Sports Illustrated Blog #72 – To Grade or Not to Grade?

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

With magazine values on the serious rise, I am receiving more and more inquiries regarding the pros and cons of grading your own magazines.  The thought behind the question is ‘if my magazines are worth more graded than ungraded, doesn’t it seem to make sense to grade them?

I personally went thru the raw vs graded process right from the on-set of the hobby having graded 1000’s of mags and left many more 1000’s ungraded.   I believe I have graded more SI’s, by a wide margin, than any other collector in the hobby.  I have learned the hard way, by trial and error, that excelling at the grading equation takes a knowledge of the hobby as well as personal above average grading skills.        

The first decision in this process is to define your expectations.  What do you want to achieve?

Let’s assume anyone that grades their magazines is trying to increase the value of their collection so you’ll need to be able to weigh the cost of grading against the increased value of the grade.  If you are going this route, you will need to hone your own grading skills so that you can make the cost vs value decision BEFORE deciding to submit.  You can’t be expecting a CGC 9.0 only to receive a CGC 4.0.  You’ll go broke on grading costs alone. 

Once you’ve decided to grade, you’ll need to learn the proper packaging for mailing your prized mags.  I promise you, you’ll bend a few corners before you get this right.  Do not save money on packaging.  Figure $50 per mag for regular grading time frame (3-5 months) and $100 for walk-thru (one week).  CGC is notorious for extending their lead times, so be patient.

If you are going to grade, please consider the following:

  1. Grading is a double edged sword.  High grades are good of course but, low grades can actually be worth LESS than the raw mag.
  2. Grading adds a cost to your collection.
  3. Grading defines the value.  There’s little debate regarding condition or value about a graded mag.  The grade is your guarantee against surprises.
  4. An added benefit of grading is that the process actually protects the condition of your mag.
  5. Unless you are a professional grader, you’ll tend to grade your stuff higher than the true grade.
  6. High grades (CGC 9.0 or higher) are much more difficult to obtain than you may estimate, especially on pre-1980 mags.  Frequently, collectors get discouraged with the grading process because it is so tough.  Selling raw magazines will be less work and less surprises.  It’s not for the faint of heart. 
  7. If you are a seller, you must learn the difference between a raw 8.0 and a raw 9.0.  Until you acquire this skill, you’ll grading magazines that shouldn’t be graded and, in turn, wasting your cash on unnecessary grading.

If you decide to leave the cost and risk of grading to others, take the extra step of properly protecting your raw mags from further degradation.  One day you may want to sell raw or even have them graded and you’ll want the condition unaltered.

The decision to grade or not depends on so many variables my opinion is that if you decide to grade you should be the guy that likes surprises. If you’re risk averse stay away. 

Lastly, I love to buy graded magazines.  No risk.  No surprises and no wasted grading fees.  They cost more but have all the variables removed before your investment.

I hope some of this has hit home but feel free to send questions to

Best of Luck.

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!

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