The C-Scale is one of the easiest and most universally used systems for grading action figures and is commonly used by eBay sellers and traders when selling new and second-hand action figures.
Until the rise of the professional grading companies it was generally accepted as THE standard.
There are many important factors that contribute to a figure’s grade and/or value, including:
• The figures condition
• The backing card
•Loose, MOC or MIB
• Is it complete with accessories?
• Free of dents, scratches or marks etc?
One of the most important factors in determining an action figures grade or value is the condition of the backing card.
This is because most collectors are looking for MOC (Mint On Card) or MIB (Mint in Box) figures.
A figure that is said to be MOC is therefore presumed to be in a Mint or Near Mint condition.
However, its value could decrease quite considerably if the card is damaged and in poor condition, particularly on older or rarer figures.
Most modern day collectors are generally looking for MOC (Mint On Card), or MIB (Mint In Box) figures, but some older vintage action figures are still highly sought after, even loose, particularly:
• Mego figures
• Early Kenner figures
• Rare and obscure figures that have gained a cult following over the years
This is because before the mid-seventies the hobby was still in its infancy and most figures were open, played with and then binned so very feww are available in mint condition especially carded or in the originally packaging.
Of course, these days even kids are more aware of their collectibility and value and often treasure and protect their figures.
Another important factor in valuing your figures is the supply to demand ratio.
But we will concentrate on the grading of your figures here because accurately valuing them is a completely different ball game, and we’ll discuss that another time.
Grading and valuing loose figures is another area wrought with problems and pitfalls so I will only be dealing with how to grade carded figures here.
However, as a rule of thumb a Mint 10 (highest possible grade) loose figure will be valued at approximately 40% of its MOC value,
IF it is a genuine Mint 10 figure.
It may seem a little strange to new collectors that the backing card is deemed so important in the grading of the figures but it is simply because if the backing card is in Mint 10 Condition then the figure inside is also assumed to be.
Up until recently the most popular grading system was the Condition Scale or C Scale which was pretty much universally accepted as the standard, but with the increasing popularity of the hobby several professional grading services have sprung up; one of the most popular of these is the Action Figure Authority (AFA), who use their own grading system.
The AFA system has now become widely accepted and recognized by collectors, so much so that a figure bearing an AFA grade will often sell for 2-3 times more than the equivalent ungraded figure, and it has pretty much replaced the old C Scale System.
The biggest drawback with a professional grading service such as AFA is the cost. Ultimately it should be considered an investment, because the return and the increased value of a graded figure far outweighs its cost. AFA Gold graded figures have been known to fetch as much as 10 times the price of ungraded figures on eBay!
With the C Scale system a C10 is the highest grade and is generally for a carded figure that is assumed to have no flaws or imperfections whatsoever.
Any flaw, no matter how minor and the carded figure can no longer be considered MINT C10. A C10 grade is therefore very rare, as even a figure that has come straight from the manufacturer’s in a factory sealed case will often have some slight imperfections, such as sun damage, discoloration or fading etc.
Often a lower grade will be given because the backing card is in poor condition, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the action figure is in poor condition.
Most dealers or traders generally only deal with action figures of a C8 grade or above, unless it’s a particularly rare or hard to find action figure.
The main advantage of the C Scale system is that it is simple and straightforward to use and can be referred to by anyone. It is because of this flexibility and adaptability that it became universally accepted.
When dealing with large reputable businesses or established dealers the system works fine, but it is when dealing with unprofessional dealers or novice collectors that the system’s advantages also become its main flaws.
This is because there is no real way to verify the accuracy of the grading, leaving it open to abuse or misinterpretation, particularly when dealing with collectors selling off their private collections, simply because they cannot give a reliable, independent, unbiased and accurate appraisal of their own action figures’ condition.
Also with the huge increase in the use of auction sites, such as eBay, this has also resulted in the system being abused by unscrupulous sellers who intentionally misrepresent an action figure’s condition or ignore obvious faults in order to inflate its value.
These factors led to a steep decline in collectors’ confidence in buying figures on the secondary market which meant that prices and values began to drop as the demand dropped.
It is out of this frustration and lack of confidence in the secondary market that the professional grading service grew and began to restore confidence in the market.
The generally accepted grades available in the C Scale, and the relevant condition of the carded figure are given below.
Please note that this is a GUIDE and, as always, ensure you are dealing with an established or reputable dealer when buying your action figures using the C Scale.
Remember, if in doubt always ask for clarification from the seller, and if he’s unwilling to answer your questions don’t buy it!
