In our second Market Trends installment we will discuss the rising importance of ‘pressing’ comic books before submitting them for grading.
Put as simply as possible pressing a comic book involves applying direct pressure to an area of the comic in order to remove or lessen a defect. Light creases, slightly blunted corners, light spine rolls and other minor defects that do not break the color of the comic (the colored ink on the front or back cover) can be improved or even removed through the pressing process. There is nothing added to the comic and there is nothing removed from the comic so the comic is rightfully graded as unrestored. The simplest form of pressing is kind of like putting a comic under a stack of encyclopedias for a few days to ‘iron out’ that slight wave it has on the cover. There may be more advanced pressing techniques but the above description is not totally inaccurate.
Pressing is now a part of the comic investing scene. People with good eyes for what is ‘pressable’ have been buying up all kinds of comics with the intent of pressing them into better condition. Obviously there are costs associated with pressing and shipping so the person submitting a comic for pressing has most likely taken into account the cost and the probable increase in grade the press will help the comic attain. If the math looks right then off the comic goes to the presser.
The hottest area of the back issue market over the past several years has been very high grade comics. Publisher, genre, era and character haven’t been as large a factor as the grade (or scarcity of the grade) on many prominent sales over the past few years. Investors looking through bins are not zeroing in on the Spidey bin or the Batman bin, they’re now looking in every bin and at every title in their quest for comics that will grade extremely high. The savy people that have educated themselves as to what is pressable and what is not have been buying these nice comics with the utmost confidence, often not even protesting price.
Super savy people have even resorted to buying up graded comic books with older CGC labels. Several years ago the CGC grading company switched the look of their labels incorporating a new oversized numeric grade as the most prominent visual feature on the label. Before then the grade was very small on the label. Well since pressing as a trend is relatively new the thinking goes that if it’s an old label it was most likely not pressed. A risky venture but with big rewards for those that make the right calls.
My experience with pressing is very limited but the few times I’ve had it done are worth mentioning. I purchased a raw Fantastic Four #1 and sent it down for grading. I was pleased with the 5.5 it received but on a hunch I decided to press it and resubmit it. This time it came back a 6.0. The market price difference between a 5.5 and a 6.0 is quite a lot and well worth the extra $160 or so that I invested to get this whole process done (pressing, shipping, re-grading). Of course things can also backfire on you. A customer had a copy of Silver Surfer #1 graded a CGC 9.2 opened and sent for pressing, it was then re-submitted to CGC, when it came back it turned into a 9.0. Oops. One really has to know what they are doing when entering the mean streets of comic book pressing.
It’s safe to say that whenever an old expensive comic surfaces and makes its way into the hands of someone familiar with the industry, pressing is considered. Pressing is considered because for now the insanely large difference in prices realized for that one incremental grade higher makes the pressing gamble worth the risk .
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.