Thanks for the responses!

We've received an amazing amount of thoughtful, thought-provoking feedback following last week's questions in advance of the new edition of The Official Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide. Please don't hesitate to join in and let us know what you think!

You'll find links to our previous questions and the responses at the end of this article.

Jim Payette
Rare Books & Comics
On the first example of pressing, if the staples have been removed and rice paper has been added it is a restored book. This may be lightly restored, but it is still restored. On the second example of pressing without anything else being done to the book I find this acceptable and not restored. Whenever I have sent a book in for pressing I disclose this to my client. I believe the value of the book should still be the same, but everyone should know it was pressed. The next question is what happens if someone does not disclose this. Quite honestly if you look at the book and no one can tell it was pressed are we still happy with the book. I know at times people are so paranoid about color touch or other things being done to the book they imagine problems that might be there when they might not exist at all. If we find a book that you detect nothing, but just maybe, just maybe, it might be, then are we reaching the point of being ridiculous. If the book looks great and you can not detect anything wrong and even CCG cannot, then I believe we let it pass as an undetectable copy of any restoration or any other process. I still do believe though that everyone should disclose anything done to the book. Hope this helps out.

Gary Colabuono
If it can be determined that a book has been pressed - then it deserves a "restored" label because the obvious, detected work can be considered no different than detected color touch or tear sealing.

If it can't be determined that a book has been pressed - then the book must get a "universal" non-restored grade since every means of detecting restoration will have been utilized and none found.

Thanks for giving everyone a chance to chime in on these important topics.

Tony Starks
Comics Ina Flash
If pressing is really, really obvious - such as the staples have been removed and some reinforcement done, then I think it should fall under the category of restoration. Or call it a defect if you will. The whole debate of restoration/conservation/repair is a long one.

My concern is that collectors see what the "want" to see. If you aren't positive it was intentionally pressed, then it shouldn't be considered such.

I recall an illustrative example at the Overstreet "gathering" that Steve hosted after he purchased Overstreet Publications. One dealer had a World's Finest #3 that he was showing around. Very sharp copy. Another dealer insisted the pages must have been bleached, as they were just too white. "You don't see pages that white on 50-year-old books," he said.

Now I seriously, seriously doubt the book's pages had been bleached. Early WF's are glued and stapled books. Dissembling and then reassembling the book would be a nightmare job for even the most talented restorer, and you would have likely seen evidence of that process along the spine and covers.

But the dealer was predisposed to believe there were no white page 50-year-old-books. So it goes with pressing. If it's "too flat" then some will insist it's been pressed.

So in my mind, the answer is obvious. If it's "undetectable," then it just isn't there and cannot be noted. Sort of like what Steven Hawkins had to say to the question of what was the universe like before the "Big Bang." His answer was there is no reason to wonder - all the evidence is gone and we'll never know.

Stephen Gentner
If books have been sitting in a stack, or in such a way as to keep them flat and enhance their 'flatness,' for God's sake don't do anything or make anything of it! It is just a flat book. You will have to qualify all the Mile High books because they were stored in a bookcase that pressed them flat and kept them that way.

How about the Class of '68 books, Iron Man #1,Captain America #100,etc? All those warehouse finds were in a stack. Oh my God! A stack of books which have been there for two hours! Restoration! Defective!

If you or anyone else ding a book because of suspected pressing, CGC or other, our hobby has turned into a witch hunt for anal retentive, paranoid, nazi-purists, and the joy of finding a flat book(s) will be a negative thing. What the hell kind of a waste of time is this?

If a blacklight shows rice paper reinforcements, note it and qualify the grade. Other than that, leave pressing out of the equation. Tell the prigs who are trying to ruin our hobby to forget it, and don't allow yourself to be drawn into a totally unwinable and corrosive situation.

Bill Karis
In my humble opinion, if a book has been pressed and is undetectable, then good for them. The word undetectable means no one knows, so benefit of the doubt goes to the final condition of the book. If the look of the book is improved then everyone wins. Ignorance is bliss in this case. Restoring is a whole different story. If someone has developed a way to un-crease paper, good for them.

Phil and Anne
If pressing is undetectable then it shouldn't matter. Ignore it. Don't be so anal!

Harry Thomas
Unintentional pressing from storage?

Pressing creases with nothing added considered some sort of restoration?

Removing and replacing staples to press is obviously a defect?


David T. Alexander
If a person thinks a book has been pressed but cannot detect it, there is no proof only speculation. Pressing should only be noted if evidence of that process is seen. To consider, for inclusion in a Grading Guide, what someone's feelings are, without evidence, should not be in a guide. This will only "guide" a collector in the wrong direction.

