Subterranean by Design: A look into the future of grading…


Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. Roughly once a quarter, I am going to bring you a new segment titled Clint’s CornerThis content will be a thinking man’s discussion on topics within the industry. It’s important as we evaluate current trends, there is a peek into the what the future holds as the pages of the calendar rip off at such a rapid pace. With the above mentioned I present to you the 1st edition of this new column…


Subterranean by Design:

A look into the future of grading…


I will start with this, take a good look at that above picture depicting how in theory, AI (Artificial Intelligence) works vs. a human mind. As society’s demands and technology grows, the expectations for perfection across many markets increases exponentially. Saints fans close your eyes, but take a look at the sports landscape. The thirst for replay, and subsequent changes in rules are never the more apparent. Some are challenging for reviews of every play or action. Others want to see the human element always stay intact giving it some type of purity.

On a macro level, we are watched, monitored, and recorded at a alarming level unbeknownst to us the majority of the time. The simplicity of life is disappearing. Good or bad, money plays a large part in this. An example of this is the juggernaut known as the entertainment industry. Sports, music, and movies all are a part of this runaway train. The push for greatnesses is seeded in the need for help beyond the human capacity.

Why look what some can do with people’s voices now to sound pitch perfect. The green screen in film has become part of the household vocabulary. Finally, sports tech such as HD cameras have become so good, the play is almost robotic in nature. How’s that for a oxymoron? Alright so what does all this mean in our world of comics? Great question. I will preface the answer by asking which side do you stand on: Human with predicted error, or calculated science with zero deviation? Chew on that for a bit and have a look at this data.

Global app store revenue is predicted to increase to a total of $139.6 billion by 2021, with $33.3 billion coming from non-gaming apps and $106.4 billion from gaming apps. CAGR is compound annual growth rate which is initial investment value to ending investment value.



Okay let’s look more closely at our wheelhouse, comics. Remember I spoke to simplicity earlier? As kids we read comics, rolled them up in our back pocket and rode our bikes home from 7 Eleven with candy breath and sticky Slurpee hands cemented to our grips. Unfortunately, at some point this all got serious. Now we (well a great deal of us) emulate a crime scene when examining books down to the latex gloves. Although some will even argue those are not sufficient when handling the merchandise!



This article helps speak to the past and somewhat present subterranean design within this industry. What is meant by this as an example is the above 1st Overstreet guide was almost underground in nature. Sure, in its prime it was looked at as the Bible. However, what constitutes a grade or price didn’t come from a governing law etched in the fabric of our world. It’s a “guide”, and in its time was a dam good one. Trivia question, Anyone know the print run of the 1st edition? Good stuff for discussion over beers. If you have an NM copy, let’s just say you have some equity built up there. Anyways, as time has past, the current issues validity is non existent due to the fluidity of the marketplace. Now, it’s like a K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s piece of nostalgia.



What’s that famous DJ’s line?!

That was the Partridge Families Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted, followed by Edison Lighthouse’s Love Grows (Where my rosemary goes)  as K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s weekend just keeps on… Truckin

Movie buffs, What’s that opening from? Sorry for digressing, the 70s rabbit hole will do that to me at times. Anyways, in today’s world we have people who grade books by a set standard that undeniably flawed due to human error. We joke about books receiving a specific grade due to the mood of a person looking at it, but this system does leave room for caution. This is not due to the fault of human operation, moreas a result from a perceived redundancy which is not always actionable and or repeatable.



Well, we all know what is coming right? Let’s put all of the above together. A $33B dollar app marketplace, evolving technology, comics becoming more of a lucrative resale business, and finally the lack of simplicity in life. All this adds up to at some point an app based program to scan books and give a grade. Don’t think this is possible? Here’s some more data form last year. We are becoming a complete digitized society for the good or bad.



With the marriage of digital use rising along with app development accelerating, the “e – based” grading system for lack of a better term, is on its way. Sure, there has been attempts with this, but no one has got it right…yet. The question is not if, but when? This leads to the dilemma I want each one of you reading this to think on and ponder. Is this something you want to see? Do you want your grading to be hollow of any kind of human imperfection?

There are some that say deep pockets from certain companies will stop this. Hell no, they will just try and monopolize this instead. If you can’t adapt, you will cease to exist or be bought out. People can get tailored for clothes with an app, even have a eye exam done using web based technology. A program written to grade books via a scan will happen folks, just curious to see who wins the race to the market with a legit product.

Here is somewhat of a parallel analogy. Remember TV guides on the coffee tables. Then how cool it was when the data displayed on the the screen vs a weekly book? Today, this is how we watch TV – it’s called streaming. I can hear the telephone book companies, stand up arcade palaces, and Drive In theatres screaming from the mountaintops.



The age of quote “Be careful what you wish for” has never been so meaningful. As this technology grows in stature and legitimacy, Jerry from slab company XYZ won’t be entering your graders notes in a system, AI #6373 will have that privilege. Ah, that borderline color break spine tick?

Yep, that bad boy is showing up in all its glory. Want another water cooler convo. Will pressing become even more of a valuable tool now? How will this if at all factor into the future of comic books when we enter this new era?  My money’s on solid professionals who can do this the right way regardless of a books age profiting big time. Trust only a few in this process ladies and gents, it’s as much of an art form as the comics themselves to an extent.



All these above questions were the Genesis of this piece. It’s the process of getting us to think what the future holds for our hobby. Rest assured, it will not be status quo, I can promise you that much. The easy underground good ole days are shorter than longer in the path of life. Now don’t those comic spinner racks, Nerds candy, and Vision skateboards or Diamondback bikes look more appetizing for some of us right about now? Or however you got your Stranger Things groove on during this special time.



These quarterly columns are meant to generate conversations between the group. Not to denigrate the past accomplishments or those who played in this sandbox before us. I hope many of you let your voices be heard on the impact of technology and where this amazing culture will head towards in the next decade. Everything in life is cyclical right? Perhaps we can even have an app to bring back THE voice of radio from that one iconic station. Snaps fingers, what’s it called?

K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s just keeps on coming with this little diddy that reached up to # 21 in May of 1970, the George Baker selection…

“Little Green Bag”

Come on guys, let’s generate some real dialogue to these points! The popularity of grading continues to show its strength in numbers. What does the future hold, or in more relative terms, what do you want to see with this part of our industry? I could write all day long about theories, but your insights and opinions are what matters most!

Penny for your thoughts…

Talk soon,


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