Auction Spotlight #5

Our weekly look at an auction item that piqued our interest continues.

DC Comics Presents Harley Quinn #1, DC Comics, 2014, Graded 9.6 White Pages by EGS Global sold for $25.

I saw this on the just past ComicLink auction I have a few questions;

  • Who the hell are EGS Global?
  • Why is their book only getting 25% of a CGC 9.6?
  • Why would anyone want to save money on a grading company if the market is going to treat it like this?
  • How many grading companies is enough?
  • I heard there will be grading services for raw comics, anybody else hear?

Advantage Buyer. For a collector that just wants a nice copy of this book it makes sense to buy this way.

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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11 Comments

  1. Steve V.
    April 12, 2017

    European Grading Service (EGS) is a comic book grading service for European collectors. Countries like Italy, Greece and Portugal can have comics graded in their own local language. Very different!

    Countries like Germany (using a scale of 00 to 04) and Denmark (using a scale of Nv to vF) use their own unique country’s grading scale also. Very unique!

    Any such grading scale can be translated on the label into English. Blue, Red, Green and Gold labels are used in a 2 piece slide together holster. Very practical !

  2. April 12, 2017

    Since you see the advantage, you can get it for $37 on eBay. I’ll pass.

    1) The Google gives me first El Goonish Shive (a web comic), The European Graduate School, Expert Global Solutions, Edwards Global Services, Encounter God Service, enhanced geothermal system, European Glaucoma Society, ethylene glycol bis(succinimidyl succinate),… So CGC can step down to yellow alert.

    2) Why? That’s easy. If PGX has a terrible reputation for letting restored books slip through, what could this holder be hiding? Missing pages? My picture is that an “assurance of quality” by a suspicious party is probably worse than no assurance at all. But there is a more practical reason: GPA shows CGC 9.6 sales as low as $51 for this book in 9.6, and if you want to get that you are going to need CGC (at best say $30 when you factor in overhead), and you take the risk that it isn’t CGC 9.6. So: Advantage: Nobody. This should have been left raw at this price point.

    (As an aside my observation is that at a certain price point, even some CGC books will price lower than raw copies. Part of this could be CGC’s quality being called into question, but I think another part is the basic optimism of the investor/collector. If it is CGC 9.6, it is not practical for a low cost book to try to get it to a 9.8, but if it is raw, you get to spin the wheel and maybe it comes back 9.8…)

    3) The answer on “why would anyone…” is nicely “no good reason”. Not nicely: ignorance, stupidity, lunacy, or a combination. Do a search on PGX on eBay, sort lowest first, and you can see a lot of wasted plastic.

    4) The most interesting question. I think the answer is two, but I think that there is probably a large body of relevant economic research on this question. In some sense this is a natural monopoly (due to economies of scale, consistency of results, name recognition, etc.), but as with any monopoly there is opportunity for abuse. A competitor that necessarily runs a lower profit margin while operating at an equal or better quality level can exist, as they will have various roles (cheaper/better service, keeping the dominant service honest through users running independent checks that they might later make public, etc.). Think Intel vs. AMD. But there is no place for a third service, as the product is the same, and the competition between the first and second providers make it impossible for a much lower cost entrant to be profitable.

    (There is another barrier which is shipping costs. This presumably accounts for EGS and the Australian service Halo. But for any serious investor/collector this is meaningless. If a book is of value so low that shipping costs matter, it probably isn’t worth grading; otherwise you clearly want to use the grader to which the market is going to ascribe the most prestige and hence value.)

    PGX could have taken this CGC competitor role, but loss of reputation is a killer in this field. So we have CBCS, and my observation is that whether or not justified, their reputation seems to be hanging in there. I personally always evaluate CBCS books with a half-grade discount, and I think the marketplace doesn’t think much of “highest graded” coming from CBCS. If either CGC or CBCS were to be called out on serious quality problems, only then would there be a true possibility for another entrant.

