Standard, Qualified, & Loose Grading Scales
Our Standard, Qualified, and Loose grading scales consist of grades ranging from 10 to 100 which serve to rate an item’s overall condition. For certain types of packaged items, sub-grades are used to better describe the strongest and weakest aspects of the packaging. Sub-grades are not averaged to determine the overall grade. They are simply additional information which is provided to further define the aspects of the packaging as they relate to the overall grade. Depending on the type of packaged item, sub-grades relate to the packaging aspects as follows:
- For Carded Items: Cardrefers to the card-back surface, both front and back, Blister refers to the blister (or bubble) sealed to the card which contains the action figure or item, and Figure refers to the actual item(s), all accessories, inserts, stand, and the area behind these items.
- For Boxed Items (with a plastic window): Box refers to the surface of the box on all sides, Window refers to the plastic window which allows the item to be viewed while still sealed in the packaging, and Figure refers to the actual item(s), all accessories, inserts, stand, and the area behind these items.
- For Mailer Items: Box refers to the mailer box itself, Window refers to the plastic bags or blisters containing the items, and Figurerefers to the actual item(s), all accessories, inserts, paperwork, and other contents.
Depending on the overall numerical grade assigned, items are classified as Gold, Silver, or Bronze level. A generalized explanation of these grade levels is as follows:
The AFA Gold level consists of the grades 100, 95+, 95, 90+, 90 and 85+. When an item’s condition warrants classification within this level, the smallest of flaws are judged and taken into account to determine the exact grade received. The select few items which receive these grades are among the highest quality in existence. A very small percentage of items submitted to AFA receive a Gold level grade. An item’s flaws must be very minor, subtle, and can often be difficult to identify with the naked eye. A collector who is extremely condition sensitive should be satisfied with the condition of a Gold level item in the vast majority of instances.
The AFA Silver level consists of the grades 85, 80+, 80, 75+ and 75. Items which receive grades within this level range from having small flaws to having relatively significant flaws. Silver level grades represent a much larger range of condition than Gold level grades. The highest grade within this level, an 85, could most often be described as being near ‘case fresh’, with the lowest grade within this level, a 75, being somewhat ‘shelf worn’ but still relatively nice. As a general rule, an item which receives the grade of 85 is a fantastic display piece and can often be right on the edge of Gold level condition. The term 'case fresh' is certainly justifiable, as the average item pulled from a sealed case would grade an 85 due to small flaws which occur when items are packaged or shipped from the factory. An item which receives the grade of 80 represents a nice example with minor to moderate flaws apparent upon close inspection. As a generalization, the average item which has spent time on a store shelf being moved around prior to purchase, but has otherwise been handled with relative care over the years may score an 80. The lowest Silver level grade is a 75 which represents an item with significant flaws which are much more evident than flaws visible on items which receive higher Silver level grades. An item which receives the grade of 75 will most often have significant wear, an inner blister crack, or other moderate to significant wear, but should be free of ‘major flaws’ which would immediately draw the eye to them at first glance. For most high grade collectors, an 85 will be satisfactory. For most discriminating collectors, an 80 will be satisfactory. A 75 will most often be satisfactory to those who are not overly concerned with light stresses, blister imperfections, and other flaws which do not likely ‘jump out’ at first glance like the flaws displayed by Bronze level items.
The AFA Bronze level consists of the grades 70 and below. Items which receive these grades typically have damage ranging from simply noticeable upon first glance to extremely significant. Packaging may have significant stressing or creasing and a blister or window may be crushed or cracked. The Bronze level covers the largest range of conditions and the scope of flaws will range considerably. Condition for Bronze level items is determined by how many 'major flaws’ are present and how severe each flaw is. Bronze level items may have major flaws such as a torn off or cut-out POP or other large paper tears. Bronze level items may not be satisfactory to condition sensitive collectors.
