Sports Illustrated/TIME Blog #26 – Home/Hobby Magazine Grading 101

Welcome to my Sports Illustrated/TIME magazine blog – Your collector’s guide to the latest hobby updates and insight into what’s trending now.


Have you ever tried to grade your own magazines before sending to CGC?  Even though most of us can’t duplicate the work of the grading professionals, it’s really the responsible thing to do because there are variables in cost and in outcome that determine the risk/reward balance.  Most of us like to fantasize our magazine grades pre-submission but before you get all excited about those 9.8 potentials, here’s why it doesn’t often work.

  1. You’re biased in favor of you. The tendency is to look at your own mags thru beer googles instead of thru a magnifying glass.  We are too optimistic about overall condition because it’s natural to want and hope for the best which rarely occurs.
  2. We don’t know or understand the grading calculation process and until we do, how can we accurately predict? What seems a minor downgrade to us may be major to the grader.
  3. We don’t see all the downgrades. I think graders get more downgrade aware the more magazines they grade.
  4. It is my opinion that as the graders and the grading process becomes more organized and more sophisticated, the tendency for graders is to become increasingly aware of any downgrades therefore, higher grades get tougher and tougher. I also believe the tougher grade phenomenon doesn’t level off but continues to get tougher as more product is evaluated.  That is why grades submitted one year ago on certain issues may end up being “none higher, POP 1” for a long time to come.  And today’s grades will be higher than tomorrow’s.  There will high grade submissions, but as the process gets more sophisticated the grades will get tougher.

If you’re really serious about estimating the grades of your pre-submissions, here are a few simple rules to follow

  1. Be honest with yourself. Those minor downgrades will count against the grade so don’t overlook the obvious.
  2. Compare your estimates with previous results.
  3. Be conservative. Downgrade your overall estimate by one grade point.

I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than overwhelmingly depressed.  Few hobby events are worse than the elation of predicting a 9.0 and actually receiving a 7.5.  Happens to me all the time.

Lastly, I’d like to offer some insight on the grades themselves relating to pre – 1980 magazines.

We all love those 9.0’s+.  But there’s a reason why sellers are asking so much – and getting it.  They’re very hard to find and get quite exclusive the higher the grade.  Basically, a 9.0 mag is Mint with a very, very minor flaw that keeps it from grading 9.8.   If you operate solely in the 9.0+ arena, the action will be infrequent and the cost will be high risk/high reward.

But there is very good news for grades under 9.0.  Personally, I think there’s a great deal of opportunity in the 7.0 thru 8.5 sector.  Take a look at an 8.5 on Ebay or in your own collection.  It’s a pretty clean mag isn’t it?  Sometimes you can’t even find anything immediately wrong with it.  Four square corners, no creases, very little wear.  If you think about it, how many out of 100 newsstand copies would be this nice?  10?  5?  Maybe 1?  If you agree, then it follows that these magazines will eventually rise to top of the collector’s want lists as soon as finding and buying something higher becomes too difficult.  Try viewing a 7.0 and you’ll see almost the same thing – very nice magazine.  The lesson here is – don’t overlook the current 7.0 thru 8.5 grades.  They will be surprisingly collectable in the near future but remember, if you procrastinate on your purchases, you’ll be competing with everybody else when you finally decide.

There is one more group – the 5.0 thru 6.5.  If you pick the issue wisely, mags in this sector can be very rewarding.  Certain issues such as the 59 Unitas, 60 Brown, and 61 Maris (and many more especially in this era) are rare above these grades.  If you can find one or more in this range, be brave and scoop them up at bargain prices.

That’s personal home/hobby magazine grading 101.  Follow these tips and you’ll be ahead of the curve, exactly where you should be.


One more heads up – I will be submitting the first ever CGC Graded Magazine registry for auction in August.  It’s my best Clay/Ali graded series, 1963 thru present, most are “none higher, POP 1”.  I will be following this auction with the first Jordan Graded Magazine registry in September – most “none higher, POP 1”.  Jordan and Clay/Ali – great way to kick off the registry auction movement.


I hope you are enjoying the reads on the history of TIME and SI magazines as well as an insight into relevant magazine collecting.

Great collecting to you and best fortunes with Sports Illustrated/TIME!





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *