Interview | Joseph Veteri, Comic Verification Authority

Last updated on February 6th, 2013 at 07:25 am

Anyone actively following internet comic auctions has most likely noticed a few books sporting those little CVA stickers at the top left corner of the CGC casing. CVA. What the heck is CVA? CVA stands for the Comic Verification Authority and basically a CVA sticker on a comic is an indication that the comic in question is an exceptional example within the numerical grade assigned. The company launched at last month’s New York Comic Con. To find out more about CVA and their little stickers comicbookdaily.com (CBD) contacted Joseph Veteri, Founder and Managing Partner for the Comic Verification Authority. Joseph was gracious enough to grant us an interview.

CBD: First off Joseph thanks for this and congratulations on the launch of this venture. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your comic book experience, tastes etc.

JV: It is my pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. I read comics in the early 1980’s and in 1997 began to collect. It was actually in 2002 when I got serious about collecting and investing in comics. I collect mainly silver age first appearances of major super hero characters from Marvel and DC. All of my comic books must be graded by CGC, Universal label and have exceptional eye appeal for the numerical grade I am looking for in each and every comic book that I purchase. I believe in quality and not quantity when I set forth a collecting goal and focus. That way, when I someday sell the comic(s) there is no question as to the exceptional quality of each and every book. When I purchase a book I want to be able to say to myself, “there is no need to upgrade this example. This is the numerical grade I was looking for, for this particular comic book and it is exceptional for the numerical grade assigned.”

CBD: Your website lists Tomis Erb as a partner and the Lead Verifier, can you tell us a little bit about Tomis.

JV: Tomis has been in comic book community as a collector and investor for over twenty years. People in the hobby know him to be an honest and accurate grader with a keen eye. He is a person that exemplifies integrity and honesty. I met him around 2004 and we have seen each other at shows for as long as I can remember. He shares the same values and ideals as me. It was a natural fit. The website also has a short bio about Tomis and myself – www.cvacomics.com.

CBD: How did you come about the concept of CVA? What drove you to start the company?

JV: I also collect coins; most notably early US silver coinage (quarters and half dollars). I am also a member of NJ Numismatic Society and John Reich Collectors Society. Through coin collecting, I learned of a company called CAC that is verifying coins that are premium quality for the grade assigned. As a collector and investor I felt that the service was value added and made me more confident in my purchase(s). Thus, I started paying close attention to what CAC was doing and thought, that is how I have been collecting comic books for over a decade – I only buy books with strong structure and exceptional eye appeal so why can’t this value added service be applied to comic books. Thus, CVA was born.

I drafted a business plan to determine if this was a viable business. I then approached Tomis. He instantly understood the purpose and vision of the company.

In addition, I did a lot of research in the collecting sector and noted that the verification process is a natural progression in any advancing collector market. I concluded that in a more sophisticated and advancing collector market (we all can agree the comic book market place has grown exponentially in the last decade) it begins with third party certification and eventually and naturally progresses to verification and/or endorsement for those examples that are premium or exceptional in grade. The populous of certified material just needs to be great enough to get it to progress to the level necessary to justify (i.e. be value added) 3rd party verification. CGC just certified their 2 millionth comic book – the time is now and CVA is there to fill that void.

CBD: This site (Comic Book Daily) has highlighted a few underperforming books in auctions and pointed the finger at the general aesthetic of the book in the scan, bidders are starting to grade the book by eye before putting in their bid. Do you see a general deterioration in trust of the CGC grades?

JV: Not at all. CVA is not evaluating whether CGC’s grade is accurate or not. CVA is looking at structure and eye appeal that CGC does not account for when grading a comic book. There are most certainly collectors who give substantial consideration to these characteristics and that is what CVA keys into. It provides buyers and sellers of those books with a trackable shorthand to separate those exceptional examples from the rest of the population.

CBD: Could you explain a bit how you and Tomis go about verifying.

JV: The process is more than just a systematic checklist of things a book needs to have. I like to view it as a totality of the circumstances or an overall sum of the parts that brings a book up that special level. However, to be clear, the opinion must be solid – if it’s on the fence, the book will not be awarded a sticker. I like to say, “When in doubt, throw it out.” It is also relative to grade. Thus, things would be given different weight at different grades. For instance, the wrap and alignment of a book is more important at 9.8 then it is at 9.0.

CBD: Your website cvacomics.com has some cool features including the CVA Database Search Tool, what information is available with this tool?

JV: The Verification Search is functional, but we are still finalizing the data upload process. All of the books from the October ComicLink auction are uploaded and searchable. We are streamlining the data upload process as we speak and we expect that within the next week or so, everything we have verified thus far will be up after that and regular updates will be done thereafter. For example, search 0956736004.

CBD: There is a pricing page on the site that describes pricing tiers a bit similar to the CGC approach. How did you come up with the pricing for this service? Why do you think pricing by market value is justified for your service?

JV: The pricing goals were too be reasonable enough to make it advantageous to the consignor and at the same time profitable for CVA. I determined that since CVA does not need to buy any overly expensive equipment to seal the books in a holder to pass any and all of those savings to the customer. It is a value added service and the greater the value, naturally the greater the price for the service.