Richard Olson
I think you are on the right track--removing staples, adding rice paper, etc., is more than pressing, it is restoration and should be noted.

However, if a book has been pressed (or not pressed) and there is absolutely no sign of it, I say congratulations to the presser! Grading is looking for defects--a perfect press might remove a defect but if it is truly undetectable, I don't see a problem. At the same time, if the pressing leaves any signs, then it is no difference than any other type of restoration. This will probably be a minority viewpoint but that's my two cents!

Mike Milewski
I have just one question: How many Mile High books were pressed? From what I've read - most of them!

Mark Zaid
In "Making the Grade - Pressing," [Superstars, Scoop, Friday, June 02, 2006], Gemstone Publishing has asked some very specific questions regarding the practice of pressing. In introducing your questions you identify three different types of pressing. The first involves the removal of the staples, while the second can include very concentrated pressing of a specific area of the front or back cover of a book. The third is unintentional due to the chosen storage method.

For one thing, your descriptions are far too general in nature and appear, based on even my limited knowledge of the involved techniques, to be incomplete. For example, your first category of pressing typically, if not always, additionally involved the cleaning of the book as well. Moreover, usually each and every page is pressed separately. No matter how pressing is viewed, the fact that the staples were removed and the book was cleaned using some sort of chemical treatment would always result in a determination that the book was "restored."

Your second category, which you simply describe as "where a small bend in the cover is pressed or small dimples are pressed," fails to note that most often this type of pressing involves either significant pressure and/or even heat. It is not merely taking a heavy dictionary and sliding it across the comic book. And in many cases it is not simply localized pressing that occurs, the entire book or page is pressed.

I have set forth my opinion regarding the definition of restoration at length and will not seek to reiterate my expressed position. However, in addressing your specific concerns regarding pressing let me simply remind your readers what the definition of restoration has been since Gemstone published its 33rd edition of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in 2003:

Any attempt, whether professional or amateur, to enhance the appearance of an aging or damaged comic book. These procedures may include all or any of the following techniques: recoloring, adding missing paper, stain, ink, dirt or tape removal, whitening, pressing out wrinkles, staple replacement, trimming, re-glossing, etc.

Your own definition very clearly incorporates the type of pressing that you have identified as category two. Indeed, CGC, though publicly decrying pressing through its officials as not constituting restoration, actually defines Comic Book Restoration on its website as "any attempt, amateur or professional, to enhance the appearance of a comic book." This definition also very clearly includes the category two type of pressing. For further information concerning the definition of restoration, I would direct your readers to my detailed analysis which Scoop was kind enough to publish at http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/scoop_article.asp?ai=12139&si=127.

The crux of your latest solicitation for comments, however, deals more so with the practical problems surrounding pressing. Many of those who argue that pressing is not restoration rely on the fact that detection of the technique is extremely difficult, and at times virtually impossible. This caveat, of course, is entirely irrelevant to the discussion of whether pressing does fall within the definition of restoration. Why then is the issue of detection so heavily relied upon as part of this debate?

If pressing is considered restoration, as both Overstreet and top restoration experts such as Susan Cicconi and Tracey Heft (as well as CGC on its website) believe it is, there is no question among any that it must be disclosed. This is the heart of the issue and anyone who understands this debate is quite cognizant of this fact. A groundswell has been initiated in the last year, such as by the newly formed Network of Disclosure, to actively promote the ethical disclosure of even non-detectable pressing, regardless of whether it is even considered restoration. This has caused a wave of fear or concern among particular entities and numerous individuals. Their agenda is to extricate the mechanics of pressing from the definition of restoration in order to alleviate their ethical obligations of disclosure (and prevent the perceived devaluation of their pressed comics that they wish to sell). I fully recognize the significant practical difficulties surrounding the detection of pressing. It may be years before this problem can be overcome, if ever. But this fact should not be utilized as an excuse to remove an ethical requirement of disclosure because it is simply easier to do so.

It is unfortunate that in articulating their concerns regarding pressing some have adopted the argument that pressing results in books being pancaked. To be sure that can happen to some books when pressed poorly or improperly, but there is no reason to believe this occurs with the large majority of pressed comics. Nor is the argument that pressing damages books worthy yet of serious concern. Frankly, there is absolutely no evidence one way or the other that pressing does or does not damage books. No one has conducted any type of experiment, or even has anecdotal evidence to rely upon. That said, the issue of damage is one to explore further as scientific research is conducted on the manipulation of paper, particularly at the microscopic level.

