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CGC Comics Grader Notes Guide: Tear Defects




Defects in this category involve the separation of paper anywhere on the book and is also considered a structural defect. Tears most often occur on the cover, particularly along the spine where the paper is stressed from folding, near the staples when resistance is met when opening and handling the book, or along the edges. Tears are a more serious defect than creases when they cause significant damage, such as a detached cover or page. Defects that fall into this category include spine splits, printer tears, staple tears, slices, and detachment.

Bindery Tear

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Bindery tears, commonly found in comics with higher page counts like Golden Age ones, occur at the spine's top and/or bottom during folding and binding at the printer. While they mainly affect the cover, they can extend to interior wraps. Their grade impact varies based on size, typically lowering it to the 9.2 – 9.6 range for average tears. Once surpassing 1” in length, they're treated like regular tears, affecting both cover and interior pages. While more accepted in Golden Age comics, bindery tears have less impact on grade compared to other eras, though they are less common in Silver and Bronze Age comics. Modern comics may accept tiny bindery tears in 9.8 grades, but for squarebounds, prestige format and those with large page counts, they often result in downgrades below 9.8.

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Brittleness Splitting

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Brittleness in comic books results from the chemical breakdown of pages, particularly at the spine where wraps are folded, caused by hydrolysis. This degradation of cellulose chains due to humidity and heat leads to weakened paper prone to splitting or chipping. Brittleness, also known as brittleness chipping, affects page quality designations, ranging from slightly brittle to brittle based on splitting length and wraps affected. Grades may range from 6.5 for slightly brittle pages to 3.5 for brittle ones, with severe splitting potentially lowering grades to 1.0 or 0.5. Spine splitting on covers, exacerbated by opening, is assessed alongside any associated tanning and factored into grading, with Golden Age comics most susceptible. Dark covers or interior pages often indicate potential spine splitting, crucial for grading assessment.

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Detached Cover

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A detached cover refers to complete separation from the comic's interior, common in both stapled and squarebound comics. Squarebounds may experience cover ungluing from the interior spine. Detachments can be subtle, requiring thorough inspection of the interior spine. Occasionally, covers split along the spine, with one side still attached to staples. Partial detachments vary; partially attached covers in stapled books are categorized under staple detachment, while squarebound covers peeling away are termed "partially detached." Double covers on squarebounds are treated as attached by grading standards. Grades for detached covers typically max out at 4.0, potentially lower depending on additional defects, while fully split spines alongside detachment can't exceed 1.8.

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Detached Insert

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A comic is graded lower only if its insert, fully attached at printing and present in all copies, becomes fully or partially detached. Inserts like posters, 3-D glasses, stickers, ads and trading cards are included. Exceptions are made for certain inserts like Mark Jewelers, Pizzazz, Mennen and National Diamond Sales, inserted into a fraction of each print run. A detached insert is graded akin to a detached centerfold, with a maximum grade of 7.0 to 7.5. Partial detachments follow the same grading logic as partially detached covers, depending on the insert's attachment status at the staples.

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Detached Page

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Page detachment refers to an interior page that is separated from the rest of the comic book but still present. In regular format comics, detachments typically occur along the spine, while in squarebounds, they often affect the first or last page due to stapling. Tipped-in pages, especially in comics from 1942-1944 with a 16/12 page count, are prone to detachment due to insufficient glue. A torn or cut-out page in a regular comic can lower the grade to 4.0 or below, while detached pages in squarebounds have less impact on grade, especially if cleanly detached. Multiple detachments further reduce the grade, with partial detachments treated as separate pieces. Reattaching detached pages with tape or extra staples doesn't affect the grade unless restoration is involved, categorizing the comic as conserved or restored based on restoration methods.

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Detached Piece

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A detached piece, whether from the cover or an interior page, results from tearing or cutting, sometimes originating from a tear. Larger pieces are typically retained with the book, excluding small, easily lost fragments. This defect excludes detached pages, wraps, or covers, each with their own classifications. In grading, small detached pieces are treated as missing, while larger ones affect grade based on separation length, akin to a tear. If larger than half a page, it's classified as a detached page. CGC cannot encapsulate comics with detached cover pieces due to potential shifting in the holder, thus such pieces are tucked inside, considered missing. Reattachment methods like tape or restoration are noted as tape reattachment or piece reattachment, with piece replacement distinguished as a separate restoration process involving foreign material.

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Detached Wrap

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A detached wrap occurs when the wrap separates from the staples of a comic book, typically starting with the outermost or innermost wraps due to how they are stacked during printing. The centerfold is commonly detached, followed by subsequent wraps. The outermost wrap can only detach if the cover is detached. Inner wraps between the first wrap and centerfold cannot detach independently. A fully detached wrap can achieve a grade of up to 7.5, with additional detachments resulting in further downgrades, regardless of the book's page count. Partial detachments are classified as staple detached. In high-grade comics with a detached centerfold, CGC may assign a qualified grade.

