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Better handling for Un/Bagged and with/without inclusions


Fred Slota
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I've brought this up before, but I thought I'd try again with supporting information of how badly this is currently being handled.

 

Searching in my database...

483 unique entries with either "unbagged", "bagged" or "polybag" in the notes field (did not double-count if they used multiple).

  • 475 of those are singleton entries for various issues, which I think are a failing for a database and a disservice for collectors (One of those is absolutely cringeworthy).
  • 8 of these are 4 pairs of entries that struggle with the situation.
  • And, there are many entries that make no mention of having been bagged.

First, I have to mention the non-standard-ness of the nomenclature.  I had to rewrite this several times, because I had to adjust my search terms several times, in an attempt to be as complete as I could.

 

But now, let's look at the case studies.

 

Batman (2nd Series) #50 vs. 50/A  #50/A indicates it is polybagged and contains 1 of 3 covers, has a cover scan of the opaque polybag, and a price of $7.50.  #50 with an unbagged cover scan, indicates it shipped with polybagged variant covers, and a price of $4.50.  What are the other two random covers?

 

The Batman Adventures #7 vs. #7/CS.  #7/CS indicates it is polybagged including a trading card, has a cover scan of the opaque polybag, and a price of $5.50.  #7, with an unbagged cover scan, the wonderfully clear notes of "Without trading card; Includes trading card; Trading card missing", and a price of $4.50.  Presuming #7 is truly the comic only, what would a decent value for an unbagged comic with the trading card be?

 

Superman (3rd Series) #50 vs #50/A.  #50/A indicates it is an Unopened Polybag and contains 1 of 3 covers, has a cover scan of the opaque polybag, and a price of $4.75.  #50 with an unbagged cover scan, indicates it shipped with polybagged variant covers, and a price of $2.00.  Again, what are the other two random covers?

 

And then there's the mess that is X-Force #1.  It sold in a mostly transparent bag with two cards, one of which was 1 of 5, which apparently went through two printings in bags with the cards, then a second gold background non-bagged, a signed version, and a "True Believers" reprint.  All the bagged first printings show the identical, unbagged comic cover (without the card), all the bagged second printings show the bagged copy (showing the different card for each), and the signed version does not show the distinctive sticker in its scan.  Oh, and all of the entries have different prices, ranging from $3.00 to $11.50.  What is the going price for an unbagged first print X-Force #1 without a trading card?

 

 

This all really needs to be handled better.  I mean, we're a collector's market.

This is a database with separate pictures for each entry - we should have a separate entry for each item that has a different look. This is a database supporting a collector's marketplace;  we're dealing with items with different production quantities, or different levels of completeness of parts, or different cover art featuring different characters and/or drawn by different artists - we should have a separate entry for each item.  A clean, consistent system for dealing with this would facilitate better organization of collections, better posting of sales, a better recognition and evaluation of finds and offers, and better differentiation of pricing. 

 

My recommendation would be to create a new, separate field for dealing with this (given that various issues types (regular, Anl, etc) and printings can be bagged).  I further suggest that this field have values of "Bagged", "Unbagged-Complete", "Unbagged-Incomplete-A"-"Unbagged-Incomplete-Z" and "Unbagged".

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  • 2 months later...

I don't know about needing to add a separate field (which would not apply to 99% of the comics created), but I do use the Collector's Set (CS) variation in my own catalog to refer to comics that were issued in a polybag (with or without additional contents), and for which the original polybag is still present. I then go on to describe in the grading notes the state of the polybag (sealed, unsealed), the presence or absence of any additional contents originally issued with that comic (posters, trading cards, etc) along with whatever grading notes are pertinent. So for that Batman Adventures #7, if I had the comic with the original polybag but the bag had been opened and the trading card removed, I would have it as #7/CS with Grading Notes: Polybag opened, trading card absent, otherwise NM. If I had just the comic without the original polybag or trading card, I would just use the regular #7 item number, and grade it based on the comic alone. Otherwise, I find it cumbersome to have an issue cataloged for which the standard Notes entry states "polybagged with trading card" but which has grading notes which state "polybag absent, trading card absent." Or something like X-O Manowar Bk 1 which was polybagged with a separate comic X-O Database #1. I commonly find the X-O Database comic on its own in bins, and it even has a separate title and issue entry in CB for the raw X-O Database comic, but the Bk 1 TPB entries both state "Includes X-O Database #1" in the stock notes despite the TPB very often being offered on its own.

Personally, because both are common states that one might find any originally-polybagged product in years later, my desire would be for all issues originally issued either in a polybag with some kind of printing on it or in any kind of polybag with additional contents to have a separate /CS entry with notes or item description text to describe how the original polybagged product would differ from a raw comic one might find in a back-issue bin. If an issue was shipped in a bag merely to protect the product from damage in shipping (as with publications sent to subscribers through the mail) or to keep curious eyes from seeing inside (ala Heavy Metal magazine), I think that could simply be noted in the Grading Notes if there is otherwise no printing on the bag or additional contents within.

This is how I catalog them myself (to eliminate the "such and such is included, no it's not" conflicting notes), but it would be great to also be able to distinguish visually and through standard (non-conflicting) notes what is being offered when items are pushed up to Atomic Avenue.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm not a big fan of adding a separate field to indicate polybagged or not.  

The Notes field and/or Item Description fields can be used to indicate that a comic was polybagged and included other items (trading cards or whatnot).  Sellers on AA can (and should!!!) indicate in their Grading Notes whether the bag and/or additional items are included with the copy they are selling.  Home users can track their own collection items as they see fit.  

Individual issues where the Notes field and/or the Item Description field contents are contradictory or need some sort of clarification should be noted in some manner (correction submission sent from a database, posting to these boards, or an email to CB support) so that the CB editorial team can give them the proper clean-up.  And adding a dedicated polybag field doesn't guarantee that other fields will get necessary clean-up, those would still need to be addressed as I stated above.  

Polybags that have no printing on them and which are not intended to keep ancillary tchochkes with the comic are IMO not much different than the shrinkwrap around brand new hardcover collected editions.  The presence or absence of the bag doesn't necessarily mean that the item for sale cannot be legitimately graded as NM condition, but sellers that mention that the original wrap is present *might* realize a bump in their sale price if they mention it in their grading notes.  

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Would like to point out that there are two points to my posting, a general observation and a proposed specific solution.  While I understand the difference of opinion on my proposed specific solution, I'm not sure that people are providing feedback on the general observation.

 

ComicBase and Atomic Avenue recognize that there are many ways a given issue of a comic book may exist.  Newsstand vs. Direct Market.  Main Cover vs. Variant Covers.  Enhanced Covers vs. Plain Covers.  Multiple printings, which might or might not have different covers.  In many of these cases, there are database fields that explicitly record the differences (Cover Artist, Cover Price, Printing, etc.)  In modern times, most of the these are accompanied by differing UPC codes.  But, in some cases the difference can only be identified by a description in the Notes or Item Description field.

But in all the above examples, these differences are reflected by having separate entries in the data base.  #1 vs. #1/A vs. #1/CS vs. #1-2.  The collector knows that different variants exist, the seller/buyer can have more reliability on what is being looked for or offered, the market history and market pricing can differentiate between low-interest, low-value items and high-interest, high-value items.

 

However, ComicBase/AtomicAvenue does a disservice to its users with its inconsistent and incomplete handling of the various nuances of bagged comics.  Regardless of how it is handled, with new database fields or comments in Notes or Item Description, ComicBase should provide a separate entry for each variation.

If an issue is sold in a bag, ComicBase should include two entries, one each for the bagged and unbagged form.  If an issue is sold blind bagged with different covers or inclusions, ComicBase should include an entry for the bagged form and separate entries for each unbagged cover or combination of inclusions.  If an issue is sold unblind bagged with different covers or inclusions, ComicBase should include separate entries for each bagged form and each unbagged cover and/or combination of inclusions.

 

I have a preference of how to support this.  But the implementation is almost trivial compared to the need to have this addressed int he first place.

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4 hours ago, Fred Slota said:

If an issue is sold in a bag, ComicBase should include two entries, one each for the bagged and unbagged form. 

I'm not sure I see why that is necessary, especially in cases like Lance's example of Heavy Metal which is often sold in a plain unmarked clear polybag.  The bag does nothing except prevent a potential customer from flipping through the issue prior to purchase.  One *might* argue that removal of the bag automatically changes the grade of the issue, but it definitely isn't creating a variant.  A variant would certainly warrant its own entry in the database, but changing the grade of an item would not. 
EDITED TO ADD: The logic of adding a separate entry for an unbagged issue of Heavy Metal wouldn't be any different than the logic of adding entries for Marvel omnibus books that have been removed from their shrinkwrap IMO... and I don't see a need to do that, either.  

