Comic Book Collectors’ Dilemna–to Slab or not to Slab?

Do you collect comics for fun or profit? Well if you’re like most collectors, it’s a little of both. Regardless, if you think that one day you may sell some or all of your comics (and it seems many of us do) you may want to learn more about “slabbing.” Slabbing is the process of having your comics professionally graded, and then encased between two sheets of hard plastic (some sources identify this plastic as “Barex”, but there’s some controversy as to what type of plastic it is). A special paper that prevents acidification is tucked into the comic as part of this process. Slabbing protects the comic from weather extremes, mositure, dust, and all the other things that can decrease a comic’s value.

Collectors both love and hate slabbing–there is no middle ground. First, here’s why they love it. Slabbing protects a comic indefinitely (no one knows for how long exactly, as the process is so new). Once slabbled you don’t have to worry that your prized Superman, Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, or Archie comic will lose its value, or any of its “eye appeal.” That’s a big plus! Also the slabbing company (Comics Guaranty, LTD or CGC is the major one, although there are others) will grade your comic as part of the process. Grades are on a .5 to 10-point scale with .5 being poor and 10 being Mint. When you’re looking to value and/or sell your comics it’s a great advantage to have it graded. It’s much easier to sell a comic if you can say it’s a CGC 6.0, instead of “in my opinion it’s in Fine condition.” I know this from personal experience and from talking to other sellers, including those selling comics, for my book eBay PowerSeller Secrets.

Now, here’s why some collectors hate slabbing. Once a comic is slabbed you can’t read it! You can’t take it out from between the plastic that encases it without destroying the seal that the grading company puts along the top of the case. Once that seal is broken the grade is no longer guaranteed. That makes sense because if you take it out you may change its condition somehow, thus reducing its grade. (Although I think most collectors would be careful enough not to harm their comics.) So if you are going to slab a comic you have to get used to the idea that forever it will be encased between plastic sheets. You’ll still be able to see its front and back covers but you won’t be able to page through it. That’s a tough thing to get used to. Also, slabbing ain’t cheap. Depending primarily on the comic’s age it can easily set you back $50 once you figure in shipping and insurance. And here’s something that’s not discussed all that much: the cases get scratched easily, and when light hits those scratches your beautifully encased comic doesn’t look so hot. New cases aren’t as expensive as the original ones if the comics don’t have to be regraded, but you still have to pay for shipping and insurance to CGC and back.

There are more pros and cons to this slabbing business but those are the main ones.

My advice? Slab Golden Age comics that are worth at least $150. (Because more modern comics are cheaper to slab, you may consider slabbing one of those if its current value is $100 or so.) It’s worth the cost in the long run and at $150, a comic is a pretty valuable investment, which will likely appreciate over time. There’s great peace of mind that comes from knowing your comic will not lose any value after you slab it (barring a change in market conditions, of course). If you want to be able to read your comic, you can also search the web for a PDF version of it. These are available from newsgroups devoted to the hobby. Or you can buy one of those printed compilations of old comics.

Enjoy your hobby! Comics are a snapshot of American pop culture, just like magazines or fashions. Besides they can bring back some great memories.

Brad Schepp is the author of 14 books including the bestselling eBay book, eBay PowerSeller Secrets. He has worked as an editor for several Fortune 500 companies including McGraw-Hill and Time Warner. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College.

Brad’s latest books are eBay PowerSeller Million Dollar Ideas, and How eBay Really Works. The second edition of eBay PowerSeller Secrets will be out this November. You can order Brad’s books through the website he shares with his lovely wife and coauthor Deb,, or through retailers such as Amazon.