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CGC Comics Grader Notes Guide: Stain Defects




This category involves blemishes on the comic that affect the appearance of the paper, ink, and gloss, making them aesthetic defects. They may originate from outside sources, like spills, or internally from chemical reactions within the paper, producing defects like rust and mold. Stains may be small and nearly imperceptible, or large and detrimental to a comic book’s grade. Examples of stains include foxing, tape stains, transfer stains and smoke damage.

Foxing

Red underlines

Foxing occurs when dead mold spores in paper are activated by humidity and heat, causing brown spots to appear. While foxing does not harm the paper further, its unsightly appearance can lower the grade of a comic book. Foxing is most common on covers, appearing as light or dark brown spots either in concentrated areas or throughout. It can also affect interior pages, although to a lesser extent. The severity of foxing and its coverage area are key factors in determining grade. Light foxing may lower a grade to between 9.0 and 9.4, while darker spots can cause a downgrade to between 7.0 and 8.5. Extensive foxing covering most or all of the cover may result in a grade between 4.0 and 6.0.

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Mold/Mildew

Red underlines

Mold, a type of microscopic fungus that thrives in humid environments, often appears as clusters of black spots on comic covers and pages. It feeds on organic material like paper, secreting enzymes that stain and weaken the paper over time. Mold's impact on grade varies depending on its severity and extent, ranging from small spots to covering entire covers. High-grade comics with mold are rare due to accompanying staining and paper damage. Mold on interior pages has less effect on grade but can still harm the comic. As mold dies, it leaves behind foxing, which is more prevalent in vintage comics due to prolonged storage in unsuitable conditions. Newer comics seldom exhibit mold or foxing, usually occurring from sudden moisture exposure like floods.

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Odor

Red underlines

Odor, though not visually detectable, can affect a comic book's condition and is significant in grading for several reasons. It can indicate the paper's acidity level or the presence of chemicals from restoration processes like bleaching. Certain odors are associated with specific comic collections, aiding in pedigree identification, though odors tend to dissipate over time with changing storage conditions. While odor itself does not impact a comic's grade, it provides valuable information during the grading process.

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Rust Stains

Red underlines

Rust stains on comic books can originate from the corrosion of metal staples within the comic itself or from contact with other comics exhibiting rusty staples. The severity of the staining depends on factors such as the extent of rust present on the staples and the condition of the paper. Rust stains can also occur when comics are unevenly stacked and exposed to moisture, causing rust from one comic's staples to affect the paper of adjacent comics. The impact on grade varies; stains from external sources are usually slight, while those from a comic's own staples can be more severe, especially if the paper is degraded or if staple detachments have occurred.

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Smoke Damage

Red underlines

Smoke damage occurs when comic books are exposed to fires, leading to absorption of smoke chemicals into porous surfaces like paper. Typically affecting outer edges, it causes blackening and possible odor, with grades ranging from 0.5 to 9.0, usually falling between 4.0 and 7.0, depending on damage extent and darkness, while odor has no grade impact.

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Stain

Red underlines

Stains on comic books, caused by various substances like liquids, tape, stickers, dirt, or glue, vary widely in size, shade and severity, depending on exposure time and impurities. From water spills to prolonged humidity exposure, stains can affect covers, interior pages, or the entire book, ranging from light marks to severe discoloration or paper damage. They are challenging to grade due to their diverse nature and potential side effects like rippling or ink loss. Stains can impact grades from 1.0 to 9.8 and have sub-classifications like foxing, rust stains, tape stains, transfer stains, smoke damage, or mold/mildew.

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Tape Stain

Red underlines

Tape stains on comic books, particularly from cellophane tape used during the Golden and Silver Age, often result in dark brown stains that can bleed outside the tape perimeter, causing paper breakdown and translucence. Scotch tape, typically less harmful, may leave behind a lighter shadow upon removal. The severity of the stain depends on the tape type, exposure time and storage conditions, impacting grades between 3.0 and 8.0. Light stains may minimally affect higher-grade comics (8.0 to 9.4), often leaving behind faint shadows from scotch tape removal. Tape stains are treated harshly due to their penetration into the paper, unlike tape residue.

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Transfer Stain

Red underlines

There are two types of transfer stains found on comic book covers. The first type, appearing yellow through the middle of the cover, results from a chemical reaction between the interior cover and the inks of adjacent pages, common in comics from the '50s and '60s. The second type, caused by prolonged contact between stacked comic covers, manifests as red or pink splotchy stains, prevalent in comics from the '70s and '80s. While the red/pink stains have minimal effect on grade, the yellow transfer stains, especially when dark and with distinct tide lines, can significantly impact eye appeal, warranting a downgrade to around 8.0 in very high-grade comics. Light yellowing typically has little to no effect on grade, except for 9.9 or 10.0 grades.

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