NostoNews, February 1, 2007
by Tommy Jasmin

Slab Saturation

Here's one for you to think about: what happens when all the slab-worthy comic books and coins have been slabbed? Don't think it can happen? Well I'm not talking literally, of course. I'm thinking more about the bell curve. Kind of like peak production for oil, at some point we'll have passed peak slabduction for collectibles. Meaning the vast majority of those specimens that would benefit from grading have been graded.

I propose it can, and will happen, within the next 10 years. Granted, my reasoning is pretty simple on this. I have not done any real research, I'm just writing the news for Nostomania the night before as usual. Regardless, here are my thoughts:

1. The days of attic finds are gone. Yes, I know we all still dream about undiscovered collections surfacing, and from time to time they still do. But the good old days are gone; these events are now extremely rare.

2. The best stuff has very few representatives. The true rarities, the items that must be professionally graded before they go up for sale, exist in very low numbers. We're talking 10-20 for rare proof coinage, and the same for "Gerber 8" or higher comics (quoting the 1-10 Gerber Scarcity Index). There just aren't that many to grade.

3. For the more common stuff, professional grading rapidly becomes prohibitively expensive. To come up with an accurate grade, and to authenticate any item, is not cheap. You've got multiple professionals involved, strict handling and security procedures, and a host of other concerns. Unless your item has some significant value, the cost/benefit ratio is just not good enough.

Ok, so let's pretend for a minute you agree with me. What then? Remember, grading services are businesses. Businesses need sustained revenue, more each year than the previous, in theory. What will they do to compensate or adapt? My biggest fear is that they resort to gimmickry. In some ways, it's already begun. Remember, modern technology has bred the manufactured collectible. For comic books, they have the "Signature Series", where you ensure production of a certain number of high grade specimens, have the creator sign them, and charge an unrealistic price.

For coins, a similar gimmick has recently emerged, called "First Strikes". Don't get me started on this, it's a whole 'nother column, but essentially this designation means "first ones off the press", and grading services have somehow tricked people into thinking this implies greater value. I would like to say one more thing about this topic though - hats off to NGC, whom I've heard has stopped noting this "designation".

Beautiful stuff, but way overpriced

Along those lines, what will the future hold? Will CGC and PGX create a true "first off the presses" designation for comic books? Will the coin graders switch from a 1-70 scale to a 1-100 scale, forcing the whole world to re-slab? Please guys, no. There is another factor to consider here: your pride. If it comes to it, walk away. You're all smart people; you can find other jobs and other careers.


Don't forget, all you have to do is create a single Collection, Wantlist, or Salelist item during the appropriate month to qualify for our sweepstakes. Why not take a look and see what we're giving away (and gave away last month), free as always.

Thanks, we'll see you all next month.

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