This is the third installment on the new practice
of slabbing and grading of action figures. The first was on my
feelings and opinions on the practice - the second was after a discussion
with the president of the Action Figure Authority, Charles Ware.
I received dozens of emails on the subject, and surprisingly, at least to
me, they ran both ways. I've decided to present some of those emails,
to give folks an idea of what others are feeling on this rather
For those that
haven't read the first two articles, 'slabbing' is the term for placing a
collectible in a sealed, protective case that cannot be opened or tampered
with without making it obvious. The item is graded first by a paid
service, and this slabbing/grading of the item is intended to guarantee that
you get what you pay for.
Some folks commented on the effects of this
practice in other hobbies, like comics and coins. David said:
"This practice killed the coin collecting
"hobby". It will only do the same to action figures/toys. I can
remember my Dad and I collecting coins together in the 60's (I'm and old
codger!) for the pure fun and pleasure of it. At that time there was only
about 6 "categories" of coin condition. Similar to the current
C1 thru C10 for toys. Collecting was fun and we didn't worry about
condition all that much, as long as the coin looked good to us we were
happy. We kept them in the old blue tri-fold coin books and I still have
them today. These are some of my most precious possessions. Not because
they have any huge monetary value (they don't) but because ogf the
memories they bring back to me of my Dad (he's gone now). Flash forward 30
yrs. or so.............I quit collecting for awhile until my kids found my
coin books and started asking questions. I thought "Cool I can do the
same thing for my kids that Dad did for me" FAT CHANCE!!! I was truly
shocked when I started checking into my old hobby again. What the heck was
up with over 70 grades for coins. And why pay to have it graded? I don't
wanna collect for an investment, my kids and I just wanna have some fun.
Every dealer I talked to would simply ignore my questions about low end
coins and try to steer me into buying something for $100.00 or more!!
Aaarrggghhhhh!! I gave up on it, but then I discovered the old blue books
were still out there! Hooray my kids and I can ignore the #$%^*&
"experts" and collect for fun. And now with the Statehood
quarters they have something to find in my pocket change and collecting is
back to what it was for my Dad and me! THe way it should be. I also
collect Star Wars action figures. My kids love the movies as much as my
wife and I do and I buy figures for them, and they use their allowance to
buy some figures they like. Do they care about card condition? Only that
it's not smashed etc. My son collects Yoda fig's and Jedi's, my
daughter collects all the "girl" fig's and they both have a
couple of droids each. It's fun to share my hobby with them and I can make
some decent trades on-line to get what we want, both carded and loose ( I
make custom figures). If this new grading system catches on, and I'm sure
it will with the scalpers (er, dealers) then no one will wanna trade
anymore. What happened with coins will happen with toys. Everyone will see
the investment potential and then no one will want your newest figure,
even if you did pull it fresh from the case, unless it's graded and
slabbed so that it has "value". I don't need this kind of
aggravation invading my hobby. I'll be sorely tempted, the first time I
see a slabbed Star Wars figure, to pop open the case just so I can watch
the horror on the faces of the scalpers as I also "open the figure
itself".......................these things are toys!! Open 'em and
play with 'em!!!"
John echoed this idea:
"I would be one of the people to argue
with Mr. Ware on the idea of the baseball card market being helped by a
The service has only helped the investor. If you are simply buying to
invest, then yes you are likely going to get helped. If you are just a
collector though, you are going to be totally screwed unless you get lucky
to find those "PSA 10's" in a pack of cards. If you are just a
collector looking to build yourself a nice set of something, you are going
to be in the position of either having to pay through your nose or lower
your standards of what you will accept...something that no collector should
really have to do.
The very existence of PSA (the equivalent of Mr. Ware's AFA) has driven many
people out of the baseball hobby, myself included. It simply got too
expensive and too much of a pain to stay in the hobby. The card companies
themselves made it hard enough as it was...adding PSA to the mix only made
matters worse for the average collector.
The idea of that happening to toys and Star Wars in general makes me ill."
John also took exception to the idea that most of the blame lies with
those paying the prices for the graded items:
"The sad thing here is...this situation is
exactly what will happen. It happened in the baseball hobby that Mr. Ware
thinks has benefited so much by having a service similar to his.
Simply put, in the case of Star Wars figures, nicer examples of carded
vintage already get a premium because it is natural for someone to want a
nicer piece in their collection. Adding a "professional" grade to
pieces will only drive prices up higher on any piece that gets a higher
grade because it nudges that natural instinct to want something nice in your
I think the idea that the real blame falls on collectors is deflective in
nature and partially untrue. Mr. Ware himself mentioned how the baseball
hobby has been helped so much by investors. What do you think will happen if
the AFA catches on for the toy hobby like PSA has for baseball? It will
bring in investors to the hobby (and strengthen the existing investment
mentality with collectors) like it did in baseball and what will those
investors want to invest in?
The higher graded AFA examples.
That will be what they want and the collectors, who are collecting partially
as investment...but also out of love for the hobby...will be forced to
either keep up or lower their standards, thus causing their collection to be
a little less than what they hoped thanks to something that was introduced
to the hobby that had not existed before. After all, who wants
"half" of a nice collection of one standard of quality and the
other "half" of lesser quality because they could not afford to
keep their old standard?
The dealers, once they see that grading has a premium, will rush to AFA
because the potential to make more money now exists. Ebay reserves will go
up for the nicer pieces (thanks to investors and collectors attempting to
keep up with the standard they had with their collection before this AFA
nonsense started) and then collectors can collectively bend over and grab
their ankles or find a new way to enjoy the hobby... thanks to Mr. Ware.
