MAKING THE GRADE : The Paperback Book Grading Guide : Grades and Grade Descriptions
Jon R Warren
Warren's Official Price Guide to Paperback Books was published in 1991 by Random House / House of Collectibles
I believe someday all collectibles will be graded using a 10-point scale, and that this universality will be a factor in making collectibles a recognized investment like stocks and bonds. Grading services will exist for every collectible hobby, and these grading services will enable a liquid marketplace for massive trading in collectibles of all kinds. Collectors will view their collection “portfolio” as a source of retirement income in the same way that stock investors do today. EBay and similar sites will be the "NASDAQ" for the liquidation of these collectible investments. This isn't a great insight on my part, it is already happening in a small way, and I believe it is just beginning.
Until the introduction of our 10-point system, the paperback marketplace suffered from a lack of a standardized system for ranking of condition. Each merchant more or less "invented" their own system, with one seller's "Fine" equal to another seller's "Condition B" and yet another's "Excellent." In our opinion, lack of grading consistency among merchants is a major obstacle to growth in any hobby. Why? Because buyers feel more secure with "sight unseen" internet buying when they are familiar with a consistent grading system. New collectors in any hobby become advanced collectors through knowledge, including knowledge of terminology. Without such a set of grading terms and definitions, buyers may feel confused and uncertain about the quality of items they are buying over the internet or through the mail. Confusion and uncertainty are not good for the growth of any hobby.
Our 10-point scale for grading vintage paperback rarities is similar to systems already adopted in other markets. By using a set of standardized grading terms, we can ensure the growth of the hobby now and in the future.
I welcome your feedback. Please e-mail me with comments and suggestions. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have outlined the various grades, and described the specifications for each. These grading definitions are intended to help you rate the condition of your paperback. As in any collectible, the better the condition of an item, the more valuable it is.
C10 : AN (As New)
Perfect, i.e. - brilliant, unusually bright, glossy, white pages, sharp, pristine, etc. Seldom used by professionals since it represents perfection...and perfection is extremely rare.
C9 : F (Fine)
Virtually flawless. Superb. For a book to receive this grade it may have only the slightest traces of wear noticeable upon very close inspection. Inside, the pages must be creamy, no trace of brown, and also there can be no name plates or other writing inside the book. Outside, the spine must be solid and clean with no fading. Very tiny amounts of wear to the spine may be present. No crease of any kind is permitted. The book appears to be perfect but upon close inspection tiny problems can be found. Generally, the highest grade found in the marketplace since C10 is an extremely rare grade.
C8 : AF (About Fine)
An exceptional copy. Acceptable to all but the most finicky collector. This is a sharp, almost Fine copy. It can have no major defects but may have an accumulation of several minor ones, such as a tiny color chip on the spine or extremities. Other possible flaws might include a small, pencilled arrival mark on the cover on an otherwise Fine book. No creases. Pages can be slightly yellowed, but not brown.
C7 : VGF (Very Good to Fine)
Slightly worn. Closer to VG than to AF, but still a very well preserved copy without major defects. Pages will not be brown, and no name plate or writing can be on the endpages. Light spine wear/flaking, or minor cover wear is the typical problems with books in this grade. A light reading crease along the spine or very minor corner crease might be present.
C6 : VG (Very Good)
The typical used paperback in average condition. A solid copy, although with wear and defects to be expected. Unusual problems will be noted. The book can have very slight browning of pages but not brittleness or flaking; it may also have a small name written on an endpage, or a small nameplate.
Minor peeling of the lamination covering the book can be expected, but extreme peeling will eliminate the book from this grade. A corner crease (1/4" or less) or two can be present, but numerous creases are not allowed in this grade. A light reading crease along the spine is normal for this grade.
A minor spine roll is allowable, a heavy spine roll is not ailowable in this grade unless noted and the book is a higher grade otherwise. General spine wear can be expected, however, unusually heavy spine wear is not permitted in this grade. The spine should be complete and solid, if not - major problems should be described - such as a split spine. In any case, a spine split should be described to length and should eliminate the book from this grade if it is over 3/4" in length. Tape anywhere on the book is not allowed in this grade. A small pen mark on the cover can be present if noted, but not if large, heavy, or if affecting the eye appeal of the book.
Dampstains prevent the book from being C6. One small arrival date is allowable without being noted, but any other writing on the cover should be noted. Sun-fading on the spine or cover should be described, and if significant, should prevent the example from the VG grade. Insect or rodent damage is not allowable in this grade. Price stickers or peel-marks from removal of a price sticker is allowable in the VG grade only when the area affected is small and not a serious detraction from the cover art. No color touchup with colored markers is allowable in this grade.
C5 : VG- (Very Good Minus)
C4 : GVG (Good to Very Good)
A borderline book that is closer to VG than it is to G. The accrual of several of the above mentioned defects should move an otherwise VG book to this grade. Books in this grade are similar in appearance to a VG book, but with heavier or more severe creases, flaking, etc. Minor dampstains are permitted in this grade.
C3 : G (Good)
A worn, creased, flaked example. Crumpled and worn corners. Tape, waterstains, writing, brittleness of pages, pieces or chips missing, heavily rolled spine etc., are to be expected in this grade. Typically a reading-copy only, with all pages complete.
C2 : FR (Fair)
The lower grades are separated by degrees of damage. The accumulation of many defects lowers a book from the C3 grade down to the C2.
C1 : P (Poor)
Extremely worn, possibly incomplete, although such should be noted.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
PBO - Paperback Original. A first appearance in book form. Would be described as a "First Edition" by an antiquarian book dealer. Should not be confused with the term "First printing" or "First Paperback".
First printing - By default, it is customary in the hobby to assume a book is a first printing unless otherwise noted. It is encumbent upon the seller to accurately note the printing of any book he or she is selling.
First Edition versus First Printing - A paperback book can be a first printing and not be an original (PBO) - i.e. when the First Edition is hardcover or appeared in an earlier paperback version.
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