At the same time your analogies as far as the second category of pressing in particular are inappropriate. You continue to support the myth that the favorable results of commercial pressing can be achieved unintentionally "through various long-term storage methods." Indeed, you even create a third category of pressing specifically to address "a tightly packed long box of comics." For one thing, I am aware of absolutely no evidence whatsoever that packing 400 comics into a 300 capacity comic long box can achieve similar results to that of the commercial technique of pressing.

What you are doing is continuing to stir hysteria regarding the possibility of pedigree collections somehow being designated as "restored" due to the manner in which the books were stored. This, of course, invokes the aura of the Edgar Church/Mile High collection. But, as I have stated in my previous article, the "pressed" manner in which Mr. Church stored his 22,000 comic books did not result in the removal of existing defects, which is what commercial pressing seeks to achieve. To the contrary, it permitted the books to retain and remain in their pristine condition for decades. They never deteriorated to a degree that required pressing. A Church book is pressed nowadays simply for one reason: to increase the profits for the dealer/seller. Though it is obviously oftentimes difficult to independently measure, intent is a key facet of this debate.

Your text would give some the impression that you are attempting to justify in advance what appears to be your leaning towards rewriting the definition of restoration to exclude pressing, particularly given that you continually seize upon the question of detection. As you state, "[i]f, however, the pressing is undetectable, how does one detect it? Do we downgrade a book because we think there's been something done to it or because we know there's been something done to it?"

No one has rationally suggested that anyone should guess as to whether a book has been pressed. If a book has been improperly pressed and damage has occurred, it should be downgraded. It may be that many, perhaps even the majority of, books which have been pressed will not be identified as having been. That is an issue our community will have to deal with, but it should be a matter of principle that requires us to retain an accepted and rationale definition of restoration that happens to include pressing. The mere fact that detection may elude us should be of little consequence.

Taking your statement to its logical conclusion, since micro-trimming is virtually undectectable (as CGC recently came to learn as a result of the Jason Ewert scandal that led to hundreds of trimmed books ending up in blue Universal holders), then it should not be considered restoration either. Even if micro-trimming is viewed as "destruction" rather than restoration your premise is the equivalent of the ad campaign that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." If the events are unknown, or the modification goes undetected, there are no consequences. I have little difficulty believing that few in the comic community share such a philosophy.

However, there are many instances where pressing, in fact, can be detected, particularly where the book is a pedigree and has been CGC graded. Several collectors have compiled well-known databases, replete with scans, which have allowed comparison of particular books and led to the identification of pressed books. Heritage Comics' vast database has generated a great deal of discussion of pressed pedigree copies. Moreover, many more collectors routinely query dealers regarding the provenance of a comic book. I receive numerous inquiries for the sales history and prior ownership of books listed on my website, and I always request this information from any individual who consigns books to my site.

And let us not forget that despite CGC claims in its public statements that pressing cannot be detected, its former sister company, Paper Collectibles Service (PCS), was pressing books as a for-profit enterprise just down the hallway from CGC. Given that PCS was under the same corporate umbrella as PCS, surely CGC was aware, or could easily have become aware, of which books PCS had pressed. Fortunately PCS has now apparently closed its doors but the hundreds, if not thousands (the number is unknown), of books that it pressed for monetary gain have been disbursed within the community without CGC having noted on its label of the enhancements that took place.

I previously suggested to CGC that should a pedigree comic, or any book that was known to have been previously graded by CGC, re-enter its doors with the appearance of a higher grade, thereby evidencing the possibility and perhaps likelihood of it having been pressed (though it could also be a straight resubmission), it should not receive a grade above that which had originally been assessed. The premise was that if CGC did not reward those who pressed books, but at the same time did not punish, then perhaps the notion of pressing would lose favor and the inability of detection would be minimized, at least with respect to the high caliber of pedigree books. It is not necessarily the ideal solution, but at least it seemingly offered one, at least in part. Of course, it was no surprise this suggestion was rejected by CGC officers as it conflicts with the company's current business model.

Your final question to your readers contributes to the very problem that exists. You asked "[i]f pressing is not detectible to experienced professionals and seasoned collectors alike, what is the standard on which we speculate on whether or not a book has been pressed?" Again, no one is suggesting the detection of pressing should be a game where one speculates. Simply because there presently does not exist any reliable method of detection does not mean that the issue should be ignored or swept under the rug for an easy solution. In fact, what would occur if Gemstone declared pressing not to be restoration but next year (or two or even ten years from now) it became possible to utilize scanning technology to allow reliable detection to an acceptable degree of certainty? Would Gemstone reverse its decision yet again?