The way I see it, the blame falls to the "investors" that will
likely come into the hobby as happened with baseball, the collectors who see
that they now have to compete even more to get something nice, and Mr. Ware
It isn't a one-way street of blame.
All that has to be looked at is cause and effect. If the AFA catches on and
prices increase unlike they did before, it all can't be blamed on the people
paying the prices because if the AFA had not come to be, they would not be
paying higher prices.
The argument that collectors themselves are to solely blame is similar to
the argument used to deflect criticism off of scalpers. Sure, collectors are
the ones providing the money to scalpers but scalpers are the ones who find
the means to insert themselves into the hobby to influence it. Cause and
On a more toy-related argument, another point to consider is deterioration
of condition with vintage Star Wars items. This can be summed up with two
words - "yellow bubble." Bubbles on vintage carded Star Wars
figures tend to yellow over time. The yellow process can happen at any
point. A clean bubble today can start to turn yellow tomorrow or next week
or next year. In other words, someone can get a high grade on a clear bubble
vintage toy, Mr. Ware could seal it up in their plastic case, and in a year
or two, the bubble could turn yellow. A microscope doesn't pick up when/if a
bubble will turn yellow. That high graded figure just dropped in grade but
the plastic case still has the high grade. I can already see the posts about
people buying an AFA 10 (or whatever their high grade is) Vintage piece only
to find out that they got a yellow bubble piece...which is likely a much
lower grade but in a nice plastic case.
This is where I have to give Mr. Ware credit. He's found a hobby that will
likely have pieces that will need to be re-graded...more money for him.
To be blunt, I hope the AFA dies a quick, painful death before the hobby is
I'm very glad I've completed most of my vintage wants so if the AFA does to
toys what PSA did to baseball, I can make a clean exit from the vintage
hobby while it descends into hell."
Other folks found fault with the idea that any
company could act as an authority on grading. GI Trekker said:
"This AFA is essentially making itself the
"authority" in action figure preservation and grading. This is
much the same reason I don't truct price guides very far. So some Star Wars
figure or G.I.Joe or Gundam or, heck, Chip Hazard is worth X dollars? Says
who? Says the price guide? What is their basis? Talking with a wide range of
collectors? Dealers? Making stuff up
in their heads? And now the stuff is supposed to be worth MORE because
somebody has hermetically sealed it and put their stamp of approval on it?
Not too opportunistic, are we? And the ones that will try to take the most
advantage of this are likely the ones that have scalperish tendencies in the
first place. I've collected, on a far more limited level than toys, both
coins and stamps. What are they worth? Same thing the toys are worth. I got
them because I wanted them. A "collectible" item of any sort is
ultimately worth what YOU'RE WILLING
TO PAY FOR IT. You can get into package condition and all that to whatever
degree you want. Personally, I've always been more concerned about the
condition of the toy! I'll take a well-painted Anakin Skywalker on a bent
card over a cross-eyed one on a perfect card any day. You may be more
concerned about package condition and that's fine. Whatever. But to let any
outside agency dictate terms or to try to declare themselves as some sort of
over the hobby is ludicrous."
And other collectors believe that this practice
won't make it in the action figure collecting world. Cheryl summed
"Holy Cow, Batman-this must be the work
of, like, uh, a REALLY twisted mind!!' 'Steady on, Robin-even the most
nefarious, diabolical character in the toy business cannot hope to win the
hearts, minds and pocketbooks of EVERY collector in the universe! Quick, to
Well, I gotta agree with the caped crusader on this one!!I sincerely hope
that "slabbing" will be no more than just a passing fad/phase in
toy collecting history. To me-encasing items in plastic is
ludicrous-you cannot read a comic that is entombed; you can't play with a
toy that is slabbed; and even a coin collection loses a great deal of its
value (IMO) if I cannot hold the coin in my hand, feel its weight and admire
the texture of its engraving and edging designs.
Seriously, though (maybe its my age!) I think
toys are made to be played with and comics are meant to be read; if you want
to do some investing-try the stock market! Anyone who tries to seal my Joes
in plastic will have to pry them from my cold, dead fingers!!!!"
But not everyone had a negative attitude about
the practice. While they were greatly outnumbered, positive opinions
did come in. Bill is an example:
"For one who has been swindled out of
hundreds of dollars (thats me) due to overgraders, I think that AFA is the
best thing to come around. Just look at the popularity of PSA, and CGC
(comic grading) People want what they are paying for. So when it comes to
collecting 12 back vintage figures, I'd be willing to drop an extra few $$$
on a professionally graded gem than to drop a bundle on a hyped-up piece of
garbage that Big Al says is in mint condition.
I recently got swindled by a guy who claimed his Yoda was a C10; after
several emails asking him for more details on this, he kept responding
"No flaws, C10 all the way." Well, I sent in my $415.00 Yoda to be
graded by AFA, and he came back to me as: "UNGRADABLE" due to
re-touching, and manipulation to the card.
To the swindler & overgrader aka: "con-artists", AFA is the
enemy, to the serious collector, and one who demands quality and honesty AFA
is the best thing since sliced bread.
Hey, I like to open my newer figs and set them up. But I also like to
collect vintage pieces as well. Who, in their right mind, wouldn't want
their vintage carded collection professionally graded? Fact: vintage SW's
figs MOC are big $$$ - Hey, if someone wants to collect overgraded crap, and
pay graded prices... let them - after they have been ripped off a few times
they will come to their senses and embrace the good side of the force - the
Clearly, this is a subject that has folks
interested. I suspect that it will become even more controversial as
time goes by and the practice starts to catch on. Only time will
really tell what effect this will have on the action figure collecting
market, but obviously we all have our opinions!