Pressing Issues

Many CGC collectors are engaged in an activity called “pressing”, which can greatly enhance the value of your comic books. Unless you own a perfect “10”, all comics have some degree of flaws. But, there are good flaws and bad flaws. Pressing is a process in which certain flaws can be literally squeezed out through the application of heat, moisture and pressure.

Pressing was very controversial about 10 years ago. Many purist collectors claim this is a form of restoration. But, the problem is that pressing is not detectible. Unlike traditional forms of restoration such as colour retouching, trimming or tear seals, the key differentiator with pressing is that nothing is added or removed during the “pressing” process. Collectors with a keen eye may suspect that a book may have been pressed but there really is no distinguishing evidence to differentiate a book that has been professionally “pressed” from a book that has been stored for many years under pressure in a tightly packed box. As such CGC does not consider “pressing” to be restoration and even purchased Matt Nelson’s “pressing” company, Classics Incorporated back in 2012 to augment their revenue stream.

Despite this, many people remain critical suggesting that “manufacturing” high grade books devalues the “real” high grade books. Case in point, back in 2011, the highest graded copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 broke a world record selling for $1.1 million dollars. At the time it was the only blue label copy graded at CGC 9.6. Shortly there after, CGC board members noted that another copy of an AF #15 graded 9.6 appeared on the census while a 9.4 copy had quietly been removed. It seemed pretty clear that the second 9.6 copy had been “manufactured”. Many collectors wondered how this would reflect on the value of the first 9.6 copy. Its impact still remains to be seen but I’m inclined to believe that this particular book, in this grade is still rare enough for the value to hold. As long as we don’t see a flood of AF#15’s appear there should be enough demand for this book to actually increase in value over time. Interestingly a third CGC 9.6 blue label has appeared on the census since then.

DD_Before
Daredevil #1: Before
DD_After
Daredevil #1: After

There are many well-trained book works professionals, including Tracey Heft of Eclipse Paper Conservation who has written several insightful write ups for us.

Matt Nelson who now works with CGC under the new banner Classics Collectible Services (CCS) is a well-known source for CGC collectors.

Joseph Grisolia, is or was the “go to” person amongst CGC board members for “pressing” due to his more economical price points. However, now that he’s teamed up with the newly formed CBCS, his relationship with CGC is unclear.

Susan Cicconi of the Restoration Lab is another great source.

I’m less familiar with Mike DeChellis of Hero Restoration but he is another option.

Stephen Solomon of American Comics and Collectibles also offers pressing service, although his business seems to be currently on hold.

The United States is the biggest comic book market so it makes sense that many related businesses would also be based in the US. However, with the Canadian Dollar fluctuating between $1.25 to $1.27 USD, I’ve had to rethink my comic related purchases. A 25% premium, on top of shipping charges and possible duty is a huge dent in our pockets. As such, I was delighted to discover a local pressing service.

Kevin Polidano is best known as the Comic Doctor within the convention circuit. In addition to being a collector himself, he offers a pressing and cleaning service at very competitive rates. But best of all, he’s local and you can find him set up at comic shows like the TCBS this coming February 22.

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Wolverine #4: Before
Wol_After
Wolverine #4: After

Whether you believe that pressing is a form of restoration or not, it has become a fabric of the collecting market. CGC board members have instilled an unwritten rule to disclose pressed books in the spirit of fair play and transparency. I fully support this voluntary action but of course there is no way to enforce this behaviour. As such, any large CGC collection will most likely contain some pressed books.

If you’re planning on selling your books and want to get the maximum value for your collection, you may want to give your books a good press. Not all flaws can be ironed out so be sure to consult with Kevin or any of the other experts before submitting your books. I’ve got a small pile of water soaked books myself which I’ve been meaning to have flattened out so I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

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Astonishing Tales #26: Before
Death_After
Astonishing Tales #26: After

 

Charlie Kim
Charlie Kim

Charlie Kim is a designer who is currently transitioning into teaching. While working for various companies, he helped develop many international brands such as the Hong Kong Airport identity, Lenovo’s sponsorship program for the Beijing Olympics and Lavasa, a new city being developed in India. Locally, he's also worked on the 1998 campaign for the Canadian Opera Company, the Canadian Innovations stamp for Canada Post and the terrible Grand & Toy re-brand (hey, they can't all be winners). Charlie’s love affair with art and design all began with comics.

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ArcRun - Mike Huddleston

The difference on that Astonishing Tales copy is pretty amazing. Water damaged books tend to get crushed in CGC grading, or have in books I have observed. It’s about the only thing I think CGC goes a little overboard on in there grading, although a paper conservationist would probably disagree with me. I don’t think I would ever send in a book for grading with visible water damage. That said I own quite a few in my little reader comic collection. They are usually a bargain to purchase and I personally don’t take great offense to the defect.

It’s an interesting topic, I honestly thought you might see a little more chatter here as it can be a bit of a polarizing subject amongst collectors in terms of whether it is constitutes restoration or not. I am of mixed minds on the subject but tend to feel it is a form of restoration.

Ken B.
Ken B.
9 years ago

Great article and before & after photos. I did not know pressing made such a great improvement.

Alan
Alan
9 years ago

Thank you for writing this article! I guess for me, the whole process is not about alchemy or adding/hiding anything to the original characteristics of the comic, so pressing is ok. Ironically, pressing does look like magic!

David Cryer
David Cryer
9 years ago

The downside of pressing at this stage is not qauntifiable. Your applying heat and pressure to a paper object and you could be shortening the life of the comic. I have met collectors who tend to only buy CGC books from the original style of CGC holders, which have a distinct style of typing on the notes, as they know these have less chance of being pressed as it all the rage now.
On the flipside who can blame someone taking a book from a 9.4 to a 9.6 in the case of AF15 but the real effect may take decades to emerge.

Peter Chin
9 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Kim

Interesting topic Charlie. I wonder if CBCS will follow CGC’s lead and not crack down on pressing as well…

Also, are there any good resources for those who want to try “Do It Yourself” (DIY) pressing? I guess Youtube has instructional videos for the DIY types, but I would only try DIY for my lower dollar value comics, say a beaten up old issue of ROM from the 1980s.

Dennis De Pues
9 years ago

I don’t have a problem at all with pressing. You do have to be realistic about what it can do. It won’t turn a mediocre book into high grade, it will not remove colour breaks and it will not add anything except an aesthetically nicer appearing book. Maybe incrementally raising , or lowering, the grade of the book. You pay your money and you take your chances. But you do that anyway when slabbing a book.

Peter Chin
9 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Kim

Awesome info! Thanks again for sharing your expertise on this topic.

Al Tinsley
9 years ago

Pressing a comic is very subjective. The luster can be degraded if the wrong pressing surface is used. I tried my hand at pressing using a clothes iron and copy paper and it had mixed results. The best use of pressing is for rolled seams. You can reestablish an original seam with little effort and remove curls close to the seam when your books weren’t stacked or stored properly. For books with water damage a high grade photo press is required. I tried to press several that were damaged in a basement flood but wrinkles and wavy pages just don’t respond well to a flat iron and steam only adds blemishes that can’t be pressed out.

My big question is how to get rid of the black spots that may or may not be dried mold. The flood happened 30 years ago and only now am I really cleaning them. Dried them as best I could and then stored them in a closet. Now, I trying to sell the collection but I’m finding black spots embedded in the paper. Any suggestions?

Henry
7 years ago

The master of pressing resides here: http://www.impressivecomicbooks.com/

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

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