The issue Gemstone is now facing seems to me to be a very simple matter. This is a question about the integrity of the Overstreet Guide, the integrity of the Grading Guide and the integrity of Gemstone Publishing. To turn your back on accepted and historical definitional principles merely, or in large part, for the sake of those who wish to act as profiteers and do not wish to face what otherwise would be ethical requirements regarding disclosure is a travesty. In my opinion, and I know it is shared by many, that is how a Gemstone modification to the definition of restoration to exclude pressing will be viewed at this time, whether it is true or not.

Instead, what I would suggest to Gemstone and other leaders within our comic community is to focus on removing the unfortunate stigma that has attached itself to restoration (and that includes pressing). That is far more preferable than witnessing Gemstone avoid having to deal with the difficult ethical issues we now face by utilizing the stroke of a pen to reverse your own position 180 degrees simply because we cannot yet determine the ultimate practical solution.

Matt Nelson
Classics Incorporated
It has long been noted that there are different forms of pressing for comic books, with two specifically better documented types dominating the areas of concern for collectors and dealers. In recent times, this has been a volatile area of debate, and we welcome all sides.
In my opinion, there is only one type of pressing. It can be used by itself, or in conjunction with restoration techniques.

In the first type, the staples are removed before pressing occurs. Traditionally the process has included very small pieces of rice paper being placed at the staple holes to reinforce this area before the staples are reattached. The rice paper can be detected with very close examination.
Applying rice paper to staple holes is just one of a near limitless number of techniques that a restorer may perform once he has disassembled a book. Other reasons would be cover cleaning, spine support, tear seals, color touch, wrap replacement or repair, etc. But once that book is reassembled, it can be pressed the same way an untouched book can--the only difference is that this book was disassembled and restored. The disassembly and restoration can be easily detected by a professional. The pressing cannot.

The second type of pressing is occurs when a portion of a cover is pressed without removal of the staples. Typically, this is where a small bend in the cover is pressed or small dimples are pressed. In many instances, this type of pressing is impossible to detect.

Both of these types - and other, cruder forms as well - are cause for concern. This includes but is not limited to collectors or dealers who "pancake" books intentionally by putting them between a heavy object and a flat surface, as well as those who unintentionally achieve the same end accidentally through various long-term storage methods.
I think the tone of this paragraph is too general, and does not make the important distinction between professional and amateur pressing. Amateur pressing can result in books being "pancaked," among other things. Professionally pressed comics should leave no trace of any pressing, nor any damage to the comic itself.

The first type of pressing is more extensive and can clearly be considered restoration. Once staples have been taken out and put back on a book, the original state has been altered. Staple alignment has been changed and staple holes have been altered which can usually be detected with close examination. But more importantly, when there is evidence that staples have been removed, this can be a clue that more extensive things have been done to this book other than just pressing.
Agreed. The staples serve as a sort of gateway to the discovery of other restoration, usually cleaning. CGC always examines the staple prongs at the centerfold for disassembly. 99% of the time, if a book appears to have been disassembled, that book exhibits some sort of restoration.

The second type presents more of a problem, but again only if the pressing is truly undetectable. First, the basic question: Is it detectible? If it is, should not then the corresponding defects it has caused in or on the issue should be addressed in the course of regular grading?
Again, if the pressing is done professionally, there should be no signs of pressing, nor should the book be damaged in any way. The question posed here assumes that some sort of damage or defects will occur with pressing, which is not the case.

If, however, the pressing is undetectable, how does one detect it? Do we downgrade a book because we think there's been something done to it or because we know there's been something done to it?
If something is undetectable, you can't detect it, hence the word. But if some sort of damage has occurred from amateur pressing, that damage should be factored into the grade. And if this presser decided he would disassemble the book to press it, than the book should be considered restored.

An example of the three scenarios: X-Men #1 8.0 has potential to press to 8.5.

#1 - a professional job leaves no trace of pressing, nor any damage. Grade: 8.5.
#2 - an amateur does a bad "pancake job," leaving the book limp and causing staple shifting and impressions in the paper. Grade: 7.0.
#3 - the book is pressed nicely, but is disassembled during the process. Grade: apparent 8.5

In #2 and #3, one of the two rules of a professional, undetectable pressing were broken; either the book was damaged, or disassembled.

As before, if it is discernable that pressing has been performed, this suggests that it was not effective and has instead added to the book's list of defects (in other words, it has damaged the comic).