General: The backing card should be flat with bright, clear colors and NO creases, tears, or marks. Most cards have a noticeable sheen or “gloss” to them. They should be free from stains, holes (such as pin or tack holes), writing (unless it’s been autographed), or any other markings.
Edges: Tight, no fraying or separation.
Corners: No curling, bends or creases.
Price Tag/Card Surface Tear: None.
Bubble: Clear, completely attached, no yellowing, crushing, dents, dings, malformations or cracks of any size. It is particularly important to check where the bubble meets the carding as I have known dealers to “reseal” shop display figures back into their original display boxes to be sold as mint items.
General: The backing card should be flat (or nearly flat) with clear, bright colors and its original gloss or sheen and it there should be no stains, tears, holes, or writing (again, unless autographed).
Edges: Should be tight with no fraying or separation.
Corner Curl: Minimal curling is generally accepted but there should be no creasing or cracking (i.e. the damage should be so minimal that it could probably be flattened out without further damage). The damage should be barely noticeable.
General: Some curling and/or creasing is acceptable but there should be no cracking of the ink or print. The colors should be reasonably bright, though some of the original sheen may have faded. There should be no major tears, stains, holes or writing.
Edges: Should be mostly tight although there may be some minor fraying (see glossary) or separation (sections should total less than 1 inch in length).
Corner Curl: There may be some minor permanent creasing or cracking of print and/or fraying of the card at the corners (1-2 corners).
General: There may be permanent curling or creasing of the card including cracked print or ink. The card may have lost all of its original sheen and brightness, fading to a flat, dull finish although it will still have color. The card may have small tears if they are less than 1/2 inch. Also some stains, writing (including autographs) and some small holes may also be present (1-3 pinholes or one large hole less than 1/4 inch in diameter).
Edges: May have some minor fraying or separation (sections should total less than 3 inches in length).
Corner Curl: Severe or permanent creasing or cracking of the print with severe fraying of card corners (1-4 corners).
Creases: More severe creases that may include cracking of print or ink.
Price Tag/Card Surface Tear: Larger tears (less than 1/4 inch) permitted.
Bubble: A more pronounced discoloring or yellowing may be present but it should be medium tan and not completely brown. The bubble should still be primarily attached with no possibility that the figure could have been removed though it may have detached sections smaller than 1 inch. There may be other parts of the card front on the bubble, including tears to the print/ink. The bubble may have cracks less than 1/4 inch and have pronounced bubble damage such as crushing or large dents without any reformation.
General: The card may be almost completely folded over or severely curled or creased including cracked print and/or ink. The card’s original sheen or gloss may have completely faded to a flat, dull finish with the colors severely faded or discolored. The card may also have more pronounced stains (such as water stains) or dirt and may have more pronounced tears or holes.
Edges: Pronounced fraying and separation (greater than 3 inches total) may be visible.
Corner Curl: Severe or permanent creasing, and/or cracking of the print, with severe fraying of card corners (2-4 corners).
Creases: The card may be permanently creased with cracked print or ink. The card can be almost completely folded over.
Price Tag/Card Surface Tear: More pronounced tears on card surface (1/4 up to 1 inch).
Bubble: Severe yellowing may be present and the bubble may be completely brown or opaque in sections. The bubble should still be attached, though it may be detached on up to two complete sides so it may have been possible that the figure could have been removed and reinserted into the bubble. The detached areas may also have parts of the card front surface, including pronounced tears, in the print ink. The bubble may also be completely crushed (if figure is undamaged) and contain major dents or dings without any reformation. Bubble may have cracks up to inch in length.
General: This is the lowest grade available and as such an action figure given this grade may have a card that is completely ripped or curled with permanent creases and one or more prominent holes may be present. It may have other stains or marks on it and similar damage may also be present. In fact the only reason this has a grade is because the action figure is still attached, no matter how slightly, to the card.
Edges: Severely frayed, split and/or separated.
Corner Curl: Corners may be severely curled or torn with permanent creasing and/or cracking (more than 2 corners).
Creases: The card may be permanently creased or broken with cracked print or ink and/or the card can be completely folded.
Price Tag/Card Surface Tear: Large surface tears present (tears over 1 inch), signs of the price tag being removed etc.
Bubble: Completely discolored a brown or dark yellow and may be cloudy or opaque totally or in part. Large cracks (larger than 2 inches) present and possibly detached from card. The bubble may have been crushed or severely damaged.