The restoration of comics has been around in one form or another since the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. In the last 14 years, third-party grading companies have incorporated restoration detection into their examination process in order to determine if any given book has been manipulated from its original printed appearance. However, detection by these companies is not infallible and there have been recent high-profile examples of unrestored books being resubmitted only to come back as restored – a shock (to say the least) to the buyer of a 4 or 5 figure book who made the original purchase in good-faith but ultimately has lost their 4 or 5 figure investment.
This ongoing column hopes to assist in the detection of restoration when purchasing raw books by introducing collectors to the tools of restoration detection and showing examples of the key areas where restoration is most likely to be discovered.
Since any crease or color-break can devalue a book, these are prime areas for someone to try and fix. A typical repair for this type of damage is to try to cover it up with something that looks right – usually pencil crayon or felt marker, but also acrylic paint, water-colors and even ink. Under close examination, usually with a magnifying glass or loupe, areas of “color-touch” become fairly obvious. The area most likely to have this type of restoration are the edges including the spine – where most damage occurs.
Looking closely at a copy of Showcase 22, what looks like a normal crease, upon investigation with a loupe, shows that the creased area is actually less glossy than the rest of the book (appearing matte in finish) and the green is darker than the printed green of the original book.
Even without the loupe, the repaired area appears different:
The green is most likely water-color, evident by the feathering of the color into the fibers of the book (appearing as a soft light yellow/green color) – in effect staining the edges of the crease. Depending on how heavy the application was, this repair might be visible from the inside covers – but not always.
If a repair such as this were undetected by the buyer, the buyer could have spent upwards of $6500 for what might appear to be a fine/vf copy of Showcase 22 (GPA 7.0 copy). When sent in for grading, this color touch would be noticed and the book assigned a restored label – the value of this book for this minor color-touch to the cover would be (at best) around $3300 (GPA SA 7.0 copy). A $3200 loss if not detected before submitting.
I would suggest that 90% or more of all restoration can be uncovered with one of three essential items – a UV blacklight, a flashlight and a magnifying glass (or loupe). Knowing what and where to look is also important, more next time.