Again, as I said up above, sellers who follow best practices will indicate the presence/absence of a polybag in the Grading Notes field prior to posting on AA.  Collectors at home can do as they wish, of course.  

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And if i take my bagged comic out of its bag, do I then enter it using the "unbagged" entry or the "bagged" entry w/ a note that says this really is a bagged issue, it's just no longer in the bag (which I might or might not have kept)?  Seems like a single entry works best, with appropriate note(s) as to the presence of a bag.

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So if removing a bag makes a book a variant, does a CGC slab also make a variant?  I've argued against it many times but they keep coming up in CB.  I am aware of only two books where CGC was actually what made a book a variant.  Antoine Sharp: The Atheist #1-A was only released as a CGC Signature Series book and was limited to 23 copies signed by Phil Hester.  It was marketed in Previews like any other book but the sketch cover was only available signed and graded.  Unfortunately, CB knocked my note about that part out.  The other one is All-Star Batman #1.  All-Star Batman is slightly different in that the book was available ungraded but the publisher, DC Comics, had some graded and they received a special CGC label with Batman on it and a note about "D.C. Certified."  They were done as a "thank you" to retailers for supporting the release of the book. 

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I do like Doug's suggestion that the standard Notes entry be worded "Issued in polybag" or "issued with trading card" rather than "polybagged" or "includes trading card." The former wording indicates how it was originally issued, where the latter indicates the item's current state which makes more sense to me as a Grading Note.

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Can anyone name another genre of collectible that doesn't have a concept of mint-in-the-box?  Or that doesn't acknowledge the the qualitative difference between a lone item vs. one with all the original accessories?

Maybe it might not make a difference in some cases.  I'm sure there are plenty of examples where there is no difference in the market between existing variants...  Alternate covers with equal preference, multiple printings with no difference in cover or contents and no real difference in valuation.  And yet the database carries them individually by the thousands.

In the reverse, maybe it does make a difference in some cases.  There probably are issues where a sealed vs. open bag makes a difference, or where a solo book is different from a book with the inclusions.  And we won't know, because they're not officially tracked independently.

Let me explain the ramifications of not having officially separate items in the master database and instead using an approach with different notes.  Take one of my favorite punching bag on this topic - X-Force #1. The original printing was bagged with one of 5 separate, non-bound-in cards, represented by #1/A - #1/E.  With no UPC code, either on the cover or the bag. 

  1. Several of these have items on sale on AtomicAvenue for the unbagged book without the cards.  What's the difference between a #1/A without the Cable Card,  a #1/B without the Deadpool card, etc?  @Peter R. Bickford, I notice that you have a #1/E sans X-Force card up there; how did you decide which variant it should be listed as?  Sure seems like there should be a separate item.
  2. The #1/B variant with the Deadpool card currently has a value of $11.50, white the #1/E variant with the X-Force card has a value of $3.00, a difference of nearly 4x .  Since the book is the same among #1/A - #1/E, then the card must be making the difference.  Or is it?  Maybe there have been more sales of books without cards as #1/E than there have been of #1/B without cards, and thus the #1/E is artificially low.  For that matter, maybe there have been low-value sales for #1/B without the card, and the actual value for a #1/B should properly be higher.  Sure seems like there should be separate items.
  3. Currently, the official Notes and Item Description for all 5 variants mention that the books have Gatefold Covers and include a card, but don't mention that they were originally sold in a sealed bag.  Currently, #1/A has 25 items on sale on Atomic Avenue.  I think this is the breakdown...  
    1. 3 explicitly mention item is bagged.
    2. 1 explicitly mention item is unbagged.
    3. 4 state or imply they are unbagged by explicitly mentioning there is no card.
    4. 9 are in an indeterminate bagged state, but with the card.
    5. 6 are in an indeterminate bagged or card state.
    6. 1 states, and I quote, "Versus Stryfe Polybag and card bagged and boarded separately With Cable card"

So, the majority of those on sale, types 4 and 5, what are you expecting?  And for those who say "Contact the seller and ask", why should I have to?    Sure seems like there should be separate items.

4.  I should hope that people will modify the Notes to reflect the state of their sale.  Does everyone do that?  If you see a Notes field unaltered from that of the official entry, are you sure it is being sold as described?  Sure seems like there should be separate items.

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And, since there were several posts while I was typing...