YELLOWING: Since yellowing of a blister or window occasionally occurs and can worsen over time, we will designate a qualifier of ‘Y’ or ‘YELLOW’ on the grade label if any signs of yellowing exist. (Example: ‘Y-NM’ on a Classic label or ‘YELLOW’ on a Clear View label)
UNCIRCULATED: Items which meet certain criteria will be assigned the designation of ‘uncirculated’. A packaged item sent to us in an unopened factory case or sleeve or a loose item sent to us in a factory sealed blister, box, or heat sealed bag* will receive this designation. You can then be certain that the item has never been handled nor ‘circulated’ within the retail or collectible market. Packaged toys with double-tape or other characteristics which would normally disqualify them from receiving a grade, and loose items with incorrect or missing accessories can be assigned a grade with the ‘uncirculated’ designation. All items assigned this designation are graded using the same scale and under the same standards as other items.
*Items must be removed from heat-sealed factory bags to be assured an ‘uncirculated’ designation. Items from tape-sealed bags will only be assigned an ‘uncirculated’ designation when an item is commonly found in this type of bag and our graders feel certain about the tape seal. In these cases, the inclusion of the designation will be at our sole discretion.
QUALIFIED: Certain items which are graded under our qualified scale such as opened, but new vehicles and playsets, autographed items, rare items missing accessories, and certain hand-made prototypes and pre-production items will be encased with a blue grade label, rather than a red or green grade label. We will also designate a qualifier of ‘Q’ or ‘QUALIFIED’ on the grade label. (Example: ‘Q-NM’ on a Classic label or ‘QUALIFIED’ on a Clear View label)
Additional Information about Sub-grades
Sub-grades are provided to offer additional details about a graded item. They offer insight into different aspects of the packaging and are NOT an average used to determine the overall grade an item receives. The purpose of sub-grades is to further define the condition of a particular item. Once the grade has been established, the grader will then assign individual grades for the card/box, the blister/window, and the figure. The overall grade assigned is often limited by one particular aspect of an item’s condition.
Furthermore, sub-grades are designed to help collectors with certain preferences make informed decisions about whether they would be happy with a particular item. By using this additional information, a collector can often determine whether or not an item’s grade is high or low within the standards of an overall grade. Sub-grades help to direct collectors to the aspect of packaging which has the most damage. For example, an item which received an overall grade of 85 with a 90 Card, 80 Blister, and 90 Figure will illustrate that the blister is the packaging aspect with the most damage. An item which receives an overall grade of 85 with an 80 Card, 85 Blister, and 85 Figure may also suggest that the particular item is on the lower end of an 85 grade, while an item receiving the grade of 85 with an 85 Card, 90 Blister, and 90 Figure is most likely on the higher end of an 85 grade.
Common Defects Factored into Grading
While virtually all flaws and imperfections are taken into account when assigning a grade, a list of some of the most common defects can be found below.
The actual figure will be considered mint unless there exists a defect that detracts from its overall eye appeal. Defects include paint wear, discoloration, over-spray, fading or dismemberment. If the carded figure comes with a collector coin, trading card or other insert, they will also be rated against overall eye appeal.
The blister will be judged against dents, scratches, fading, yellowing, clouding, sticker residue, tearing, cuts, lifting, soiling, rub marks, crushing, gluing, factory cut and foreign items (ink mark or staple etc.).
The backer card will be judged against creasing, bending, rolling, tearing, scuffing, scratching, lifting, print marks, loss of gloss, soiling, discoloring, edge wear, nicks, punctures, ink or foreign markings, peg hole punch, tape repair, focus, price sticker, sticker tear, sticker residue, water damage, bubbling and attached foreign objects.
Price stickers are generally not considered major flaws, but only become a factor if curling, tearing, staining, picking, etc. of the sticker has occurred. The location of the sticker is also a factor, though most are placed in an area such as a corner that does not detract from the overall appearance of the card. Basically, the condition of the sticker factors into the card sub-grade, and from there into the overall grade of the piece.