Earlier this week, at the request of Bob Overstreet, Gemstone Publishing’s Creative Director, Mark Huesman, sent an email to the Overstreet Advisors regarding some components of the Grade 0.5 (or “Poor”). Below is the text of that email, and following that are the responses from those Advisors who have reached out to us by this week’s Scoop deadline.

After reading this, we also invite you to comment. You may email us at feedback@gemstonepub.com.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard from a number of your fellow advisors who raised a question about a long-standing component of the grade 0.5/Poor, one that had not been raised with us to any serious extent in the last decade.

Bob Overstreet has asked me to request your opinion on this matter.

The question concerns the removal of coupons or Marvel Value Stamps from issues and the corresponding effect that their absence should have on the final grade the issue receives. For quite some time, by strict definition, this has meant the issue would be graded 0.5.

Over the years, of course, many dealers established the precedent of “Apparent” grades followed by the notation of what was wrong with the issue, such as “Missing Marvel Value Stamp.” While we have never particularly endorsed this practice, neither have we ignored it in our evaluations of the marketplace in general or in grading specifically.

In the opinions of many, the concerns about coupons or other missing items are further split by the question of whether or not the absence of the piece affects the story content of the comic book.

Some have proposed that grades be allowed to drift as high as 3.5, for instance, on an issue that might have otherwise graded 9.8. We believe this is far too loose a standard and will lead to the erosion of consumer confidence in certification based on the suggestion that it would then favor the seller over the dealer.

However, others have suggested a more modest correction to the 1.0 to 1.5 range. Frankly, the key to accepting any change is transparency, both in terms of what is noted on the labels of certified comics and what is noted by the sellers of uncertified or “raw” comics. While there may be no way to fully reconcile the differences between those who fully support the current definitions and those who want them slightly adjusted, if transparency is present, all can make informed decisions.

If the preponderance of opinion comes down in favor of slightly relaxing the deduction for these defects, we would of course react accordingly.

How do you think this should be handled?

In the realm of certified comics, CGC does not automatically drop to the 0.5 grade on this. They address it in a number of ways:

Missing Coupons, Story Pages, Non-Story Pages
Missing Piece from a page (Coupons, MVS or inserts)
- CGC does not go straight to Universal 0.5 (Poor)
- CGC might grade the book as high as 3.5 (Very Good Minus) if the book is otherwise in nice condition. This happens most notably on Signature Series, Restored or a lower grade book where there is not enough grade difference to give the book a Qualified Grade. (Example: a book is missing a small coupon that does not affect the story and the book would grade a Qualified 4.0 vs. receiving a Universal 3.0)

Missing an ad page that does not affect story:
- CGC might grade a Universal 1.0 (Fair) on rare occasions
Missing a Story page, Multi pages or Centerfolds
- CGC will grade Universal 0.5 (Poor)

Qualified Grades are used at the discretion of CGC if:
- The book is not restored or trimmed
- The book is not a Signature Series book
- The book is not too low of a grade already
- If a book is in the 3.5/3.0 range, CGC tends not to use the Qualified Grade for Missing Coupons, Story Pages and Non-Story Pages. Those books will receive a 0.5 (Poor) or on a rare occasion a 1.0 (Fair)

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. As Bob has said many times over the years, the Guide will only be as good as the input it receives.


Rick Whitelock
New Force Comics

If a book is missing a page, can't be more than a .5 to me. It’s incomplete. It’s really black and white to me. Pricing can vary based on what is missing, how much, visual appearance etc, but technically to me, it is a .5.

Steve Borock

If a book has two pages missing and it's a 0.5, I do not understand how a book with a coupon clipped can carry the same weight in grade.

If a book can have 1/10th of the back cover missing, once again, I do not understand how a book with a coupon clipped that does not affect the story, can carry the same weight in grade.

In 1.5, 1/10th of the back cover can be missing, but no coupons are allowed to be missing. I would rather have a coupon clipped that does not affect the story than 1/10th of the back cover missing, as that really affects the look of the book.

I also think that a full page missing, should not carry the same weight as a panel out that affects the story. I think there is a big difference.

