CGC vs CBCS vs PGX: My Two Cents – Part I

This one might end up even more wordy than usual, but then again, there is much to be said on the topic.

For those who might not be in the know, Certified Guarantee Company (CGC), Comic Book CCGCertification Service (CBCS), and Professional Grading Experts (PGX) are all comic book grading and encapsulation services that take your comic book and, acting as a (supposedly) neutral third party, appraise your books condition and apply the the appropriate grade based on an accepted industry standards. From there the books is encapsulated in mylar (or some similar substance), then placed in a clear secure container for protection and display. This is intended, for the most part, to ensure that the book remains in its current graded state perpetually, not only protecting the book, but acting as a guarantee of condition when sold, purchased or traded by collectors.

CGC was the first big name in the new industry, and for some they remain the standard.PGX In fact, if you are searching for books on eBay and want to view only slabbed (encapsulated) items, just entering “CGC” will not only return CGC graded books, but PGX and CBCS books as well. The reverse is not necessarily true. Many sellers make a point of including the word “CGC” in the text of their search descriptors when the book is actually a CBCS or PGX graded item. This isbecause, again, CGC is considered the standard by so many, and they want their books to be displayed in search results even though they are not CGC graded. Now whether CGC still deserves such a high reputation is
a matter of controversy.CBCS

PGX came on the scene not too long after CGC, providing much needed competition. Unfortunately, some early problems with alleged grading inconsistency and employee scandal left it with a poor reputation in the minds of some collectors which has been hard for it to shake off. For the most part, however, PGX does provide almost the exact same services that CGC does, but usually at a significantly lesser cost to the consumer.

There have been other entries into the field which have come and gone, but CBCS is the newest and only other serious presence. Started by one of the founders of CGC, its purpose is to provide the same quality of service as CGC, with a fee structure less costly than its main competitor.

That said, PGX is still the most cost effective alternative. But many who are still suspicious of PGX have migrated over to CBCS, preferring the lower cost point to CGCs sometimes ridiculous fee schedule while still enjoying the comfort of having their book graded by “professionals” enjoying a solid reputation for appraisal.

Do a search on any of these companies, and you will inevitably come across many reviews for each, both positive and negative. This is the beauty of the internet, that there are so many resources out there to provide the potential customer with an ability to make an informed purchase. What you will see, as I have in my many, many searches on the topic, is the following: CBCS has far less negative reviews than the others, mostly due to being the new kid on the block. They do not yet have the years of service to have been thoroughly critiqued, as have CGC and PGX. The next most positive reviews overall are enjoyed by CGC, the reasons for which I will be addressing here. PGX has, I believe, mostly positive reviews, if you are able to cut through the CGC fan hate.

This to me is a very large factor in much of the CGC v. CBCS v. PGX debate, rabid fanboyism. And let’s just clean this up a bit from the start…it really boils down to a CGC v. PGX argument, since CBCS thus far manages to ride on the coattails of CGC in terms of reputation. It is assumed that CBCS, essentially having “split off” from CGC, possesses every positive attribute of the “parent” company. And also like CGC, it is developing its own fan base, for better and worse.

It is my opinion that fanboyism will all too easily create a myopic view of reality for some (many), and often result in the loss of an objective perspective. I think that this phenomenon has greatly benefited CGC (and now CBCS), and has plagued PGX unfairly, in many respects.

Now I would make clear, I have no personal beef with CGC (or CBCS). I think they are both fine services, and I appreciate what they do. Most of my complaints with them are the costs associated with the services provided. Other than that, however, they are just fine. Neither am I a PGX fanboy. What I am is (I hope) an objective consumer, who sees no point in paying twice as much for a name if the quality is the same or similar regardless. And I see many, many people out there who do just that…bash the “little guy” to make themselves feel good about having thrown their money away. There seems to be a pervasive denial about what is really going on, and in the end, I believe the false narrative harms the consumer base as a whole.

Now all that said, I do believe that there are differences between the three…pros and cons for the whole lot of them. This is the direction of this post, or rather, this small series of posts, to establish from the start that I personally believe PGX to overall be on equal footing in terms of quality as CGC and CBCS. This is not a popular view with some collectors who think themselves more sophisticated and discerning, but I believe that it is a more realistic view based on my own dispassionate experience, and depending on the needs and expectations of the consumer.

In short, all three companies are respectable options in my opinion, depending on what particular services you require. Each have their virtues, and none are beyond critique. This is the starting point from which I launch the next post, my own comparison of services, strengths and weaknesses.