Grading a Toy
Condition, after rarity, is of paramount importance in determining value. A ‘90% mint’ model may only bring a fraction of mint value (ie. 50% or less), and a $100 mint toy might only sell for $10 in even ‘moderately’ played with condition. An exception to the rule is rare (hard to get) models which may bring close to mint prices even in substantially less than mint condition. For example, due to the characters overwhelming popularity, the Star Wars 3.25 inch action figure Boba Fett constantly attracts higher resale prices, regardless of it’s actual scarcity.
- Subjective – Any rating system is subjective;
- No Guides that we are aware of, exist for how to arrive at a specific rating (ie. deduct .5 for each large pin head size chip, and/or .25 for each pin point size chip, etc.);
- Criteria – We rate on how obvious or noticeable any flaws or marks are, how hard you have to ‘look’ to see a piece is not ‘mint’, and how it ‘displays’;
- Parts and Packaging – Inclusion of original items (ie. for models, what parts are still attached to the plastic ‘tree’), and the box (‘packaging’), as well as is the condition of parts and packaging are important in determining value. In fact, some rare boxes are worth more than the toy inside.
Collectibles are given a rating scale, usually 5 to 10 or are classified ‘mint’, ‘very near mint’, ‘near mint’, ‘excellent’, ‘fair’, ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’.
- Classifications – On the scale of 5 to 10, less than C5 is rarely used;
- Clarify – Before purchase or sale it is recommended a collector be more specific when seeking an item’s description (ie. Please describe any nicks, chips, scratches, rubs or other marks, factory paint or casting flaws. What is the overall look of the piece — the ‘shine’ of the paint, dirt and dust, etc.?). Bear in mind some technically ‘mint’ pieces just do not look it;
- Eye Appeal – We view ratings as an indicator of condition generally, and typically note significant flaws. Therefore the overall ‘look’ or ‘eye appeal’ is very important in how we personally apply C5 to 10 ratings. An otherwise ‘new’ looking piece with a substantial defect (ie. a large chip) that is not especially noticeable due to its nature or its location may rate higher compared to a piece that has no large chips but sport a few smaller defects which cause the item to appear dull or otherwise unattractive;
- Additional Description – We usually give an indication as to why a piece is not mint (ie. a few nicks or chips, 1SC, etc.);
- Factory Flaws – We view this system as a comparison to how it left the factory, so we do not necessarily lower the condition rating for a factory defect (rough casting, thinly applied, rough, or ‘tacky’ paint, etc.). However, we do disclose it separately;
- Defects – Because we view ratings as applying to general condition, we separately note defects or flaws and apply the rating without consideration or in spite of the defect (ie. when describing defects on a die cast car — ‘missing tow hook, or patient, or dog etc., otherwise C9’), which to us seem to provide a clearer picture of condition while disclosing any defects. It is important how you describe the piece in question, ie. except for broken hook — NOT considering the mentioned item — rather than considering it has been played with which could mean in spite of being played with it is still ie. near mint, or that it has been played with qualifies the given description and it is not what such condition normally is accepted to represent.
Usually defined by the collector who is appraising the piece. There is no set rule to applying a grading, only guidelines. Below is an example of definitions applied to a die-cast model’s overall appearance:
- Nick — pin point size missing paint (VERY small);
- Very Small Chip (VSC) — a lot smaller than a pin head (ie. 0.2mm to 0.4mm)
- Small Chip (SC) — 0.4mm to 0.8mm (1/32 inches to 1/64 inches)
- Chip — 0.8mm to 1.5mm (1/32 inches to 1/16 inches)
- Big Chip — 1.5mm to 3mm (1/16 inches to 1/8 inches)
- Large Chip — 3mm to 4.5mm (1/8 inches to 3/16 inches)
- Very Large Chip — 4.5mm to 6mm (3/16 inches to 1/4 inches)
10 or MINT
Mint without box, or MIB (mint in box) or MIMB (mint in mint box) is truly perfect. It represents an item that has never been played with, with NO flaws or marks (including no wear; and any small parts originally included with the model are there). Such toys are difficult to obtain. Most toys are only near mint at best, having a small nick, chip or box rub, or other blemish etc. These are the only clear ratings. Any defect (except factory flaws — see above) calls for a lower number (or clear disclosure), and the further from 10 a piece is the more subjective and unreliable the rating becomes. Some people incorrectly classify items or confusingly qualify their description (ie. does ‘excellent condition for a played with piece’ mean ‘even though it was in fact played with it still is in fact excellent’, or that it is ‘excellent considering the fact that it was played with by a small child’).
I rate items with one to possibly a few (two to three depending on size and effect — visibility and/or location) very small flaws — e.g. a couple of nicks or pin point size chips, a box rub, very small scratch, some wear on high spots such as lines cast as door outlines, etc. — as 10- or 9+ or 9, depending on the number, character, and overall effect of the defects. C10- (and maybe 9+) being very near mint, and maybe 9+ and 9 being near mint. Worse defects just lower the number to where 9-, 8+, and 8 show some obvious but not excessive marks or wear (the piece should still display nicely), and 5 to 6 is a VERY obviously played with piece ‘poor’. Pieces with severe wear e.g. a substantial amount of paint is gone, decals missing, etc., call for a more specific description rather than a rating (except perhaps ‘VERY poor’). That leaves C7ish pieces to be called ‘fair’.
Between or ‘combination’ grades such as C6 to 7, are ‘wishy-washy’ (more so than C7- or C6.5, particularly in the ‘mid’ grades of C6 to C8). In other words, if I can not decide I often rate a piece as ‘between’ two grades, I use C6-7 rather than C7- or C6+ (or C6.5). Decals and labels (often percentages or more specific description rather the C9, e.g.’decals 90%’, or ‘small tear out of M in Matchbox’), as well as boxes or other packaging (often C10 to 5) are often given a separate condition number in additional to condition rating of the model itself.
RATING SCALE 5 to 10
Restated from above assuming all pieces are there and missing or broken pieces and factory paint or casting flaws, etc. are identified:
- MIB (mint in box) or MIMB (mint in mint box) — As fresh from the factory with NO flaws or blemishes including all accessories and packaging;
- C10 or Mint — Same as MIB but without the box;
- C10- or VNM (very near mint) — sometimes e.g. C10-IB as ‘near mint in box’. Almost but ‘not quite’ mint — one to possibly a few (two or possibly three depending on size and effect, e.g. visibility or obviousness) VERY small flaws (e.g. a couple of nicks or pin point size chips, a box rub, or VERY small scratch, or some SLIGHT wear on high spots such as lines cast as door outlines, etc.);
- C9 or NM (near mint) — Item requires some inspection to determine not mint. Looks very good, but has one significant or several smaller non-obvious marks, etc;
- C8 or Excellent — Displays nicely but obvious just looking at piece it is not mint — with one larger or a number of small but noticeable marks, etc;
- C7 or Good — Still displays acceptably but has obvious and larger marks or defects and an obviously played with piece;
- C6 or Fair — Obviously played with quite a bit, but paint ‘mostly’ all there;
- C5 or Poor — VERY obviously played with a LOT and has significant paint loss, marks etc.