I do not think that clipped/cut pieces from the interior should ever be higher than a 3.5

Hope that helps!

Jesse Criscione
I think this is a standard the Guide has had and should continue to have. You open the door up to Pandora's box ‪and the standard would be more or less looked at something we should have fixed many moons ago and just now getting to it. As a buyer and seller it’s a solid approach to buying and selling comics missing a "stamp." It might not be part of the story, but it’s part of the book and it’s what makes the books more desirable. 

Paul Litch

When we all first started collecting, our most basic desire was to have a complete book. We wanted to read the story. We wanted to know what happens to our favorite characters. It is easy to understand how we as collectors would care more if multiple pages, a story page or a non-story page were missing in our book vs. a small insert or a coupon cut out of a non-story page. The grade should reflect this basic desire of collecting. This is the principal CGC uses. 

Jon McClure
A serious question. Should've been formally addressed long ago. We're talking about "incomplete" comics which are by definition "poor."

‪I will respond. Thinking it over first. I don't like answers that cynically favor sellers.

‪I think this is a sub-category that most likely will not be addressed responsibly.

Jim Payette
To me all books that are incomplete are just that, incomplete. The book should be graded as it appears and the missing part should be mentioned. For instance, if a book looks very good and has the centerfold missing it should be graded very good centerfold missing. The price of course may be half of good or maybe 3/4 of good. I know many grade a book lower if incomplete; however my experience tells me my customers view the book as incomplete and want me to disclose if it is missing anything. I am not talking about a small piece out or something minor. I am talking about pages missing, coupons missing and covers or large part of the covers missing. Please call me to discuss this further if you have the time. I am hopeful this gives you some positive input. Take care.

Jason Versaggi
With regard to the missing value stamp issue/0.5 grade I have always felt that even if the missing piece from the interior was an ad that did not impact the story it still raised a red flag for me as an incomplete book. If it is in fact a Marvel Value Stamp that is missing that would only heighten my disdain for the book as the presence of the stamp would be more desirable than a random ad.

I'm simply latching on to the Value Stamp as an analogy to stress the weight I put on the book being complete. I owned an ultra high grade set of Jungle Action #5-24 that were designated as a pedigree set. Upon discovering that what would have otherwise been a 9.6/9.8 set of books all missing their value stamps where applicable I dumped the books. They were not desirable at all to me in their incomplete form. I am perfectly fine with that standard being adhered to in dropping such a book down to a .5 grade and while it does seem harsh to downgrade an otherwise flawless book that low I feel very strongly that the comic is in an "Incomplete" stage and can also be designated as NG for No Grade as to me it is moot. It's not a complete comic. (However, I also feel similarly about comics that are missing huge chunks out of the cover or interior.)

Hope this helps.

Rob Rogovin
I feel you should slightly relax the deduction for these defects. I feel CGC is on the right track with their grading on this matter.

Hope this helps.

Art Cloos
I have never been a fan of "apparent grades" or qualified grades at all. Dealers like them because it will justify a higher price for more of their books and I have had discussions about this with some of them. I do understand their points of view, but I think the designations are ridiculous. I am not a dealer but a collector, and as a collector I believe a book is graded in its entirety. Cut out or missing parts of a page affect the entire grade of the book and must be included in the actual grade. To me too many people look at the cover and centerfold and voila, there is your grade. A dealer can say the book looks better than the grade outside of the cut out part but the book should continue to be graded according to the current practice. I have never been a huge fan of the way CGC grades and I will leave it at that concerning them. It really comes down to what's best for the hobby and I think honest grading is what's best. So there you go.

Doug Mabry
The Great Escape

I would be in favor of relaxing the grading on an otherwise high grade book if it were missing a coupon, etc., and did not affect the story.

Rich Olson
As long as the missing coupons and/or stamps don't involve the stories, I would support a more liberal evaluation. Personally, I would be thrilled to buy a 9.8 book for 0.5 pricing if it didn't influence the appearance of the covers or the stories inside. I think the main thing that is important regarding this issue for me is that the buyer is making an informed purchase. As long as the buyer is aware of the clipping, everything else will take care of itself.

Stephen Houston
Torpedo Comics

I will be glad to add my opinion to other advisors on this subject.

