Toy grading is a tricky business. Although there is a standard grading system, different grading companies often interpret the grading scale differently. On top of that, there are a lot of fakes out there. Obviously, if a toy is graded, it is worth more money. However, because of that fact, people will fake a grading certificate and you can get ripped off. The real key to buying graded toys is to educate yourself and learn about the reputable grading companies. I have spent years learning about toy grading and the best companies to use.
Besides the grading authorities, the other subject you should be educated in is the toy grading scales themselves. For toys made before 1995 grading authorities use the “Standard Grading Scale”, for toys produced 1995 to the present the “Modern Grading Scale is used. Below is breakdown of the scales used for modern and vintage toys:
|Modern Grading Scale (1995 to Present)|
|Standard Grading Scale (Before 1995)|
|Gem Mint||100||GEM MT||Excellent+/Near Mint||75+||EX+/NM|
|Near Mint+/Mint||90||NM+/MT||Very Good||50||VG|
|Near Mint||80||NM||Very Poor||10||VP|
Does the Standard Grading Scale confuse you? It confused everyone! Therefore it was changed to the Modern Grading Scale (which is clearly much easier to follow). However, if you have graded toys that were produced prior to 1995 you are stuck with Standard Grading Scale. So, how do the grading scales actually work?
There are independent grading companies that cover a wide range of toys. (I will be discussing each grading company in a future blog) To try to explain how grading works, let’s use AFA (Action Figure Authority) as the example. If you send your action figure to this company, a panel of people will look at the figure and determine where on the grading scales your particular item falls. Is it arbitrary…..yes. But, the scales are standard and all toy collectors use them.
If you have a toy that is graded at a gold level 10.0 or 100 Gem MT, you have a toy with extremely minor flaws. The flaws are so minor that it’s doubtful the human eye can even see them! Very few toys are ever graded at 10.0 or 100 Gem MT. For most collectors, even those collectors that only look for high end toys, a grade of 7.5 to 8.5 will be fine. Toys in the 7.5 to 8.5 range will have small flaws to significant flaws that are visible to the eye but does not draw attention to the flaw. There can also be moderate packaging flaws such as a loose or slightly bent corners. The reason collectors are satisfied with grades of 7.5 to 8.5 is because it’s almost impossible to find toys graded higher than that. If you grabbed a toy right of the production line, used gloves and encased it in a plastic protective cover immediately, it’s unlikely that toy would grad higher than an 9.0. That should give you an idea of how rare a toy graded higher than 9.0 actually is.
The most important aspect of buying graded toys is to learn and understand the grading system. Determine your price range and stick to it. Keep in mind that toys graded 7.5 and higher are highly desirable and will always be an excellent addition to your collection. You should also become familiar with how a toy is packaged and sealed after the grading process. If you are going to pay $1000 dollars or more for a toy, you absolutely have to be sure the graded package was not tampered with, opened, or in any way distorted. Unfortunately, there are many “bad” guys in the collecting world who feel its “ok” to tamper with toys and fake a high grade. Learn the scale and know what to look for. Happy Collecting!