I guessed that I left unmentioned in my original proposal, that this new Bagged field would be like the Printing or Variation field, where the default "first print" or "regular", applicable to 99.9% of items, is a blank modifier; a sold-directly-without-a-bag would be blank.  Just like "-2" or "-3" indicates second or third printing (separate from a blank implied first printing) and "/A" or "/B" indicates Variation A or Variation B (with or without a separate blank implied regular issue), "-BG" and "-UnBG" would indicate "bagged" or "unbagged" (with or without a separate blank sold-directly-without-a-bag).

 

Yes, if you buy 5 bagged issues, they would be entered under the -BG variant.  And if, 2 years later, you open one of the bags, you would deduct one from the -BG count and add it to the -UnBG count.  I realize some people think this seems different and unnatural compared to other things in ComicBase, but its not, really...  If you buy a Near Mint issue and 3 months later a browsing customer accidentally rips the cover, wouldn't you change the condition field?  If you own 3 copies of an issue in VF condition and after a year you send one to be graded, wouldn't you change the original entry to a count of 2 and add a duplicate entry with a different condition or supplemented note?

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2 hours ago, Fred Slota said:

Yes, if you buy 5 bagged issues, they would be entered under the -BG variant.  And if, 2 years later, you open one of the bags, you would deduct one from the -BG count and add it to the -UnBG count.  I realize some people think this seems different and unnatural compared to other things in ComicBase, but its not, really...  If you buy a Near Mint issue and 3 months later a browsing customer accidentally rips the cover, wouldn't you change the condition field?  

Yes, but that isn't the same thing as creating a new variant entry for that issue.  

2 hours ago, Fred Slota said:

If you own 3 copies of an issue in VF condition and after a year you send one to be graded, wouldn't you change the original entry to a count of 2 and add a duplicate entry with a different condition or supplemented note?

Yes, but again, that isn't the same thing as creating a new variant entry which is what I am understanding from your OP.    

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2 hours ago, Fred Slota said:

And, since there were several posts while I was typing...

I guessed that I left unmentioned in my original proposal, that this new Bagged field would be like the Printing or Variation field, where the default "first print" or "regular", applicable to 99.9% of items, is a blank modifier; a sold-directly-without-a-bag would be blank.  Just like "-2" or "-3" indicates second or third printing (separate from a blank implied first printing) and "/A" or "/B" indicates Variation A or Variation B (with or without a separate blank implied regular issue), "-BG" and "-UnBG" would indicate "bagged" or "unbagged" (with or without a separate blank sold-directly-without-a-bag).

Printings and variants are states that exist prior to the comic arriving in the hands of the purchaser.  They are essentially states of existence that are determined by the publisher/manufacturer.  These kinds of things merit unique issue entries in the master database.  

Condition (including whether or not a polybagged comic remains in that polybag) is a state of the comic that is ultimately the consequence of how the comic is treated and handled after it is produced by the publisher/manufacturer... most especially by the purchaser of that comic.  For that reason, any new "Bagged" field would have to be treated as a condition, not as a variant or different printing.  Changes in condition don't merit unique entries in the master database.  

Edited by Gregory Hecht
Added "master database" language for clarification.
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3 hours ago, Douglas W. McCratic said:

Antoine Sharp: The Atheist #1-A was only released as a CGC Signature Series book and was limited to 23 copies signed by Phil Hester.  It was marketed in Previews like any other book but the sketch cover was only available signed and graded.  Unfortunately, CB knocked my note about that part out.  

 The fact that the publisher issued the book in its signed state is what I think triggered the move to make that item its own variant.  I'm sure that @Peter R. Bickford or @Mark J. Castaneda can clarify the thinking on that item if I am not correct.  I can't speak to why your note wasn't accepted as part of the database entry, but again maybe Pete or Mark can provide thoughts on that.    

3 hours ago, Douglas W. McCratic said:

The other one is All-Star Batman #1.  All-Star Batman is slightly different in that the book was available ungraded but the publisher, DC Comics, had some graded and they received a special CGC label with Batman on it and a note about "D.C. Certified."  They were done as a "thank you" to retailers for supporting the release of the book. 

A bit of an odd duck, but my guess is that the "special CGC label" is what earned that issue its variant status.  If those particular CGC'ed copies were indistinguishable for a copy that was sent by any old Tom, Dick, or Harry for slabbing by CGC, my bet is that there wouldn't be a separate issue entry for it in the master database.  

But I think that you are implying that these are the very rare exceptions that prove the rule that CGC cases don't really merit new variant issue entries in the master database... in which case I would agree with you.  And I think that the same logic would apply to polybags containing periodical comics and shrinkwrap around hardcover comics.  