For me, having a Marvel Value Stamp or coupon missing from a given issue is a catastrophic event - a piece of the original comic has been cut out of the comic.  

The only reason I can see others wanting to have a change is based on money, or the need to squeeze more money out of certain 'damaged' issues. In recent years, we have seen an erosion of old school core standards in grading in favor of label changes (CGC) or even changing the definition of restoration. For me, the Overstreet Guide has to stand above those concerns and remain a bulwark against financial concerns. So for me, when a coupon has been cut from a given comic - that comic is a poor grade. If a potential customer wants to purchase a copy of an apparent NM/M 9.8 (coupon cut) copy of Incredible Hulk #181, then its up to them to come up with what they deem a fair price for a book that grades at 0.5, but looks beautiful. 

Ted VanLiew
Superworld Comics

Nice to hear from you on this!

This is a tough problem.

I'm a proponent of assigning an apparent grade to a book, and noting that there's a coupon cut or the like. Otherwise, it's more confusing for the buyer if I grade a book as “fair,” but it looks like a “fine.”

It's just more detail, as far as I'm concerned.

Regarding the “Fair” grade, I've noticed, for example, that if a book has its front cover, but is missing its back cover, CGC automatically grades the book as “Poor.”

I think it should be a Fair, as Poor is the very lowest grade, and should be reserved for books that are either coverless, or so wrecked as to be unsightly or falling apart.

Hope that helps! 

Mike McKenzie
Alternate Worlds

Interesting subject with quite a variety of possibles. Using the current standard of .5 is technically incorrect as regards to The Overstreet Grading Guide. This grade definition states (at least in the version I am using unless it has been changed in a subsequent edition) “degraded to the point where there is little or no collector value”. That certainly is not the case when the book is merely missing a coupon, it can still be highly desirable. With the definition of “Good 2.0”, the basic premise is that the book is complete, thus the coupon missing grade should clearly fall in the “Fair” range 1.0 – 1.5, although I would continue leaving it as .5 in the case where it affects a story panel or page.

Although in my own practice, I may well use a qualified higher grade to describe the book in a case by case basis, I think the conservative approach is best when setting the basic guidelines. They will get stretched enough on their own without us making it “official.”

Terry Hoknes
Great question.

‪I believe the most important thing a buyer wants to know is why does a comic get a certain grade?

‪In most cases the front cover shows us the visible damage and should be graded accordingly, ‪but when the main damage to a comic is done on the inside I believe it should be noted in a different way.

‪Qualified grades make sense to me in this case when there are coupons etc have been cut.

‪If a comic grades 8.0 but due to a coupon missing would only grade 0.5 doesn't really seem to make sense.

‪It’s not clear what the problem is ‪and the book appears to look great and yet would have a very low value. 

‪This would not be reasonable especially for selling key books like Incredible Hulk #181.

‪Take this recent eBay sale for example:

‪If that book was graded Universal 0.5 there is no way it would bring the same money, ‪so the psychology of getting a good sale price is in the grade with details rather than just a low grade. 

‪Of course from a retailer/seller point of view it is honestly in their best interest to have an ‪8.0 grade, but still mention what is missing/damaged on the interior.

‪We all know that the sales possibilities for a universal grade 0.5 compared to a qualified 8.0 are not going to result the same profit.

‪So my personal vote is for qualified grade, ‪then we find out what the problem with the book is and yet we grade the general appearance of the cover, then the buyer is educated and knows what they are getting and they can set their price and establish the true value of the book.

Dave Anderson
Want List Comics

I have always believed and still believe that the simplest, most accurate way to handle books with missing contents is to state what is missing and then say otherwise book is (grade). Example: “coupon missing, affects story, otherwise book is VG.”

Tom Gordon
From a market basis I'd stick to CGC grading standard which creates it as a qualified. 

That being said, the Guide needs to improve the issue of Amazing Spider-Man #238 and Fantastic Four #252 notations and consider these books qualified if the tattooz are missing. The market has considered them incomplete for well over 15 years. CGC notes them as incomplete and qualified if the tattooz are missing as do I given that they were part of the manufactured print run of those specific issues. 