An additional permutation of this occurs when one takes into consideration independent, third-party grading companies such as CGC. This goes back to the question, "If it's undetectable, how does one detect it?" Despite the presence of much passionate discussion on the subject, this question remains largely unanswered. Again, if it's detectible, then shouldn't the defects be been added to the comic in question? Further, if CGC was to speculate and label as "pressed" books which may or may not have been pressed, do we not stand a significant chance that the issues in question will be cracked out of their holders and resubmitted for a Universal label?
One can argue endlessly about the definition of restoration, but in reality a third-party grading company, who has no prior knowledge of a book's history can never know the intent behind the qualities or defects that book may exhibit. Questions CGC can never answer by looking at a book: Who owned it? How long did they own it? Was it pressed? If maybe so, was it by a pro, or stored under a stack of comics for 10 years? Did the book become limp from improper pressing, or from storage in a humid climate?

The only thing that can be discerned by CGC, apart from the usual restoration that is 100% detectible, is whether the book has been taken apart. This is the only realistic determination that can cause a book to be considered for a restored holder. All other signs must be considered defects, and factored into the universal grade. It is not CGC's job to grade comics based on guessing. Each grade is given because of a set number of defects or qualities that book exhibits.

The last question is the crux of the argument against disclosed pressing. If you sell a book to someone and tell them that it was pressed, what's to stop them from not disclosing that to the next buyer? Especially if there is no trace of the pressing? If CGC cannot detect professional pressing, I seriously doubt any majority (or even minority) of the collecting public could do so. You simply cannot account for something that doesn't appear to exist. And you can never take somebody's "word" as gospel.

In the third area of pressing, how does one tackle the subject of what may very well be unintentional pressing that occurs, for instance, in a tightly packed long box of comics?
Again, this question is using intent as a factor in the argument. Besides the person who intended to press the book inside the box, no one would ever know better, unless that book exhibited signs of pressing. And a comic pressed inside a tightly backed long box will not show signs of pressing.

Pressing has been around since the beginning of fandom. There is no beginning and no end to it. It is not a new phenomenon, and will continue to exist regardless of the outcome of this, or any future discussion. People have pressed books to get higher grades, to make books more presentable, and yes, to even make money. If this fact bothers some, than I suggest they question other aspects of comic collecting, like restoration, third party grading, and price guides. All lead to the increase in value of comic books. It doesn't matter if someone makes $1 or $10,000 from pressing, restoration, CGC grading, or simply buying a collection through the price guide. That is simply the nature of the beast.

And if one thinks pressing damages comics, than that person must call restoration itself into question. Restoration involves processes much harsher than anything involved in professional pressing. If you think a pressed Amazing Spider-Man #14 is going to worsen over time, than that Batman #1 you had restored is going to turn into a pile of dust!

Susan Cicconi
The Restoration Lab
I would define restoration as: to give back, bring back, fix, heal, correct to a former, better/original state.I have been a professional paper conservator for the better part of 25 years. I began my career as an apprentice to the chief paper conservator of The Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1980. I trained for 3 years and in that time frame I assisted in the restoration of 36 original drawings by Pablo Picasso and various other 20th century artists. I also worked on an 18th century watercolor scroll that belonged to the French government. In 1982, I began working with the pioneer of comic book conservation, William Sarill, further honing my skills with modern types of paper, paper pulps and 20th century ephemera. I bought The Restoration Lab from my former mentor in 1986 and to this day engage solely in the restoration/conservation/preservation of comic books and other paper collectibles. I do not appraise, grade or sell comics. My expertise is restoration.In addition to my restoration services, I provide two types of "Certificates of Evaluation" that allow an expert like myself to review a comic from cover to cover. One is for restoration detection and the other is to denote that the book is in its original state and contains no restoration. These certificates are performed to the best of my ability and remain my professional opinion and are signed. Front and back covers are scanned into my database accompanied with a serial number, provenance, title, date, publisher, and authenticity of pedigree (if any) so that the book can be tracked if possible. I do not encase the book in any holder, nor do I grade the book. As a pure paper conservator I would include any intervention whatsoever as restoration. This would include cleaning a book (cover and interior pages) in any way such as with dry erasures, water wash or solvent wash. Any kind of additional materials applied to the paper such as adhesives, mending papers, forms of inpainting to include watercolors, acrylics, pens, pencils, charcoals and graphic ink transfers as well as reglossing to rebuild paper stock or color gloss or staple cleaning (rust removal), would be considered restoration. Pressing a book as simply as an intact process is also an intervention and in my opinion considered restoration. Localized attempts at fixing dents, creases or folds is also restoration. The book would need to come in contact with some sort of tool or heat for the process to be effective. A more detailed spine roll removal whereby cover is pressed separately (thereby removal of original staples) and each and every folio is humidified and pressed is certainly restoration. The entire book is then re-assembled using the original staples and pressed intact. This completes the process