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3 hours ago, Fred Slota said:

Currently, the official Notes and Item Description for all 5 variants mention that the books have Gatefold Covers and include a card, but don't mention that they were originally sold in a sealed bag. 

I agree with you that the fact that the comic was originally sold in a polybag should be noted in the master database.  (Simply stating that a trading card was included with the comic doesn't necessarily mean that the issue was polybagged... there are plenty of instances where trading cards have been bound into the comic and therefore that issue was not sold in a polybag.)  

I'm just not seeing the rationale for listing the bagged state as a unique variant entry in the master database.  Incorporated somehow into the condition field?  Sure, if there is a reasonable way to do that which is reasonably intuitive for users of CB and AA.  

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4 hours ago, Gregory Hecht said:

I agree with you that the fact that the comic was originally sold in a polybag should be noted in the master database.  (Simply stating that a trading card was included with the comic doesn't necessarily mean that the issue was polybagged... there are plenty of instances where trading cards have been bound into the comic and therefore that issue was not sold in a polybag.)  

I'm just not seeing the rationale for listing the bagged state as a unique variant entry in the master database.  Incorporated somehow into the condition field?  Sure, if there is a reasonable way to do that which is reasonably intuitive for users of CB and AA.  

I gave 4 separate reasons why operating with unofficial notations in the Notes field produces problems that officially separated entries with a dedicated field would solve.

 

Would it change your mind if instead of thinking of the new field as making a production variant of an issue like Variation or Printing, but rather, as you put it, incorporated into the condition field?  Rather than thinking of X-Force 1/A-BG-Card NM vs. X-Force 1/B-UnBg-Card VF, it is thought of as X-Force 1/A NM-Bg-Card vs. X-Force 1/B VF-UnBG-Card?  Rather than X-Force #1 having 11 separate variants (5 bagged with different cards, 5 unbagged with different cards, and 1 unbagged without a card), it would have the 5 as-shipped Variants, each with three recognized Condition Variants (bagged with card, unbagged with card and unbagged without card) (Or logically better, 1 with 3 Condition Variants and the other 4 with 2 Condition Variants, as there is no difference between a loose book out of bag and without a card).

In the database, there would be a new field, maybe I.[ConditionVariant] or I.[ConditionModifier].  In ComicBase, there would be a drop-down next to Condition with a default of blank and options like Un/Bagged, with/without Card, with/without Poster.  In AtomicAvenue, listings would all be under the 5 printing variation, but instead of being separated by Mint, Near Mint, etc., it would be grouped primarily by Condition Variant and then secondarily by Condition, so Bagged Mint through Fine, then unbagged Mint through Fine, etc.  Pricing would be tracked separately by ConditioningVariant.

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19 hours ago, Gregory Hecht said:

The fact that the publisher issued the book in its signed state is what I think triggered the move to make that item its own variant.

Yes, that's what I was getting at.  The sketch variant for Antoine Sharp: The Atheist was only released signed and graded. The problem arises when somehow, books marketed through DF and Midtown wind up in here when there is no actual variation.  They take a standard issue or variant, grade it, and charge a premium for it.  I don't have a problem with the business model but it has never met what I would consider to be a threshold for a "variant" in and of itself. 

 

19 hours ago, Gregory Hecht said:

A bit of an odd duck, but my guess is that the "special CGC label" is what earned that issue its variant status.  If those particular CGC'ed copies were indistinguishable for a copy that was sent by any old Tom, Dick, or Harry for slabbing by CGC, my bet is that there wouldn't be a separate issue entry for it in the master database.  

But I think that you are implying that these are the very rare exceptions that prove the rule that CGC cases don't really merit new variant issue entries in the master database... in which case I would agree with you. 

My understanding that this label was a one-off for CGC strictly for this book, so no, we can't send one in and get that one.  And yes, we're on the same page here, these are the only two exceptions that I am aware of in CGC actually making a book a "variant," although one could argue that it didn't really happen with the Atheist book since there was no special label.  Once cracked out, unless it's with a CGC Witness, it's just a signed book at that point.  Nothing on the book or label mentions the limitation. 

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19 hours ago, Gregory Hecht said:

I'm just not seeing the rationale for listing the bagged state as a unique variant entry in the master database.  Incorporated somehow into the condition field?  Sure, if there is a reasonable way to do that which is reasonably intuitive for users of CB and AA.  

Again, we're in agreement, you're just more eloquent in stating it. 

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