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Marvel Tears

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Marvel tears, also known as "pre-Marvel chipping," are a significant printing defect that plagued many Atlas/Marvel comics from the late 1950s to the early 1960s due to a dull trimming blade at the printers. These tears, primarily on the front cover's right edge, developed into missing pieces, significantly reducing high-grade availability for early Marvel comics. Ranging from small 1/16" tears allowable in 9.8 grades to longer ones up to 1" or more, multiple tears along the right edge are common. Unlike Printer Tears or Bindery Tears, which affect any era's comics and occur on the spine or outer edges, Marvel tears are specific to this period.

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Printer Tear

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Printer tears can arise during printing either through grips moving the paper, akin to printer holes, or by dull blades pulling and tearing the paper along a cover’s edge, resembling Marvel tears. While Marvel tears are confined to the right edge of a front cover, printer tears can occur on any edge, typically affecting the top or bottom edge. Golden Age comics often exhibit multiple, large tears across an entire edge, while Bronze Age comics feature smaller tears, usually centered on the top or bottom edge. Printer tears are rare in modern comics. Their impact on grade varies based on cumulative length, similar to bindery tears; smaller tears may prevent a comic from reaching 9.9 or 10.0, while numerous or long tears can lower the grade to as low as 9.0 or even 8.0 in severe cases.

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Slice

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A slice refers to a clean cut into the paper with a sharp object, often difficult to detect due to minimal ink loss but significant in its impact on grade due to paper separation. Best identified under raking light, it differs from scratches which reveal separation when gently pushed upon. Typically accidental, slices commonly occur when opening shipping boxes containing unprotected comics, with deeper slices potentially reaching interior pages. Grades are affected by slice length, typically two to five inches, treated similarly to tears.

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Spine Split

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A spine split refers to paper separation along the spine, ranging from small 1/8” splits to fully split spines dividing the cover. These splits typically result from repeated cover openings, often worsened by tanning or brittleness. They may be mistaken for bindery tears or tears extending into the cover. While usually clean and inconspicuous, examining the interior cover reveals any paper separation. Splits can occur at the spine's top, bottom, or middle, with varying degrees of severity and impact on grade, ranging from tiny splits to fully split spines. Interior page splitting is often linked to brittleness and treated separately. Squarebound splits are less harshly graded if affecting only one cover due to the spine's glue, but repairs, like taping or stapling, are disregarded in grading and may further affect grade based on quantity.

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Staple Detached

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Detached staples are common in comics, where covers or interior wraps split from one or both staples. Fully detached covers or wraps are graded based on paper rather than staples, while partial detachments are staple-detached. Cover detachments affect grade more than interior wraps. Weak staples, where paper starts to tear, are also seen. The impact on grade varies, with a fully detached cover from one staple usually grading no higher than 7.0 or 7.5. Thorough inspection of staple areas is crucial, as reattaching covers and centerfolds with tape or restoration is common.

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Staple Poking Through Cover

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Squarebound staple holes occur when the staple prongs puncture the front or back cover, protruding higher than the interior pages they secure, leading to pressure against the cover and potential tearing or splitting. While common, they significantly impact high-grade copies depending on number and severity, with small holes permissible in 9.8 grades. Up to four holes can lower a grade to 9.2 or 9.0. As staples are inserted in the same direction, holes affect either the front or back cover but not both. Before the '60s, staples were typically inserted with prongs facing down, affecting only the back cover. This changed in the '60s for DC and in 1968 for Marvel, affecting only the front cover. Modern squarebound comics rarely have staple holes due to improved printing processes.

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Staple Recessed

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A recessed staple occurs when one or both staples are excessively forced into a comic during binding, causing small tears or color loss on the cover. Centered on the spine, the staples add pressure to the fold, leading to this defect. Since it stems from improper binding settings during printing, many or all copies of an issue may suffer from it, impacting grade based on tear length or color loss. While recessed staples affect high-grade comics, they differ from tears due to normal handling or improper pressing, which can have a greater impact on grade. This is particularly rare in modern comics.

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Staple Tears

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Staple tears, often seen on the cover, extend horizontally from the staple holes where the staple meets the paper. While similar to staple detachments, they're classified differently as staple tears imply the staple is still attached. These tears, ranging from small to over 1", usually result from accidental tugging of the cover, particularly common with staples set into the cover (Maverick staples). The impact on grade depends on the cumulative tear length, typically ranging from 8.0 to 9.0, with small tears potentially preventing a comic from achieving 9.8 or higher, while larger tears can lower the grade below 8.0.

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Tear

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Tears, a common defect in comic books, involve paper separation, typically along the edges and occasionally affecting several pages at once. Ranging from tiny to the width of a comic, they're quantifiable with their impact on grade determined by their total length. High-grade comics may have one or two small tears, preventing a grade of 9.4 or higher, while mid to lower-grade comics often show multiple tears. Although less severe than missing pieces, tears are treated more harshly than creases. Sub-categories include bindery tears, staple tears, marvel tears and printer tears. Tears accompanied by creases are classified as "tears with crease" and downgraded accordingly. If a tear results in a detached page or piece, it's reclassified as a detachment or missing piece.

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