Common Grading Terminology

Abrasion: Scuff-type marks or areas due to rubbing from handling, shelf-wear, or production/shipping wear.

Arrival Date/Date Stamp: The date written (often in pencil) or stamped on the cover of comics by either the local wholesaler, newsstand owner, distributor, or owner, to denote when it arrived for sale, or when it was bought. Ones done with grease pencils are usually considered defects, others are up to the collector's taste, unless they really obscure some art or are very large.

Bindery Perforations: Small, evenly distributed holes on the page margins which sometimes occur as part of the manufacturing process. Not considered a defect.

Bindery/Printing Defects: Various defects done during manufacture. Includes mistrimming/cutting, miswrapping (cover overlaps front or back too much or at an angle), inaccurate stapling, paper wrinkling, off-registered or even missing color, misbound pages, etc.

Brittleness: A severe condition of paper deterioration where paper loses its flexibility and thus chips and/or flakes easily.

Browning/Tanning: Covers and pages can become darkened/discolored over the years, which can result in whites becoming tanned or browned typically by oxidation, smoke, moisture/humidity, or other soiling. Browning is worse than tanning. "Yellowing" is another term, and less 'bad' than tanning or browning.

Chipping/'Marvel Chipping': A bindery trimming/cutting defect that results in a series of chips and tears at the top, bottom, and right edges of the cover (and pages), caused when the cutting blade of an industrial paper trimmer becomes dull. It was dubbed Marvel Chipping because it can be found quite often on Marvel comics from the late '50s and early '60s, but can also occur with any company's comic books from the late 1940s through the middle 1960s.

Color Fleck/Flake: A fleck is a tiny piece of color that has flaked off a cover, making the white paper substrata visible. Flecks are typically smaller than about a millimeter. Flakes are a bit larger versions of flecks.

Color Touch/Touch-Up: A restoration process by which colored ink is used to hide color flecks/flakes, and larger areas of missing color. Often a permanent marker is used to cover/fill in broken black lines or spots, usually along the spine.

Comic Book Repair: When a tear, loose staple or centerfold has been mended without changing or adding to the original finish of the book. Repair may involve tape, glue or nylon gossamer, and is easily detected; it is considered a defect.

Corner Rounding/Blunting: Rounded corners generally occur over time as the corner of a book is damaged/worn.

Coupon Cut/Missing: A coupon has been neatly removed with scissors or razor blade from the interior or exterior of the comic, as opposed to having been ripped out. Generally considered a big defect.

Cover Gloss: The reflective quality of the cover inks. Dull covers are considered a defect unless, like many old comics, the cover had little gloss to begin with.

Crease/Creasing: Permanent folding, generally where color/structure is damaged resulting in a visible line. Most often on corners, but can be on edges due to thumbing or other bending.

Dent: Damage that occurs to a book when sharp pressure is exerted. Generally causes structural damage or damage to ink. "Corner crunch" is another term for a common type of dent.

Distributor Ink/Stripes: Color brushed or sprayed on the edges of comic book stacks by the distributor/wholesaler to code them for expedient exchange at the sales racks. Typical colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Distributor stripes are not generally considered a defect (unless it's excessive with a good amount on the cover).

Fading/Faded Cover: Fading and other discoloration can occur when a book is exposed to outside factors such as sunlight or long exposure to artificial light.

Fold/Folding: Permanent fold in pages or cover which doesn't result in color/structural damage, i.e., not color breaking or torn.

Foxing: Small orange or brown discoloration spots/areas on/inside a cover or pages, caused by mold.

Migration: Staining that occurs when rust damage on staples moves onto the cover and/or pages.

Miswrap/Off-set/Off-center: A binding defect where the front or back cover rides around to the other side beyond the normal 'spine line'. Can be angled or straight, and often accompanied by misaligned staples.

Overhang/Hangover/Edge Overrun/Overlap/Over-cover: The cover extends beyond the interior pages by a 1/16th" or more, sometimes enough to cause bends/tears on the cover edge.

Printing Errors: Where some other forms of printing may yield valuable or collectable pieces when printing errors occur, errors in printing comic books generally are not collectable. This may include off-center stapling and printing, staples not going through all pages, folding errors, misprinted pages, covers or pages being stapled upside-down, cutting errors where cover or pages are not even, thin fold lines in the cover ("printing creases"), and other similar factory errors. Such errors may also yield a lower grade.

Reading Crease: Book-length, vertical front cover crease along the spine, caused by bending the cover over the staples. Squarebound comics often receive these creases just by opening the cover too far to the left.

Reading Kinks: Short little indentations on a cover, often curved, from kinking while handling/reading.

Repair/Restoration: Any attempt, whether professional or amateur, to enhance the appearance of an aging or damaged comic book. These procedures may include any or all of the following techniques: recoloring, adding missing paper, tear seals, stain/ink/dirt or tape removal, "repaired" with tape, whitening, pressing out wrinkles, staple replacement, trimming, re-glossing, etc. In all cases, except for some simple cleaning procedures, a restored book can never be worth the same as an unrestored book in the same condition. There is disagreement on what is considered restoration and what's now called 'preservation' (to prevent further damage) and whether preservation should be considered a defect.

Rusted Staples: Staples (particularly in older comics) are prone to rust when exposed to too much moisture or humidity. This may also cause rust staining of the cover and pages around the staples.

Shadow: When a portion of a book is covered by other books or other items an exposed portion may become faded or discolored from being exposed to moisture, sun, dust, etc. that the rest of the book is not exposed to.

Smudge/Smudging, Soiling/Staining: Soiling generally caused by handling with dirty/wet/oily fingers, or by dirt, dust, liquids, or other contaminants. Can also be caused during manufacture from handling before the ink is dry.

Spine Roll: A condition where the left edge of the comic book curls toward the front or back, caused by folding back each page to the back as the comic was read, rolling it for carrying around, or sometimes by being stored flat and stacked with other comics.

Spine Split: A separation of the covers anywhere along the spine fold, usually at the top or bottom.

Spine Tick/Bindery Corner: A small flap or piece on a corner of the spine, usually done during production. Piece may be missing. Not usually considered a defect unless you're grading for a 'mint' comic.

Spine Wear: Creasing and other damage occurring on the spine (left side) of the comic.

Staple Wear/Pull/Pop: Area around the staple is creased or torn, and in extreme cases the staple is pulled through part or all of the book. Loose/detached covers are considered a major defect.

Stress Lines/Marks: Generally short, thin, straight horizontal lines on the spine, common around the staples, caused by stress to the cover from bending/handling. Usually white (color breaking), but can also not break color and just have a wrinkle line.

Subscription Fold/Subscription Crease: Fold or crease down the center of a book commonly caused by folding during postal delivery of a book. A subscription crease (breaks color) is worse than a subscription fold, but both are generally considered major defects.

Trimming/Trimmed: Cutting uneven/chipped edges of a book's pages and/or covers to even them up. Considered a defect.

Water/Moisture Stains: May be caused by exposure to water or other liquids, which stains the paper by altering its color (usually browns white paper), and/or making it warped, wavy, fuzzy etc., sometimes causing darker rings around the stain, and doing structural damage to the paper. Bad oil stains may cause paper to become translucent.

Whiteness: Obviously the amount of whiteness of cover and pages, going from white to off-white, cream, yellow, tan, brown and similar terms. Most modern comics don't have white borders on the pages any more, so this applies to mostly pre-1990's books, except for covers.