Check Up

It was over a year ago: I remember bugging CGC to extend the amount of time they leave their invoice numbers available to be referenced by submission accounts like mine. I think in the old days those invoices were available for viewing for about 6 months, plenty of time to look back and reference something that had already come back or to have a quick peak where a particular invoice was in the queue if you were getting antsy about getting it back. Then came that time period where books would take well over a year before they came back, CGC was so busy they took months just to get if off the receiving dock never mind process it into the system for you to see. Yes, I still get a skin rash thinking about that time period, I was getting it at both ends, I’d have boxes worth of books, over two or three separate shipments, shown delivered by Fed Ex but still not showing up in the CGC Order Status system, then I’d have countless consignors asking me when their submitted books are coming back only to have me tell them that I’ve lost the ability to track the progress of their books as their invoices have timed out and were no longer posted in the Order Status system. Good times.

There’s a reason I’m revisiting those old days is I want to ask a few questions about where we are today in the hobby. Those were heady days at CGC, they could not hire enough people fast enough, they raised rates, they lowered the small kick back the submission dealers got, they created great new products that collectors were loving, stuff like the Custom Labels. Things were really going well for them. Usually when things go well people start getting much deserved pay raises, important and much needed new positions are probably created, more people are hired, more capital investment in equipment is needed etc. etc. I’m sure that CGC is doing fine today, they’re probably still rocking it financially, but I do wonder how these current market conditions are affecting them. Yes, you can let people go but those raises are hard to claw back, those financing costs on the new capital investments have actually gone up since interest rates started rising. I’m going out on a limb here but the number of submissions has to be down dramatically, I’d imagine well over 50% of the volume. I remember sending invoices and invoices down of Copper Age for 9.8 pre-screens, these books were selling from $100 to $250, today these books are selling, at 9.8 from $40 to $90, nobody is sending them down anymore. Turnaround times for books getting graded are down to below two months right now, it used to be 13 months!

Why should we even care about how well things are going at CGC? Again, I am more than sure that things are fine down there, they’ve also added new products like trading card grading and I know there are plans in the works to foray into other collectibles grading as well. I’m just stating the obvious in that as the whole collecting hobby suffers this drastic market downturn surely it has to be affecting the support players in the market. Next week I’ll expand this discussion into auction houses.

As I was sifting through the “going to eBay auction” pile, it struck me that I had to pick Spidey Super Stories #45 as my cover of the week. Bob Budiansky gets props for this cover reinforcing the power of the principals. Here we have three principal characters, each and every one of them Marvel giants, Spidey being the best of the best with Surfer and Galactus scoring way up there too. Who doesn’t want a copy of this?

Talk about nostalgia, talk about a flood of memories. This ad, from Marvel Spotlight #28, gave me two distinct memories from my childhood, first those Slim Jims, for me it was Hot Rods, I’ve had plenty a sore tummy from eating too many of those damn things! Then that customizing ad, man I remember around 1976, 1977 thinking how cool those customized vans were, they’d have these wild spray paintings on the sides and they’d be decked out with plush interiors and fridges, I always thought I’d get one when I grew up. Turned out I got a brown Pontiac Montana minivan to shunt the kids back and forth to school and hockey practice, be careful what you wish for.

I was craving a Kirby splash this week and I actually had 3 books lined up to look through. The most Kirby of the 3 Kirby splashes was this one from Avengers #5. Our friend Meli might dismiss it as a “standing around” splash, but honestly, how can you make a splash if you are just standing around? I found myself just admiring the Kirbyness of it.

The latest weekly icecollectibles eBay auction ended last night with a flurry. Every week I find myself putting the weight of the entire market on one book, I see a book and decide that it will be the harbinger, the canary in the coal mine, for all the rest, not very fair and not very scientific but it helps pass the time. This week that honor fell on our Journey into Mystery #85 graded CGC 6.5. A quality offering of Loki’s first appearance, there was an October sale of $4,575 and I wanted to see if our copy could hold the line. Our book went through at $4,400, a result I’ll count as a solid success considering all the dismal December sales data pouring in so far.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

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