The following grading standards are heavily influenced by the Overstreet standard ONE (Overstreet Numerical Equivalency) grading system, which is a universally recognized grading process originally developed for the highly competitive comic book collectibles industry. In 2004 Period Paper developed the following standards based on this system with adaptations and considerations which take into account some gross variations between types of materials available during different eras and also the processes available at those respective times.
Period Paper issues two certificates with each original product sold. These certificates document the origin of the product and the grade of the individual product. The certificates are serial numbered and customers often mount one on the back of a framed image and keep the other for reference or insurance purposes. Some collectors, historical societies, and museum studies educators use a certificate to display critical provenance information adjacent to an original item.
Since 2004, Period Paper has provided these numbered certificates on over 50,000 items for historians, archivists, museum curators, and collectors worldwide.
Very rarely are products returned to us due to grading problems. However, should you receive a product that you believe is not properly graded, please contact us to report the problem. We will be happy to review the grading or work on a solution that meets your needs and concerns.
There are 14 categories for a piece of paper ephemera or fine art: mint, mint/near mint, near mint, near mint/very fine, very fine, very fine/fine, fine, fine/very good, very good, very good/good, good, good/fair, fair, and poor.
Mint (MT): Nearly perfect in every way. Only the most subtle bindery or printing defects are allowed. Item is flat with no surface wear. Inks are bright with high reflectivity and minimal fading. Corners are cut square and sharp. No rust from staples that may have been present. Image is generally well centered.
Mint/Near Mint (MT/NM) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Near Mint+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Mint 9.9 item. In most cases, the item has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Near Mint+ grade.
Near Mint (NM) : Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections allowed. An item with this grade should have no corner or impact creases and nearly invisible stress marks (if any). A couple of very tiny color flecks - or a combination of the above - keeps the item from being perfect, making its overall eye appeal less than Mint and dropping it into this grade. Only the most subtle printing defects are allowed. Item is flat with no surface wear. Image inks are bright with high reflectivity on gloss or rich saturation on matte and a minimum of fading. Corners are cut square and sharp with ever-so-slight blunting permitted. Staples marks are clean with no rust. Image is centered.
Near Mint/Very Fine (NM/VF) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Very Fine+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Near Mint item. In most cases, the item has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Very Fine+ grade.
Very Fine (VF) : An item graded Very Fine is an excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal. Sharp, bright, and clean. Item is relatively flat with almost no surface wear. Image inks are generally bright with moderate to high reflectivity for glossy and moderate to rich saturation for matte. Staples marks may show some discoloration. Interior side of image may have a couple of almost insignificant transverse stress lines and is almost completely flat. A barely unnoticeable quarter of an inch crease is acceptable, if color is not broken. A one half inch border tear is acceptable but the tear must not touch a color surface and cannot be missing any portion of the item - if matted, tear must be invisible. Edges can be yellowish/tannish (but not brown), although most items of this grade have a paper color of off-white to white. An item can have a crease through the center if it was the natural way in which the original periodical was delivered. This is the highest grade that an original cover can receive with a mailing stamp.
Very Fine/Fine (VF/FN) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Fine+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Very Fine item. In most cases, the item has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Fine+ grade.
Fine (FN) : An item in Fine condition is an above-average original that shows minor wear but is still relatively flat and clean with no significant creasing or other serious defects. Eye appeal is somewhat reduced because of slight surface wear in the image print area. The item may have a small defect such as a few slight cross stress marks on its interior. A one half inch border tear is acceptable but the tear must not touch a color surface and cannot be missing any portion of the item - if matted, tear must be invisible. A item in Fine condition appears to have been part of a reasonably read periodical, and has been handled with moderate care. Compared to a Very Fine original , a Fine-graded items image inks are beginning to show a significant reduction in reflectivity on gloss stock or a drop in saturation on matte, but it is still a highly collectible and desirable item. Page edges may be tan, but they must still be fairly supple with no signs of brittleness (the exception are Saturday Evening Posts from the late 1800’s through the 1930’s which were printed on extraordinarily thin and compromised paper; these may show some additional tanning and/or increased brittleness or edge wear).