Lee Hester
Lee’s Comics

I agree that an otherwise Near Mint book with the value coupon missing should grade up to a 3.5.

I had an Incredible Hulk #1 with a chunk missing on the front cover grade 3.5.

I don't like qualified grades. I like to just grade the whole book, as it stands.

Bill Hughes
I sell tons of comics on eBay and many are low grade, including those with the value stamps removed. We are among those who are able to grade these comics VG- (3.5) and sometimes even VG (4.0) (which are otherwise in great condition, though not necessarily a 9.8). However, viewing this on average, I think that GD (2.0) would probably be the fairest grade, if the missing piece or stamp does not affect a story.

Thanks for including me in this mini-survey.

Jamie Newbold
Coupon out, MV Stamp out; both should be 2.0 if the copy appears at least to be a 2.0 or better. If the book is missing parts and the book is less than 2.0, then the corresponding lesser grades apply.

Al Stoltz
Basement Comics

I see you reference CGC but are also interested in seeing what CBCS has in mind for this grading question? I think since we have two legitimate grading companies then we should get both of them to weigh in on this grading situation.

Also I think the pricing and market for Incredible Hulk #181 missing a coupon is far beyond whatever the Overstreet Guide grades it or prices it. I would buy a thousand copies today if a seller had that many missing coupons in any grade and offered them at 0.5 grade pricing of the Guide. This is also maybe one of the few issues missing a coupon that has a value far beyond grade as far as Marvel Bronze Age comics. I have thrown away many other issues that had this piece missing due to them having zero value to us.

We also would list an Incredible Hulk #181 missing Marvel Stamp a 1.0 if we had one to offer on our eBay store and stand by that grade.

Hope this input helps.

Paul Clairmont
PNJ Comics

Great area to address!

As far as I'm concerned, the current Poor (0.5) is too harsh for a comic book or magazine that is missing a coupon or MVS.

In my opinion, I believe a lot of the grade for a book in this scenario should also rely on "Solid Eye Appeal" along with whether it affects a story page or not.

The importance, as you mentioned, is not to erode consumer confidence in the market place.

With that objective in mind along with my own opinion about missing coupons and MVS I believe the standard should reflect on the overall book in the following manner:

If the book is a Near Mint- (9.2) or better (with a missing coupon or MVS) =  Good (2.0)

If the book is Fine+ (6.5) to Very Fine/Near MInt (9.0) (with a missing coupon or MVS) = Fair (1.0) to Fair/Good (1.5)

If the book is below Fine (6.0) or less (with a missing coupon or MVS) = Poor (0.5)

I believe a scale like this is required as all books with a missing coupon or MVS will have other flaws and meritsin determining the overall grade and the old standard was too quick to call each book "Poor."

Thanks for the opportunity to help!

Ken Dyber
Cloud 9 Comics

This is a great topic, that warrants a round table, and should have the grading companies in the dialog, because, their grading shouldn't be the law, but rather the general acceptance of the cumulative response from within the industry.

I think Overstreet, CGC, and the other grading companies are all grading books with coupons cut out way too strict. The Qualified grade should just go away, as all it does is leave uncertainty and confusion within the marketplace. The general feeling on Qualified books is only slightly better than Restored books, but both seem to have the feeling from collectors that equates to "The Kiss of Death". 

If you have an Avengers #57 that is a NM 9.4 copy, but there is a coupon cutout that doesn't affect the story, grading the book at 3.5 is ridiculous, especially with the defect on the interior, and not affecting the story. I think, a much better grading method would be a 1/2 rule should be applied.

Here how I break things down:

The grade should be 1/2 of what it otherwise would be:

Grade with coupon vs. Grade with coupon cut out:

9.8 | 7.0
9.6 | 6.5
9.4 | 6.0
9.2 | 5.5
9.0 | 5.0
8.0 | 4.0
6.0 | 3.0
4.0 | 2.0
2.0 | 1.0
1.0 | 0.5
0.5 | 0.5

Anything 10-9.8 would all top out at 7.0 (with a coupon out that doesn't affect story, the book cannot grade above a 7.0). At the low end, if it's a 0.5, then it would still be a 0.5, as it's already beat to crap, does the coupon out make any difference? For odd grades like a 6.5, 1/2 of that would be a 3.25 technically, however, the grader can decide between a 3.5 & 3.0 depending on the books other attributes.

