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Read about the 45 pedigreed collections from the Golden Age that will be featured in our upcoming book here.


Preview Allentown Pedigree chapter of The Book


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 collector.

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 ago.

A pedigreed collection must primarily consist of high quality comic books.

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 1960's.

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 collection 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 Apple collections.

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 City),
- Most issues of a company, genre, period, or classic title/character (Gaines, Northford, Chicago)
- Presence of rare issues (Lost Valley, Larson)

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 market.   


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