Fine/Very Good (FN/VG) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Very Good+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Fine item. In most cases, the item has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Very Good+ grade.
Very Good (VG) : The average used paper ephemera item. An item in this grade shows some wear and can have a reading or unnatural center crease, as well as a moderately rolled disposition, but has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is no longer a desirable original. Some discoloration, fading, and even minor soiling is allowed. As much as a quarter-inch triangle can be missing out of the corner or edge. A one inch tear is the maximum tear allowed at this grade. A missing square piece (1/8" by 1/8") is also acceptable. Store stamps, name stamps, mailing stamps, library stamps have no effect on this grade. Image and interior edges can have some minor tears and folds, and the centerfold may have some rust from staples or bindery. Printing defects do not affect the grade. Exterior edges may be brown but not brittle (with the exception of S.E.P.). Tape should never be used for original ephemera repair; however, many Good/Very Good condition items can have minor tape repair.
Very Good/Good (VG/G) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Good+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Very Good item. In most cases, the item has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Good+ grade.
Good (G) : An item in this grade may be small pieces missing; the largest piece allowed from any edge is a half-inch triangle or a quarter-inch square. Ephemera items in this grade are commonly creased, scuffed, abraded, soiled, and may have as much as a two inch tear, but are still completely readable and would mount well. Often, the paper quality for a Good-graded item is low but not brittle. Cover reflectivity is low for gloss, and in some cases, completely absent and saturations on matte make the item appear as faded. This grade can have a moderate accumulation of defects but still maintains its basic structural integrity.
Good/Fair (G/FR) : An item that has enough positive qualities to make it better than a Fair+ item, but has enough detracting qualities to keep it from being a Good item. In most cases, the comic book has a better appearance than an original that has earned a Fair grade.
Fair (FR) : An item in this grade is usually soiled, ragged, and possibly unattractive. Creases, tears and/or folds are prevalent in an ephemera item of this grade. Tears could be present up to two-thirds of its entire length. Staples may have left rust marks that could extend significantly into the image. Up to one-tenth of the image may be missing. These items are readable, although soiling, staining, tears, markings, or chunks of pages missing may moderately interfere with a collector's ability to read the entire copy. Some collectors consider this the lowest collectible grade because items in lesser condition are usually defaced and/or brittle. Very often, the paper quality of a Fair graded item is low and may have slight brittleness around the edges but not in the central portions of the pages.
Poor (PR) : Most items in this grade have been sufficiently degraded to the point that originals may have extremely severe stains, missing staples, brittleness, mildew, and/or moderate to heavy abrasions to the point that some image inks are indistinct, if not absent. Items in this grade can have small chunks missing and pieces out of pages. They may have been defaced with paints, varnishes, glues, oil, indelible markers or dyes. Images may be torn the entire length of the item, but both halves must be present with only some chunks of it missing. Value depends on extent of defects, but would average about one-third of a Good graded item.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR VALUATION
It's important to remember that the condition is just one contributing factor to the overall value of a paper ephemera item. There are others:
- Rarity is how unusual or how easily replaced the item might be. Rarity increases value directly in proportion to the scarcity of the item.
- Singularity is whether more than one original is currently available or on hand by Period Paper or other marketplace seller.
- Contribution addresses how the item fits into a collection. For example, a group of 5 unique items that are part of series may be worth significantly more as a collection than the sum of the individual items being sold.
- Sentiment to the buyer or to Period Paper is that intangible quality that links one to the item. Sentiment is rarely an issue for paper ephemera speculators, only collectors.
- Marketability looks at the potential buyers available for a particular paper ephemera item. The internet and eBay auctions have changed many of the rules that dictate our marketplace. In some ways, these new sales channels have decreased the marketability because so many new sellers are now finding their way into the market. On the other hand, for the more obscure items, these new channels now bring more buyers to the table per item which may increase the values.