It used to be that a purple label (the colour of the label CGC gives to comics designated as restored) was the kiss of death for a comic book’s value. I remember when guys would see a purple label and lose interest in the book right away. I don’t think they even registered what book it was: purple label equals I don’t want it was their attitude. But all books are not restored the same, some have a tiny smudge of colour added to a cover while others are practically rebuilt.
About 5 years ago CGC introduced their tiered rating system for restored comic books. Its a pretty good system giving the restoration work three levels of quality: A, B and C, with A being the best pro-level work, CGC also assigned the amount of work put into a book with 1 being slight and going up to 5 which meant extensive. Obviously you want to own an A1 and avoid the C5. Or does it matter? Do these new tiers flush out different levels of value when the restored books go to market?
Let me interject here quickly, I will not be discussing CGC Conserved designations, we will leave that for another day.
What if the book was not unrestorable? What if that colour added on the A1 comic couldn’t safely be removed to get a blue unrestored label? Would it matter for value then? I mean purple is purple right?
There is a huge, ever-changing and very complicated marketplace for restored comic books. Let’s set aside the restored books bought with the hopes of them getting unrestored. let’s focus on books that are restored and will stay restored: how should we be looking at these books?
We’ve all see the huge run-up in value of ultra low-grade keys issued over the past decade. A CGC 0.5 Amazing Fantasy #15 blue label was fetching north of $9,000 for a while there; this was the price to join the club. I recently sold a CGC 3.5 Restored C-1 Amazing Fantasy #15 for just shy of $10,000. My copy looked way better than the dog’s breakfast CGC 0.5 that went for the same money. Wouldn’t you rather have a solid looking copy with a bit of marker added to the cover than a copy that looks like it just went through the laundry?
Actually, in the lower grades, the disparity isn’t that severe. low grade restored copies do get less than unrestored copies in the same grade, averaging somewhere in between 70% to 80% for key issues below the 2.0 grade (very unscientific figures but values I have mentally noted in the past), things get bad in the higher graded though where restored values can be 10% of the unrestored values. This sliding scale does make sense as the scarcity of a high-grade unrestored copy have a lot of demand.
Will the stigma of restoration fade over time? I think it has to a degree already but has farther to go. Fun fact: there are more restored copies of Detective Comics #27 out there (36) than there are unrestored copies (32). Detective Comics #27 with its first appearance of the Batman is one of the true holy grails of comic collecting; would you say no to a restored copy if that was your only option to own one?
I know that original paintings are one-off works of art but the art collecting world does not seem too bothered by restoration done to some of the old masterpieces. Paper rots and fades and crumples and moulds over time, restoration and preservation are important tools in keeping these treasures with us into the future.
My question is whether we’ve adapted to the new CGC restoration guidelines? Have we been reading the level or restoration designations and have we been assigning values in levels with the degrees of restoration or have we still been grouping these books into one big restoration bin?
Is the purple label the culprit? Should CGC go to their standard blue label but emphasize the restoration with bold letters and symbols?
Are restored books bargains now and should we be looking to stake our claim in a few in anticipation of more general market acceptance in the future?
I’d be willing to, but in the shallow end of the pool: I’d go for a solid CGC 3.0 restored copy but the book has to be very rare to begin with. No use having a restored Bronze Age book with plenty of unrestored supply.