Trimming is not restoration unless the edge that is being trimmed has been reinforced along the margin for edge tear reinforcement and of course trimming the excess paper is required at that area and sometimes along the entire edge. Actual trimming/slicing off original paper destroys the book's original shape and therefore causes irreparable damage.Deacidification is not restoration, in my opinion, however, one must remove the staples in order to treat each separate folio, therefore the act of staple removal and re-assembly and a final intact press to align the book properly would be considered a separate act of restoration so the term deacidification would have to fall under that category.Deacidification is the process by which the paper acidity is brought to a neutral pH level thereby preserving and conserving the paper for future life.Professional restoration would require the absolute use of archival materials and the knowledge of their application for the best achievement in structural support and esthetic appearance. Adhesives, mending papers, color enhancements, spray glosses are to be of the highest quality. Fine motor and artistic ability is critical. Knowledge of color mixing and application is critical. Experience handling comic books with regard to their look, feel and paper malleability is critical. Amateur restoration should be apparent at first glance and those that would not be able to differentiate should consult an expert.All forms of professional restoration are acceptable under one condition: Disclosure.This is the most profound rule for all conservators. Work that is performed on any type of material - paper, textile, wood, painting, sculpture, metal etc., should have a written statement of conservation/restoration/preservation treatment. It is time to apply this same rule to the comic book industry.

Please take the time to read my article on my website entitled "Ethics and Standards in the Conservation of Ephemera," (http:www.therestorationlab.com) where this very issue is addressed.
The article was presented at Harvard University in 1989 attended by many professional conservators among which was the chief conservator of Michaelangelo's masterpiece "The Sistine Chapel." He was quite impressed that I had taken such a stand with regard to one of America's purest art forms.
Now we find ourselves, almost 30 years later, in a whirlwind of controversies and the issue of disclosure still remains such a heated issue particularly with regard to this " intact pressing" issue. For the record, I admit that in both [previous editions of ] The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide of 1999 and 2003, I state that pressing is non-restoration as I was of the belief that nothing was really added to the book.

I had still submitted my disclosure reports to my customers but I found that they were simply thrown away in an attempt to deceive the buyer/next owner.

With the advent of CGC in early 2000, comics are now graded, slabbed and sold at extremely high prices. This prompted people to send me their already high-grade comics (9.2 - 9.4) for some very slight enhancement and exploit my services to raise the "value" of the book significantly. I truly personally felt that this was wrong even though I admittedly participated on some level for a short period of time. However, I then decided to take a stand and decline any type of "intact" pressing or "local" pressing on high-grade comics.
(Please see my "Policy on Pressing" found on my website at http://www.therestorationlab.com).

I knew that my work was virtually undetectable in some of these cases and the disclosure statement I provided to the book's owner whether written or verbal, was often not revealed to the prospective buyer. As a result, sellers were, in my opinion, fraudulently deceiving their customers, particularly since the Guide explicitly considered pressing to be restoration, thereby requiring overt disclosure. At this moment in time, it is absolutely true that when intact pressing is performed to its optimum degree on the right candidate, it is virtually undetectable. While perhaps this may not be the case one day in the future, however, an equally important element to this controversy is the fact that there are those in the community who desire to be freed of their ethical requirements to disclose enhancements, such as pressing, performed on books so that they may continue to reap financial gain at the expense of the larger community. Thousands of books have already fallen victim to unnecessary pressing, which is a restoration technique, to realize their so-called potential in order to permit a small group of individuals and entities to financially benefit at the expense of the collector/investor.

This should not be permitted to continue without full disclosure.

With time, I, and a handful of other thoughtful, concerned purists, those within The Network of Disclosure, and the forthcoming launch of www.TheNetworkofDisclosure.com are currently reaching out in a professional manner in an attempt to try and change the mindset of the industry for the true love of the hobby and its long term future.

Mark Wilson
PGC Mint
The issue of pressing a comic book has become a topic of considerable debate over the past year by a small but very vocal group in our hobby. Specifically, if not exclusively, with the high grade professionally encapsulated comics.

It appears that the bone of contention is that if a books grade can be improved by such an action as "pressing" then such an action must be a form of restoration, which then should be noted as such on the computerized label of the book when professionally graded (a purple label for a pressed book?). Or, at the very least, a small note on the Universal blue label, which I believe would satisfy this group.

Seems simple enough. Or is it?

While the argument has some merit it is impractical, if not impossible to spot "pressing" by even the most seasoned restoration expert on a wide scale. Why? Because all books are "pressed" in a myriad of ways, both intentionally and unintentionally.