    The situation is the same in the coin world. My sense is that PGS is the CGC analogue there, and NGC (which of course owns CGC) holds the CBCS role. There are no other relevant grading services.

    5) I don’t even know what this means. Once graded, then what? The minute somebody touches the comic the grade would be void – that’s the plastic box problem. Am I missing the concept?

  3. April 12, 2017

    Thanks for the info Steve. Great insights Chris. I think I agree with you on the 2 grading firms point even though part of me thinks 1 trusted grader is perhaps healthier for the hobby.

    I was talking with someone recently who told me that one of the grading companies was looking into grading raw comics. They would page count, resto check and assign grade and put into some sort of thin rigid case similar to a top loader. I have no confirmed details just rumors. I would imagine there would have to be some sort of seal or what’s the use.

  4. Jeremy
    April 12, 2017

    CBCS does the raw grading for your books. They seal them up back in a tamper proof sleeve. Not a bad option IMO

  5. April 12, 2017

    Walt, I’ll give the flippant response that it is the Canadian part of you that thinks one trusted grader is healthier, but I am actually kind of sincere about that – I think this question is very topical with respect to the need for/place of regulators. Relying on the marketplace for a solution creates a host of problems. However, the other approach has its own problems, so I think the barrier here is cost. Your idea might be along the lines of professional society accreditation – a respected, objective and independent body would make judgments based on standards. Where the dollars at stake are much higher, this works, and in fact there is strong resistance to a market-based solution given the huge incentive to cheat. However, maintaining the agreement of all participants in this arrangement means that the accreditation body is costly to maintain, subsisting on society fees and steep costs of accreditation. There is nothing like this amount of money in this hobby (I was just listening to one of your old podcasts where you were imploring customers to pay for their pulled books), so there isn’t going to be the base to maintain the quality/independence necessary. So we are left with the for-profit, take-our-word-for-it services. The determination of quality/independence then falls to the end user, but the good news is that smart businessmen (NGC/CGC) understand that in this area, veracity equals profit. And the profit model is not just in the grading, but in the cross-owned auction business (Heritage) – veracity in the grade equals more auction sales at higher prices = more commission income. I think the bigger risk is not cheating by CGC (even a six-figure payment for a super-high-grade key isn’t worth them risking their reputation), but cheating by a grader. If CGC has the right practices in place (e.g. multiple opinions as the value increases) this won’t be feasible.

  6. April 12, 2017

    Chris – the Canadian in me eh?

    I agree with most of your points. I’ve seem some discrepancy though with grading between the 2 companies where same grades go for way different prices (usually CGC getting more). This could be confusing for people entering the market.

  7. Jeremy
    April 12, 2017

    Hey Walter I personally have not used it. A friend of my that has a comic store told me and sent me some pic of some he sent in. It’s suppose to have some kinda tamper proof seal on the back. Maybe a logo or something. It is nice that you can by a raw comic and send it in knowing what the grade will be.

  8. John
    April 12, 2017

    Never heard of that grading company until you showed it to us. As far as CBCS doing a non-encapsulated grade I think its a great idea and CGC will probably follow suit at some point. I don’t remove gold through bronze books that are high grades from their prisons but lower grade books almost always get pardoned. How else can I read them? A cheaper method to ensure a book is restoration free and to resolve grading differences is welcome.

  9. April 12, 2017

    I like the thought of the raw grade as well. I think it will service the collecting community quite nicely and perhaps even infuse the non graded market with a bit more trust on line. Perhaps this is the next big thing?

  10. Nathan
    April 15, 2017

    Did anybody notice the notation on this book. Why would they say this book is the 1st appearance of Harley Quinn in the DCU. What a huge mistake on this slabbed comic. Not sure what these guys are thinking at EGS. I guess they thought this was Batman:Harley Quinn from 1999. WHAT A JOKE!!

Make It Good.