which defects it has from drop-down menus and it will tell you what condition the comic is in. Brilliant!
  • Grade like you’re the buyer. Sure, you may know that the sublime art and sentimental value attached to your copy of The Amazing Mega-Man #2 gives it an inner beauty that must surely earn it a little extra consideration in the grading department. We can assure you, however, that the person who buys it will be a shallow philistine whose lack of vision won’t let them see past the 3" chunk missing from the front cover. When you’re the one buying the comic, you too will lose the ability to perceive inner beauty and will become obsessed with mere appearances. This is what is known in the trade as "accurate grading."
  • When in doubt, undergrade. Not sure if the comic is in Good or Very Good condition? Choose Good. The worst case is that you’ll sell for slightly too little—but you’ll polish your reputation as a fair grader, as well as prevent needless returns.
  • Consider using the "List VF and NM comics as VF–NM" option when selling. The special grade, "VF–NM" gives you a quick way to tell buyers that your comics basically look like new, while allowing for the possibility of some tiny defects here and there.
  • If you really don’t want to bother grading, list your books as condition "Ungraded". You won’t get as much for the books as you would if they really were in nice condition and you’d graded them accordingly, but if you’re faced with sorting through a large stash of lowish-grade books, you might do well to take the "Make them no promises and you’ll tell them no lies" approach to the whole thing. (Moreover, books listed as "Ungraded" on Atomic Avenue can not be returned for reasons of condition).

Official List of Grades Used by ComicBase and Atomic Avenue

Mint (MT)

Perfect in every way. ’Nuff said.

Near Mint (NM)

Nearly perfect copy of a comic. The cover is flat and glossy without any surface wear, the spine is tight, and the corners are square. The interior pages are generally well-centered and firmly secured with original staples and no staple tears or stress lines. Only has barely perceptible flaws—e.g. subtle printing defects. No creases, staining, soiling or other discoloration. Comic looks as if it were just purchased from the store.

Very Fine to Near Mint (VF–NM)

Excellent condition but not guaranteed to be near mint. This is not a true grade, but a category for comics that fall anywhere between the Very Fine and Near Mint grades.

When selling your comics from ComicBase, you have the option of automatically marking all VF or NM comics in your collection as "VF-NM", giving you an easy way to signify to buyers that the comics in question will be basically in "fresh off the newsstand" condition, without requiring you to painstakingly examine each comic for miniscule defects.

Minimum requirements: Comic is in excellent condition but has been read. Cover is clean and flat, but may be slightly less glossy and cannot be rolled or torn. Spine is tight and flat. Corners are square but with slight blunting permitted. Tiny, hard to see staple tears and small bends up to 1/4" long on the cover are acceptable only if color is not broken. Stamped or inked arrival dates may be present on older comics. Interior pages are firmly attached and staples are original. Paper may be cream to tan in color without acidic odor. No creases, staining, soiling or other discoloration except for minor foxing. Comic may be new from the store or gently read.

Very Fine (VF)

Comic is in excellent condition but has been read. Cover is clean but may be slightly less glossy; cover cannot be rolled or torn. Spine is tight and flat, although tiny, hard to see staple tears and small bends up to 1/4" long on the cover are acceptable if the color is not broken. Corners are still square but may have slight blunting. Stamped or inked arrival dates may be present on older comics. Interior pages are firmly attached and all staples are original. Paper may be cream to tan in color without acidic odor. No creases, staining, soiling or other discoloration except for minor foxing. Comic looks like it was purchased new from the store and gently read.

Fine (F)

Comic is beginning to show minor wear. An accumulation of small defects is allowed, such as a few creases no more than 1/4" on the front cover or spine, blunted corners, tiny staple tears, and minor discoloration or stress lines. Only the slightest rolling on the spine is permitted. Older comics may have stamped or inked arrival dates. Original staples could be discolored or replaced. Interior pages are still attached and paper may be cream to tan in color but not brown. No obvious soiling or staining. Comic appears to have been read several times but very well-cared for.

Very Good (VG)

Well-used, but well-cared for comic. Cover surface shows moderate wear and may include: minor to moderate creases, dimples, loss of gloss, blunted corners, minor to moderate staining, discoloration, staple rust, and/or foxing. Spine may be split up to ½" and some mild spine rolling is allowed. Stamped or inked arrival dates may be present. Staples may be rusted or replaced. Interior pages may be loose but are still solidly attached. Paper is tan to brown and might have a slightly acidic odor as well as some minor tearing of 1" or less.

Good (G)

Not very good at all, frankly. A used comic with substantial wear. Comic still has all of its pages and interiors but significant pieces of the cover and interior pages (no more than 2" in size) may be missing. Creases, stress lines, rounded or chipped corners, dimples, foxing, and fading are all allowed. Stamped or inked arrival dates may also be present on the cover. Binding is loose, a staple may be detached, and spine may have a split of anywhere from 2" plus moderate rolling. Tape and other amateur repair are common in Silver Age and older books. Interior paper color is brown but not brittle and may have some soiling or discoloration in addition to odor and tears. Comic is basically used but still intact and readable.

Fair (FA)

A comic which shows heavy wear. Creases and folds are common and corners are rounded or missing entirely. Soiling, staining, foxing, fading, pencil or other marks and abrasions on the cover are prevalent as well. Cover and interior pages are generally intact but may have up to one-forth of the cover missing or the back cover missing (although not both). Staples are rusted and may be missing or replaced. Spine roll is expected and split spine may extend for up to two thirds of the book. The interior paper color is brown and brittle and chunks may be missing, and in particular there may be cut outs of coupons. Tape and other amateur repair are common in Silver Age and older books. Often the condition of a comic that has been used and read by children and later collected.

Poor (P)

A comic that has been used and damaged to a point where it is often not even considered worth collecting. Severe stains, mildew, creases, folding, foxing, and pencil or other markings dominate the cover. Corners are extremely ragged or missing. Spine is rolled, discolored, and/or split. Staples are missing or badly rusted and the pages are falling apart. The interior pages are brown and very brittle with extensive tears and multiple pages or large parts that may be missing entirely. There is significant acidic decay and odor for the paper. Water damage, glue, paints, or indelible dyes may cover the interiors and/or cover as well. Tape and other amateur repair are common. This comic has been obviously used and abused.


A comic book whose grade is not guaranteed. This book may range anywhere from Poor to Near Mint and there is no obligation to clarify its condition. The comic is sold as-is. Useful for when you are unsure of the grade of a book or do not wish to grade the comic.


CGC Grading (CGC 0.5–CGC 10.0)

A CGC grade is for a comic that has been evaluated and certified by the Comics Guarantee Corporation. These books are sealed in a special case ("slabbed") and cannot have been unsealed. Only use these grades if you have an actual Comics Guarantee Corporation graded comic that is still sealed and includes its official CGC certification. Listing an unslabbed comic with a CGC grade is considered serious misrepresentation and will lead you to being banned from the system.

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