Any time you apply pressure to a paper product (or any product for that matter) you are "pressing" it. This can happen to a collector who stacks their books in a closet, attic or basement, which over a period of time will flatten the books closer to the bottom of each stack. Many times, because of shifting or imperfect stacking, these books will develop spine rolls. It must be understood that a spine roll is the result of pressure applied to an improperly stacked book. The same is true for most corner creases. A corner is accidentally folded over and then the book stored in the way mentioned above which presses the folded corner into a full blown crease.

So as we enter into this argument we must understand that all books are "pressed" in some manner over time. Please do not argue here, as all books are stacked, strapped, or boxed even before they reached the stores where they are initially sold as brand new. Even the raw paper, prior to being printed, is put under tremendous pressure many times during its journey to becoming a comic book.

The issue then is not "pressing" but pressing with intent to improve the appearance of the book.

And again, the problem is that it is almost impossible to detect accurately. Where it becomes obvious to the novice is when the following scenario occurs:
A book was professionally graded, scanned and logged in a file for all to view. It now has an identifiable history. A dealer or collector purchases this book and believes that the grade is way too strict because it was just stacked wrong prior to grading. The book is then removed from its holder and "pressed" because it had a slight warble or spine roll. It is then resubmitted to a professional grading service to be graded once again. It is now assigned a slightly higher grade and then put back on the market for sale. The book is once again scanned and logged. Because of our incredible network through the CGC message Boards, other Boards, dealer websites, auction Houses, ebay, and (most importantly) better computers and quicker download time, we now have instant access to scans of books in a way that was impossible just five years ago. Now someone notices that the book had a slight grade change and wonders why. This will then create a "stir" on the message boards and the controversy begins. Opinions fly like bats in the night.

Can proper pressing improve the grade of a book? Yes. Can it lower the grade of a book? Yes.

You see, no one ever complains or even makes note of the books that are pressed, resubmitted and then come back with the exact same grade assigned, or a lower grade assigned, and yet this happens with equal frequency.

The idea that you can press a crease out of a book is absurd. You can flatten a cover crease but it will create a dent to the interior pages below the crease and you end up with a lower grade book.

Can you remove a spine roll from a book and improve the grade? Yes. Can you remove a spine roll from a book and lower the grade? Yes.

Actually, you can harm a book with this procedure if not done just right. It is not as easy as you might assume. As paper ages the cell walls break down and loose their ability to retain moisture and flexibility. The sizing (consider this a coating which allows ink to be applied to paper and not run all over the place) also becomes less flexible. This creates the perfect recipe for disaster if someone tries to "press" the book back into proper shape without knowing what they are doing. The spine can actually split, or the paper can tear at the staple areas. A professional (if they know their stuff) will take great care to examine the situation and use the proper procedure. Secondly, many times there is wear at the spine of the spine-rolled book and when it is pressed back into shape you will now have this wear glaring at you on the back cover. Now did you improve the books grade? No, not at all. And if you think a professional grading service will miss this you have no clue how strict they are when they grade. Send a book like this to CGC and I guarantee you will get your book a lower grade.

The idea that you can press the hell out of a book and receive a higher grade is just plain nonsense. It is a crap shoot at best. For every book upgraded there is one down-graded.

Is "pressing" safe? Yes and no. It all depends how it is done and who does it. I can say that a properly pressed book is completely harmless to the book. I have sent portions of comic books to the Weyerhaeuser technical lab (one of the word's leading paper manufacturers) for accelerated age tests on the pressed paper and the unpressed paper. I cut comic book in half and had one half pressed. There was no difference between the two test subjects when age accelerated to twenty-five years and put through a series of stress tests and whiteness tests.

Is "pressing" restoration? I would have to say no for the most part because the same results from "pressing" can be achieved naturally over time.

However, If you decide to dismantle a book for the purpose of pressing, well then you enter a different arena. Once you remove the staples and then try to reassemble the book I can tell you that CGC will note that. They are now really, really sharp at spotting a book that had the staples disturbed. The chances are very good that you will end up with a Qualified grade.

How do I handle this issue and does it bother me?

I buy nearly all of my books already professionally graded and consequently, just don't get involved with "pressing" issue. I have purchased professionally graded books through auction that were at one time assigned a lower grade but were later re-graded higher. In all cases I inspect the book carefully and have agreed with the current grade. If not, I just don't buy it (but that situation is very rare). This upgrade may or may not have been the result of pressing but either way It does not bother me in the least. I must add that this attitude is based partly on the strictness and faith of professional grading.

Kim Siels
How would you define "Restoration" in comics?
Any alteration of the comics "birth" condition.

What would you include and not include?
I'd include any detectable restoration. The question of our time - "is pressing restoration?" In response, only if it's detectable. If it's not detectable, the "birth" condition remains intact. There must be 100% certainty that pressing occurred, in order, for the comic to receive a restoration label.

