Have you been considering grading your toys in 2023? For many collectors, services like the CGA (Collectible Grading Authority), the parent company of the AFA (Action Figure Authority), and the CAS (Collector’s Archive Services) have provided an essential service. Beyond helping to preserve the conditions of vintage toys, these companies have standardized the metrics for mint toys. With an official grade, toys gain great value to both the owners and potential buyers.
However, sending your toy off to be graded should not be a simple decision. Beyond considering the condition of your toys, you also should consider the state of the companies that provide these services. Since these services first appeared on the scene, they have undergone several changes. The price and risk of sending your toys off for a grade have also changed.
So, is it worthwhile to send your toys to a grading service like the CGA or the CAS in 2023? Let us consider what these services provide, and the risks involved.
Which toys should I send to a grading service?
First and foremost, you should look over your toys to determine whether it is worth the time and the money to get them graded. Not every toy will receive a significant boost in value with a grade from the AFA/CGA or the CAS. For instance, a toy from 2020 would not provide enough of a boost to offset the money that you pay for the grade. Even toys from the early 2000s do not receive a significant boost in value from a grade. Instead, owners of newer toys should consider simply investing in a protective acrylic case to preserve their toys from the elements.
Moreover, these services reserve the right to reject toys from receiving a grade. If you ever opened the packaging for your toy, you should not send it in. They will be able to spot if the package had been retaped or tampered with. However, not all toys came in a box or on a cardback. For instance, many mail-away exclusive toys arrived in a simple bag. Thus, there is the option for loose toys like these to be sent in.
Finally, you should carefully consider the condition of your toy in general. While some think that any grade would provide a boost in value, that is not necessarily the case. A yellowed window or scuffed toy will significantly reduce the grade that you will receive. So, carefully examine your toys and keep in mind that you want to receive an 85 or higher from the AFA/CGA or CAS.
The Action Figure Authority (AFA)
For decades, collectors have turned to the Action Figure Authority to grade their vintage toys like Transformers and G.I. Joes. However, the organization has changed over the years. Notably, the AFA’s website has changed since Diamond Comics acquired the Collector’s Grading Authority (CGA) in 2021. During this acquisition, it became evident that something was occurring at the company since the website had many loading issues. Thus, it was no surprise when the CGA launched a new site recently. Notably, this site no longer separates the once-separate subsets into separate sites. Toys, video games, and other collectibles all receive service through the CGA’s new united site.
Along with the changes in the structure of the AFA’s website, services that they once offered have been suspended or completely discontinued. The company has discontinued both the economy and express tiers as of writing this article in November 2022. Thus, the lowest price that collectors can expect to pay for service is $45 for a modern grading scale and $90 for vintage products.
Still, the CGA remains one of the most trusted sources of grades amongst collectors. Along with being the most prevalent source of grades, many collectors trust their assessments more than any other company. So, it is no surprise that AFA-graded toys sell at an excellent price.
Should I get my toys graded at the CGA/AFA in 2023?
Unfortunately, between the acquisition and recent events in the last few years, the CGA/AFA has become less reliable. Several of their services have been discontinued and show no signs of starting up again. For instance, the company is no longer granting new memberships that once provided premium access to the company’s resources.
Moreover, collectors who send products to the CGA should expect to wait months for their products to return to them. Even their own website’s FAQ admits that they have current delays on their side.
They also do not offer the option to drop off toys directly at their offices. Thus, those who want to submit their toys for grading run the risk of damage during shipment. If you decide to have your toy graded through the AFA, ensure that your projects are properly packaged so that they will not receive incidental damage during shipping. So, owners with pristine, vintage toys from the late 20th century should consider the risks before sending in their valuable toys.
Overall, we cannot currently suggest sending your toys to the CGA/AFA. This organization currently has issues that hopefully will be resolved in the years to come.
The Collector’s Archives Services (CAS)
More than one group has provided grading services to the Northern American area in the last few decades. The second notable group is the Collector’s Archives Services, or CAS, which also dedicated itself to evaluating the mint quality of vintage toys. So, they also provide grades that state the quality of the toys, providing value to both collectors and buyers. They also encased the graded toys in acrylic cases that help to maintain the toy’s condition.
With a Board of Advisors filled with toy experts, the CAS aims to accurately determine the mint condition of toys that enter their offices. The CAS has stated on its website that they also provide unbiased grades, with a system that masks the identity of the owner of the toys.
Collectors who submit their toys to the CAS for grading should expect to wait at least 180 days to receive their products back. With more complex grading requirements, such as custom and some loose items, the wait may extend up to 240 days.
They also provide memberships to those who enjoy their services. So, collectors who have large collections that they want archived and graded can choose between their two clubs. With an annual subscription, these members may receive perks like 10% off their submissions or a free 7-day express turnaround.
Should I get my toys graded at the CAS?
While the CAS offers services that are easily comparable to the AFA/CGA, there are some variables that collectors should consider before sending in their toys. Many collectors feel like their receive lower grades from the CAS than they do from the CGA. Even with the CAS dedicating themselves to fair evaluations, this perception can lower the value of your graded collectible. So, if one desires the highest possible value for their graded toys, the CAS might not be the right decision.
Moreover, most toys that enter the CAS take months to return to their owners. So, those who want to quickly cash in on their vintage toys should keep this in mind. They also should carefully pack their toys before shipping them to the CAS for grading. While their toys may be in factory-grade condition before shipping, damage caused by shipping will lower the grade.
Overall, the CAS is a value option to send in vintage toys for grading services.
Should I send my toys to the CGA/AFA or CAS for grading in 2023?
No matter which toys grading service you decide to use, there are aspects that you should keep in mind. Depending on how much you spend, you will have to wait on either service to receive your toys back. So, if you want to cash in on the value of your toys quickly, neither service is a good choice. However, if you are willing to wait, either is a valid option.
If you have a large collection that you seek to have graded, you may wish to consider the CAS due to their current membership sign-ups. However, the CGA may one day reopen its membership services. Only time will tell.
While the AFA has gone through several changes in the last few years, it still is one of the most used grading services in the United States. However, the CAS also provides valid services.
Carefully consider which toys you send in for grading
While you may think that a professional grade from the CAS, AFA/CGA, or another service would instantly improve the value of your toys, often that is not the case. Any collector who seriously considers sending in toys for grading needs to understand the actual value of the service. Overall, the only toys that see a significant boost in value receive a score of 85 or higher. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find the ideal toy that will earn this grade.
To get an excellent score, the toy needs to be in pristine condition. Not only does it need to be mint in box, but it also needs to be as close to factory condition as possible. Even time spent on store shelves could cause damage that ruins the eventual score. Every moment that the toy was out in the open, exposed to the elements, or in transit opens up the chance for scratches and damage. Thus, most mint-in-box toys fail to meet the grade to make the effort, money, and time worth it.
Furthermore, most loose toys, even in excellent condition, do not receive a significant boost in value. Many collectors understand the difficulties and risks of loose toys, so they do not command a high price.
Grading services look at the conditions of three parts o the toy: the card or box, the blister or window, and the toy itself. To fully understand what it takes to get a grade over 85, we encourage you to read over our guide here.
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