Magazine Grading Guide for collectors of vintage back issues

Ten-point Grading Guide for Vintage Magazines

This is my own grading guide which I use when selling my magazines. As of March 2006 I’ve updated the guide to better reflect my actual recent grading–my own standards haven’t changed (And it still reads well in September 2011), but I’ve noticed some more common trends and language in my grading as I examine more and more issues of vintage magazines. At this time our hobby doesn’t have a paid service such as CGC Grading provides for our nearest relative, Comic Books, so please feel free to bookmark or copy my guide and use it yourself:

10/10: Absolutely pristine, off-the-rack, perfect. You just bought it at the newsstand last week and picked out the best copy available. I seriously will not use this grade on anything issued before this year.

9/10: Mint. About as perfect as can be. The only difference between this and a 10/10 is that it may have been read once or twice before being put in plastic. Maybe the cover is not as bright as it used to be, but it’s not faded either. 9/10 and 10/10 really only apply to new magazines, you’re not going to be placing these numbers on your vintage back issues. I’ll very rarely go this high even on issues from the 1980’s.

8/10: Near Mint. Clean. Tightly bound. No mailing label. Not quite perfect, but almost. We’re talking about a slight loss of shine to the cover, maybe the tip of a corner bent back on the cover. Many others would use a 9 or 10 here, but I feel those numbers call for perfection, this is about as good as an older publication is going to get.

7/10: Excellent-Mint. May have a mailing label if it’s still neatly affixed. May have one or two minor flaws that don’t jump out at you, such as a slightly curled up corner on the cover, the slightest bit of edge wear (but no tears), some very light rubbing along the edge of the spine, a hint of stress marks on the covers near the spine, or a slight crease on an inside page or two.

6/10: Excellent +. A copy that’s been carefully read with a couple of the minor flaws such as those mentioned above but slightly more worn: your curled up corner now has a crease at the tip, edge wear grows heavier but still no tears, heavier rubbing along spine, more apparent stress marks, maybe a 1/4″ or less tear to the edge of an inside page. Still very nice.

5/10: Excellent. Exactly what you’d think: Average. A copy of a magazine that’s seen it’s time on the coffee table but has not fallen prey to any mishaps. More of what’s above. Maybe the very beginning of a split at the very top or bottom of the spine (and I’m talking 1/8″ or less, more of a fray than a split). Some light age toning to the inside pages. Sometimes there will be a nice issue with a thumbprint or blurred printing on the covers. Still very nice without any damage that jumps out at you but appears on closer inspection.

NOTE: Sometimes when grading magazines that fall below the EX range I’ll use half-point ratings, as different faults sometimes don’t lend themselves to absolute grades.

4/10: Very Good. A well-read copy of a magazine where the above flaws are approaching damage. Rubbing may be heavier, splits from 1/4″ to 1/2″ at top and bottom of spine, cover may have creasing but still not heavy or excessive. 1/4″ to 1/2″ edge tears into covers and pages. Light soiling to covers. Note, my 4/10 issues won’t have all of this damage, but one or two items which obviously knock it down from our average 5/10 issue. If an issue looks handsome but upon closer inspection I end generating a long list of minor flaws I’ll knock it down a little more to a 3.5/10.

3/10. Good. Now the magazine is getting a little beat up. May have some binding issues such as a rolled spine. May have some soiling and/or staining on the covers. Longer splits in the spine but the covers are holding on. I think of a 3/10 magazine as beat-up. I’ll grade many issues 3.5/10 because they are a 4/10 to 5/10 issue that has one or two of the more major flaws. Bottom line on a 3/10 is that it is still complete with covers and no missing pages, but there may be some small pieces torn from the edges.

2/10: Fair. Beat. When I grade an issue 2/10 it might have a couple of cut-outs or even detached pages and covers, but all of the pages are present. If my 2/10 issue is still complete then it is going to have some major obvious damage to it.

1/10: Poor. Pages torn out. Covers missing. Heavy soiling and/or staining. Really any magazine that is too beat-up to grade 2/10. Bad, the worst.