FOUR CRITERIA FOR A PEDIGREED
COMIC BOOK COLLECTION
Comic book collections turn up every day.
Large, small, old, new, high grade, low grade...the variety is endless. Out of these
thousands of accumulations, what exactly makes one so special that people
consider it a pedigree? Below are four criteria that are generally expected for
such a designation, which are origin, quality, completeness, and market acceptance.
NOTE: the parameters discussed herein mainly refer to Golden Age collections
(pre-1956). For Silver Age collections, which will be covered in volume II of
our pedigree books, only the criteria of completeness varies. The other three
criteria remain the same.
A pedigreed collection must have been accumulated by one individual
during the time the comics were released on the newsstand.
This is a critical
factor because a pedigree's appeal comes from their homogenous quality and
singular genesis. The books have aged together in the same environment, creating
a uniform "feel" that does not exist for comics in a collection with diverse origins.
Some of these fantastic collections were amassed in the traditional sense of an
adolescent buying his or her comics for entertainment, and then inadvertently
saving them for posterity. Other times the collector was an adult who approached
their collection with a more mature sensibility, such as Edgar Church. He
carefully alternated his comics in eight-foot stacks to avoid warping and
spillage, chasing kids away from his stash for nearly 40 years. David Crippen
painstakingly numbered each of his "D" comics by hand, creating a code that took
years to crack. Even though Church, Crippen and other buyers like them probably
never envisioned comics as a long-term investment, their pathological desire to
be so precise and thorough in their quest is a trait inherent in today's comic
One thing to remember is that once a collection is discovered, broken up and
sold, the homogenous aging process ceases. Even though optimum storage
techniques are advocated throughout the hobby, prolonged variances in humidity,
temperature, light and exposure to air will ultimately lead to visible
inconsistencies in pedigrees' uniformity over time. This is particularly true
for page quality and smell, two important distinctions of pedigree collections.
Older pedigrees like the Cosmic Aeroplane and Kansas City collections, which
have been broken up for as long as they were together, may possibly exhibit a
lower page quality score today than they would have upon discovery 35-40 years
A pedigreed collection must primarily consist of high
To date no one has established a minimum grade for which a collection must meet
to garner a pedigree, but analysis of the 45 Golden Age collections discussed in
Volume I of our book shows that most of them average VF 8.0 or higher. Similar
analysis of Silver Age pedigrees (to be discussed in Volume II) will likely
yield a higher average due to the prevalence of high grade comics from the
It must be noted that our analysis is only based on CGC graded copies and the
existing original lists. This does not allow for a completely accurate average
in every case; some collections have only a small percentage of books graded to
date (examples would be San Francisco, Okajima and Windy City), while others
have had over half, or nearly all of their copies CGC graded (Central Valley,
Gaines, Crowley). It's safe to assume the most valuable and highest graded
copies of a collection would be CGC graded first, although the earliest pedigrees that were
disbursed anonymously will likely grade at a slower pace. These factors can positively (or negatively) influence grade averages as copies from
each pedigree continue to be CGC graded in the future.
The size of a collection must also be considered when averaging quality. Tiny pedigrees, like the Allentown (which numbered
only 135 books) are almost all high grade, whereas the Crippen collection
(containing nearly 13,000 comics) exhibits a vast array of grades, ranging from
Poor to NM/M. The smaller a pedigreed collection is, the more weight each individual grade
carries. A lower graded comic within the Allentown
affects its overall average by almost 1%, while the same change for the Crippen
collection requires nearly 130 low grade copies.
A pedigreed collection must contain a substantial number of
key or rare issues, or represent a significant portion of a particular genre,
company, period, or classic title/character.
Within this third criteria lies a substantial gray area for Golden Age
collections. Nearly 20,000 different
comic books were published between 1933 and 1955, allowing the term “complete”
to be interpreted many ways. The Mile High collection contained the majority of
these comics, and would clearly be considered the most complete of all
pedigrees. Following the Mile High in size are the Crippen, Ohio, Bethlehem, and Big
Other times the term “complete” can refer to a publisher or specific genre. The
Gaines collection is made up entirely of EC comics, and the Crowleys boast full
runs of Fawcett. Westerns were the genre of choice when the New Hampshire
collection was assembled, as was the horror genre for the Northford pedigree.
Conversely, the Allentown pedigree numbered only 135 issues, and the Denver was
barely bigger, totaling 153. Despite their small size, both collections contained an
amazing array of key
issues, books that are significant by either
being the first issue of a run, or the first appearance of an important
character. The Allentown collection bore the highest
graded copies of Detective #27 and Captain America #1, two of the most important
and valuable comics in the world.
For Silver Age collections, completeness is easier to define. The majority of
key issues, as well as complete runs of early issues of the important titles
must be present. For example, a pedigreed Marvel Silver Age collection must
contain the majority of Fantastic Four #1-up, Spider-man #1-up, X-men #1-up,
Hulk #1-6, Avengers #1-up, etc. Post-1964 comics are considerably more common in
high grade, and collections containing such books turn up frequently. A
collection containing those pre-1965 issues in high grade is quite rare, and is
thus more deserving of a pedigree status.
Overall, a Golden Age pedigree's contents must represent one of the following:
- Sheer size (Mile High, Crippen)
- Presence of #1 issues and/or major keys (Allentown, Denver, Windy
- Most issues of a company, genre, period, or classic title/character (Gaines, Northford,
- Presence of rare issues (Lost Valley, Larson)
4) MARKET ACCEPTANCE
CGC and the collecting community must continue to recognize
the pedigree name of a collection past the point of initial sale.
Two signs of an accepted pedigree are the continued willingness of buyers to pay
multiples of guide, and the perpetuation of the pedigree name through subsequent
sales. Since CGC's entry into the market over seven years ago, they have
unofficially become the "final word" on whether a collection receives a
pedigree, although no specific requirements have ever been established regarding a minimum average grade or
size. A few collections have been marketed as pedigrees without being CGC'd,
which in terms of market acceptance have produced mixed results.
Prior to CGC's opening in 2000, market acceptance was the true test of a
pedigree's mettle, especially during the pedigree boom of the '90s. Once people
realized that a pedigree designation gave a seller the option to price comics at
multiples of guide value, the concept was used with increased frequency. Even
though several great collections surfaced during this time, many did not warrant
a pedigree. The market realized this, and the designations and guide multiples
of the undeserving faded over time.
Since then, CGC and the high grade market have become inextricably intertwined,
and almost every new collection of merit passes through their doors before being
sold. It is at this point a pedigree designation is decided upon by CGC. Even though
the collecting community at large usually agrees with CGC's decisions
regarding pedigree assessment, explicit qualifications (quality and completeness
in particular) should be established to allow a concurrence between CGC and the