The above grading scale would still apply, but minus 0.5 additionally until you get to the G+/3.0 range. At the 3.0 range the book has other major defects, and weather or not the coupon affects the story or not, should have no bearing on the overall grade, so for 3.0 and below, it would just be 1/2 (same as above). The odd grades (ie: 5.5, 4.5, etc...) the same method above would still apply. Here's a shortened version:

9.8 | 6.5
9.4 | 5.5
8.0 | 3.5
4.0 | 1.5
3.0 | 1.5
2.0 | 1.0
1.0 | 0.5
0.5 | 0.5

I would suggest a [75%] grade drop & a note on the grading label would need to be made.
9.4 or better | 3.0
8.0 | 2.0
6.0 | 1.5
4.0 | 1.0
3.5 or lower | 0.5 - 1.0

Here you could have up to a 3.0 for a beautiful, high grade, virtually flawless book. The present 0.5-1.0 grade just doesn't seem a fair measure of the overall book.

9.0 or better | 2.0
8.5 or worse | 0.5 - 1.5

Here, the defect is more severe, affecting the story, but again, I don't think a universal blanket grade of 0.5 justifies a comic that otherwise looks 9.2.

These are my suggestions, and I think there is some fairly sound logic behind them, but, just one man's humble opinion. I'm available to discuss further if needed.

Mark Wilson
Regardless of grade (from 1.0 to 10.0), a defect such as a Marvel value stamp, a clipped interior coupon, or even a missing page, the book should be graded without that particular defect in mind (*unless it was ripped out and created additional damage).

Because the book will most likely be inserted into a closed system (professional encapsulation) within its future, the defect in question should be noted along with the assigned grade. 

With a pro encapsulated book this would be called a qualified grade, and for good reason.

Here is a scenario: A 7.0 (for instance) has an interior panel neatly cut out on page #22. Otherwise it is a solid 7.0.

This alerts all potential buyers to the exact nature and quality of the book but allows the critical information of the hidden defect. The market will then ultimately dictate the level of value with a very healthy understanding of actual condition.

I agree with this philosophy.

The current predicament of grading such a book down to a .5 to 1.5 is an error that only allows for financial gain for the buyer, who will then describe it as a 7.0 and note the panel missing. This is factual and how the current market works.

To assign a numeric grade by "weighing the inner defect" in the overall scheme, is an extremely liquid position. Meaning it can and will change continually depending on who grades the book and how they "feel" about such a defect. There is no way to create a concrete definition of point value deduction for this (and many other defects) that can and will be universally adopted, so the notation of such a defect as a "qualifier" is the best method.

When selling such a book, the picture (or personal viewing) explains every consideration far better then a numeric grade.

If the book is an overall .5, then the clipped coupon is only a note within the grading process, not affecting the grade but of importance to the collector only.

We live in a very different world then 20 years ago and pictures are a very cheap process now, so they are a descriptive tool liberally and easily used in our hobby today. 

Back to point: Pro grading companies need to eliminate the "cut off" of not assigning qualified grades below a certain grade point. Any book at 1.0 or higher needs to note a clipped coupon. The qualified grade should be used for any book above a 1.0 if warranted. The reason is that the future will always come in its time and we do not know what the values will rise to, so to say it is not worth the time is not correct.

The normal grading process (no pro encapsulation) should also adopt this philosophy of overall grade but clearly noting and (if possible) showing a picture of the interior defect. Most dealers already do exactly this, so it is not a big change for the hobby.

As an example to show how accurate this philosophy is, take a 7.0 Action Comics #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, or a Detective Comics #31 for that matter, and offer them in two different ways to the public, just as an experiment. List them on the Boards with no pictures even, and just write that you are taking offers. List them all as a .5 and see what happens. Then list them as a 7.0 with a panel cut and see what happens. 

Editor's note: Our thanks to all who have responded thus far. We encourage all informed collectors, dealers and other interested parties to participate with their comments.