Would you delineate between professional restoration and amateur restoration? And if so, what would be the determining factors?
If buying a restored book, I'd want to know what level of restoration was involved. Some restoration specialists are real artisans. They're work should not be cut down by hacks.

What, if any, forms of restoration are acceptable to you?
I'll accept spine mend. A beautiful front and back cover sometimes benefit from spine mending. I don't like color touch up however.

And why?
Color changes the comic too much in my opinion.

And under what circumstances?
I'd accept professional restoration, if needed.

Daniel Cooper
Just thought I'd let you know that I've thoroughly read over the restoration issue all over the internet and in several magazines, and my views definitely correspond closest to those found on this web page:
(Mark Zaid)

Editor's note: The link forwarded by Daniel Cooper is the same article Scoop ran in our May 12, 2006 edition.

Bob Underwood
You asked readers and collectors to venture opinions on pressing a book to make it appear better.

I have to say I believe the furor over restoration all told is suspect. I have tried to get people to agree that honest and professional work fully disclosed and detailed is the way to go with restoration. I have even suggested that before and after pictures would be a great way to prevent anyone from being deceived.

But those ideas have met little besides intractable resistance, with people insisting that they do not care how much I can verify that "piece replaced" means a tiny corner piece and not a big chunk of artwork. They don't care to hear it from and don't care to tell any prospective buyers. And they don't want any standards applied regarding restoration. What they want is to insist that no books should ever be restored and that low grade key books must be sold for less than guide good instead of being restored to sell for more.

Well, even that might seem reasonable except that the same people also insist that when a fair condition book sells for over guide it must be considered an aberration and must not be taken into account in the guide values. So you have books like action 1 and detective 27 consistently selling for well over guide in low grades yet the price guide steadfastly keeping the price virtually the same year after year.

Nobody pays five figures for something "just to have it." And that includes low grade key books. If I pay a lot of money for something, and I know I could not have found it for less and I know I could not buy it for less if I wanted another copy, then I consider it a great disservice when dealers and price guides insist year after year that the value of my book simply has not gone up -- regardless of what they are selling it for and regardless of what I know it is worth.

I go through all that because over time I have come to believe it is a waste of time trying to give people honest information and advice about restoration because there are so many people working to keep it all nebulous to deter people from buying restored books -- to convince sellers of low grade key books that they must sell them low and to convince buyers/collectors/investors that high grade unrestored books are the only things that have value regardless of whether or not the high grade unrestored book has any real cultural significance -- or for that matter any degree of scarcity.

If people are genuinely concerned about misleading collectors then there should be a firestorm of controversy over the widespread practice of misleading people into believing that high grade copies of recent books are not plentiful and cannot,. over the long term, sustain value.

Instead you hear endless cries against restoration -- all of which makes it easier for unscrupulous people to convince novice buyers that slabbed copies of recent books are all the more valuable because they are not just high grade but unrestored -- unlike that action 1 which has failed to go up significantly in the price guides for low grade in nearly a decade.

I can't help but feel the debate over restoration is motivated by some not to bring light to the collecting field but to obscure the real value of items -- to help boost the value of items people want to sell, and to drive down the value of items they are hoping to buy (and possibly resell)

The debate over pressing takes on absurd levels. We are, after all, talking about something that happens quite naturally whenever you simply put a book in a stack and forget about it. To say that we must somehow punish books that were pressed deliberately as opposed to ones that were pressed inadvertently borders on the absurd. Forget restoration detection. What you need is lie detection. Or some sort of psychic reading of a book that tells you whether a book was pressed by someone who just wanted it out of the way or whether they put something heavy on it because they knew it would make the book flatter.

Vincent Zurzolo
Metropolis Entertainment
Re: trimming
I think your solution seems fine. I would say that instead of the word defective you could say restored... even thought nothing has been added to the book that is how we (most if not all dealers) would describe the book. Also CGC would put this into a restored holder...I have had two complaints from customers unhappy with the lack of grading guide in the newest Guide- for you to know.

Thanks, Vinny. Please let your customers know the definitions will be back in the next edition of the Guide.

Jim Pitts
[About the revised definition of trimming] I like it! My only suggestion would be that the new paragraph says "Comic books that have been modified/altered in this fashion are considered defective." in it. Just offering my 2 cents......

In regards to the trimming definition, I think your second proposal is good; however I would add to the last sentence "and may be defined as repaired". Quite honestly trimming is restoration, but I know some people might not agree. By adding this to the last sentence it will cover all philosophies. Thanks again for your time.

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