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Grading is very important to pulp collectors. While grading standards do vary from dealer to dealer, and collector to collector, there are generally accepted standards for the industry. There has been a tendancy for some slippage over the years. This has occurred for a number of reasons. One is that the old time dealers are fast disappearing. These dealers built a reputation over time, and they tended to grade conservatively to maintain their customer base.

Today the typical pulp seller is on ebay. He may be looking to the long term, or he may be looking to make a fast buck. If you buy on ebay. look for someone who has been selling for a goodly period, and read his feedback ratings.

Another common problem on ebay is sheer ignorance from so many people who are new to pulp collecting. As I read their descriptions, I can only cringe. Here are some of the common mistakes I see:

  • just like Comic Books
    Pulp grading is similar to but not the same as comic grading. Comic book grading places a high premium on glossy covers. The printing process for comics was different, and pulps were never intended to attain the gloss of a four color comic. So references to gloss are misplaced for the most part. Comic grading generally employs many more grades than does pulp grading. I have seen several comic standards that break down mint into 4 or 5 categories for example. So far, pulp collecting has been able to resist the impulse to grade to a huge number of grades. That pretty much killed traditional coin and stamp collecting, and it is killing comics.
  • high grade for a pulp that old
    Wrong! Grading standards do not vary with age. A Fine condition 1950 Weird Tales should look pretty much like a Fine 1925 copy of the same magazine. There will be very few 1925 issues that will attain that grade compared to 1950 issues, but thats life.
There is no getting around the fact that even with a set standard for grading, individuals will differ. Many dealers will split grades, and call a pulp Good-Very Good, or near Fine. This is perfectly acceptable if it lends clarity to the process. Another tactic is to use exceptions. An item could be Fine except for faint reading crease.

This can be overdone. There is an old time dealer who I think is still alive. Every item he sold was Fine. It might be Fine except that two dogs tore it apart in a fight, then it lay in the rain and sun in the middle of the road where trucks ran over it, but it was still Fine except for... .

Enough preamble. Here are my standards:

  • FINE: Pulp is complete, with no tears wrinkles, creases or discoloration. Pages are nearly white. Both covers are firmly attached to the spine which is tight. There is some disagreement as to markings. I do not grade a pulp down if there are small pencil notations made by the newstand operator years ago in an inconspicuous corner. This was a normal practice at the time. So was putting the purchase date down. That obviously does not apply to random doodling by some past reader.
  • VERY GOOD: Pulp is complete with no missing pieces. Spine is attached. Pages are off white or light brown but show no signs of brittleness or dark brown coloration due to sun or air pollution.Covers may be lightly creased but not so heavily as to distract from the cover design. Small pieces of clear tape are acceptable but must be disclosed in the description.
  • GOOD: Pulp has all covers and pages. Otherwise, the item can be fairly well worn, with heavy creasing, light staining, and small pieces missing from either cover. May be taped, but excessive clear taping or opaque taping must be disclosed.
  • READING COPY: Shabby condition- not considered collectible. If text is incomplete, this fact must be disclosed. May or may not have covers as disclsed.

    Not every pulp will fit into the above descriptions. What to do with an issue that is Fine but has a major imperfection. A magazine may be Fine, but is missing the back cover. Here are a number of common abbreviations often used in combination with a grade:

  • NFC no front cover
  • NBC no back cover
  • CTR closed tear
  • FTR front cover tear
  • BTR back cover tear
  • FLMP large piece missing from front cover
  • BLMP large piece missing from back cover
  • FSMP small piece missing from front cover
  • BSMP small piece missing from back cover

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