CBD: On cvacomics.com there is a gallery of scans of comics that have already received CVA stickers, I couldn’t help but notice a very sharp looking copy of Walking Dead #1 at CGC 9.8. In light of 9.8 copies of this book getting less than $2000 in today’s market and CGC 9.9 copies getting $10,000 could you see your sticker as a magnet to speculators attempting to resubmit for higher grades?

JV: The purpose of CVA is not specifically to identify books that might have the possibility to be upgraded, but rather to identify books that have exceptional qualities for the numerical grade assigned. I often get asked about upgrading and thus, I would be remise if I did not address upgrading now. That said, the same qualities of structure and eye appeal that make a book CVA exceptional might be some of the same factors that take a book over the line to the next grade or tier if resubmitted. CVA exceptional books are going to be nice and a nice 9.6 has a better shot of findings its way into a 9.8 holder than a 9.6 that doesn’t have exceptional eye appeal. However this is not our goal. I am only addressing this because I know pressing and upgrading do exist and people have inquired.

To be clear, CVA does not warrant or assert that a book awarded a sticker will be a candidate for upgrading. CVA’s mission is simply to award our sticker to those books, graded by CGC, that have strong structure and exceptional eye appeal for the numerical grade assigned.

CBD: It is still early days but is there any data available showing general performance at market for CVA stickered books vs. non stickered copies?

JV: At this time, too soon to tell. We of course are tracking this. Look for updates to the site in the near future.

CBD: Are there CGC comics you don’t review? Do you review magazines?

JV: CVA reviews CGC comic books with universal or signature series labels, magazines included.

CBD: Will you guys be setting up at any conventions next year? Any chance of On Site reviewing?

JV: CVA will be at some conventions next year. Plans are being finalized as we speak and announcements will be made on the website. We will definitely be doing on-site reviewing.

CBD: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today Joseph. What’s the best way for people to contact you with questions of their own?

JV: Contact me through the website and we can discuss how CVA can be of service to you and address your collecting needs. I have already spoken to many people in the US and Canada and the response has been great. I look forward to working with the comic book community. A community and market place that I care about very much. Thanks again for taking the time to speak to me.

Walter Durajlija Written by:

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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6 Comments

  1. Charlie
    November 29, 2012
    Reply

    Who watches the Watchmen? Now we know. I guess if there are trailers for movie trailers… we can have certification for certified books.

    Any way you spin it… CVA is basically saying that not all CGC books in the same grade are the same, which many collectors would agree. Does this undermine CGC to some extent? Does this add clarity or confusion to the market?

    In order to address some potential concerns… Walter, I think we should start up a validation company called WCV (Walter + Charlie’s Validation) so that all CGC certified books verified by CVA can be validated by WCV. It’s the only way anyone can be sure…

    Curious: How does CGC feel about CVA?

    • November 29, 2012
      Reply

      The question for CVA is whether they can prove books with their stickers do better at market. If this starts happening then people will be receptive to the service.

      I’ve always argued that CGC grades by the book too much and that they have parts of that book wrong. I for one don’t think they knock down enough grade for off centered books. The CGC graders work within tightly defined grading parameters which I guess is good but as you and I both know Charlie all things aren’t black and white, cut and dried, these guys should get more leeway on general aesthetics.

      You and I have been buying the CVA way for years now Charlie, Start up costs are prohibitive in business so I say we ask Joe to hire us as his Canadian verifiers. Canadians could save on shipping and we could be looking at cool comics all day long!

  2. Ed Dee
    December 2, 2012
    Reply

    Sounds like a useless service. CGC should just add this service as part of their regular evaluations and charge an extra buck or two. Shouldn’t they be doing this anyway ?

    • December 2, 2012
      Reply

      It would kind of ring like “…well we wanted to give this one a higher grade but…” if CGC did this. Early indications point to a market that may be ready for this type of service. I’m reserving judgment until I see some hard data on CVA performance in the market.

  3. December 4, 2012
    Reply

    The CAC example was brought up before, and I don’t believe it applies well to comics. The obvious reason being that unlike a two-sided coin, CGC’s grade also accounts for what’s happening between the covers, and CVA has no way of knowing this without access to graders notes. I also see the timing of this venture and CGC’s decision to charge for graders notes to be too coincidental.

    All said, I see this “seal of approval” rating system working for two main reasons. CGC is a standalone opinion on grade that doesn’t carry the same “final say” on grade it once did, and this is due largely to the way people have gamed third-party certification (i.e. your 9.4’s got a shot at a 9.6, maybe a 9.8 once the paper-lab coats have performed their “optimization” magic).

    Secondly, as a way to reduce noise in the crowded certification pool, and the ability for people to use a “CVA” filter to weed through the lots at an event auction or consignment site. After three, four, five million certified books, CVA will be like using a Spidey-Tracker to home in on “exceptional” certified examples. The question I keep asking myself is not whether today’s CGC 9.8 and “Classics improved” comics will eventually carry the same stigma as the steroid/doping era in sports, but how do you strip a medal away from certification?

    @ComicWiz

  4. barry
    December 2, 2013
    Reply

    what a joke

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