Understanding the AFA/CGA Temporary Suspension of Loose Toy Grading

Many toy collectors love to see their favorite toys receive a high grade from services like the Action Figure Authority (AFA). While these grades have helped sellers and collectors easily tier the mint condition of packaged figures, not every vintage toy is in a box. Many,  like the original Star Wars figures from the Early Bird Package, were sent in mailers, special packages that ship directly to customers. There is also a slew of mint condition toys that were removed from their packaging for display.

So, loose toys have been a popular subset of the grading scene.  Several collectors prefer to get their mint loose toys graded so that they can be safely secured in a protective case. Meanwhile, buyers enjoy the security of having their toys labeled with all the correct accessories. These graded toys also help collectors avoid reproduction accessories.

Unfortunately, it is not always feasible to send toys to a service to get them graded. At the end of 2022, the Collectible Grading Authority (CGA) sent out a newsletter that informed their customers that they were temporarily not accepting new submissions for loose graded action figures.

Who are the CGA/AFA?

The Collectible Grading Authority is one of the largest professional grading services available in the United States. This company serves collectors through four different subsidiaries: the Action Figure Authority (AFA), the Collectible Doll Authority (CDA), the Die-Cast Authority (DCA), and the Video Game Authority (VGA). However, the CGA itself is part of yet another larger company, Geppi Family Enterprises which also runs Diamond Comics. So, the company has a pedigree in understanding pop culture and collectibles.

Over the years, the AFA has become one of the most trusted sources of graded toys around. Their 100-point scale has provided easy-to-understand the ranking of mint toys. They also follow the industry standards of grading toys based on the condition of the box or card, blister, and the state of the figure itself. Beyond providing easily accessible ratings, the AFA has remained committed to fair and unbiased evaluations by keeping the graders blind to the source. Thus, they focus only on the condition of the toys.

With its pedigree, it is no surprise that the CGA/AFA is one of the most trusted and popular grading services around. Collectors regularly send in their vintage toys to them, often leading to long waits. However, many feel that the wait for an AFA/CGA grade is well worth it.

What type of loose toys would the CGA/AFA grade?

Kenner 1985 Star Wars Anakin Skywalker AFA 85

The ideal toy that should be sent to a professional grading service has been safely secured and maintained over the years. While it is preferable to keep a mint toy in its packaging and close to factory condition, this is not always possible. There are a large array of toys that were specially mailed as promotional products to customers who turned in points. While some mailers came in cardboard boxes, these boxes are far from presentable.

Thus, the best loose toys to send in for grading are those that were never in a package. However, grading companies will accept many other loose figures as long as they are complete with all their accessories. Star Wars and He-Man action figures are some of the most popular brands that receive these grades. However, some collectors will even send in mint-condition bootleg action figures for grading.

Before these toys are sent in for grading, they need to be carefully examined and considered. With a hefty price tag, you should not simply send in any toy to these services. Every chip, scratch, and bend will devalue the figure. Even sloppily applied paint from the factory may knock down the score.

Collectors also need to keep in mind that multiple toy lines have well-known failure points like leg bands and O-rings. It is not uncommon for a He-Man and G.I. Joe action figure to fall apart after it goes through the grading process. So, you should consider both the present condition and the future condition.

You can lose money by grading every action figure

Kenner 1980 Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot CAS 50

As mentioned above, you should choose the toys to send in for grading wisely. The toys that receive an 85 are very rare, let alone those that can achieve a 90 or above. However, these pristine examples are the figures that get attention from collectors. Buyers are then ready to spend significantly more when they spot these graded action figures.

This is not true for just any graded action figure. Some people have treated the grading services as guaranteed investments and directly lost money on the endeavor. You must always keep in mind that these companies charge $50, and perhaps even more in the future, at minimum to grade loose action figures. Some people have sent action figures with significant chipped paint, discoloration, and a litany of other issues. Thus, they return with scores as low as 50.

When graded action figures with low scores sell, they fail to even recoup the costs from the grading process. We have directly sold loose-graded Kenner Star Wars action figures from the 1980s with scores of 70 to 50 only for $51 to $52. The grading process cost them well over $50 since there are shipping charges and other fees that add on $10-20. With around $15 lost from the grading process alone, the collector who sent these toys in made a poor investment.

Even toys that receive high grades can lose money. Many collectors have reported pegs breaking in the cases of their graded figures during shipping or after they receive them back. These failures can cause damage to the toys. Many other environmental or temporal factors will eventually lead to damage and discoloration.

The CGA/AFA has announced that they are temporarily not accepting loose toys for grading

Kenner 1983 Star Wars Klaatu Grey limbs Hong Kong AFA 80

On December 12, 2022, the CGA sent out a newsletter to let its customers know that they are temporarily closing the loose grading toys category. They also announced that they are no longer grading coins, mailers, and products for the CIB Authentication Services. The final postmark date that they accepted any loose figures after the announcement was well over a month ago on December 16, 2022.

The turnaround for these toys had been up to a year or even more. Many dedicated collectors that followed the company were frustrated with these turnarounds. Furthermore, many believed that the company only was accepting loose figures from selected brands, such as Star Wars. So, this announcement came as no surprise to them.

This is not the first time a grading company has suspended its submission services to catch up. The UKG has stopped accepting new submissions of both loose and packaged figures in the past. The Collectors Archive Services (CAS) has also temporarily suspended submissions for selected collectibles in the past. This specifically became a common occurrence during the shutdowns in the last few years.

When will the CGA/AFA accept loose toys again?

Kenner 1979 Boba Fett Mailer Box with large catalog AFA 75

At the moment, the CGA/AFA has set no date as to when the loose graded tier will open up again. They only state that interested collectors should keep an eye on their newsletter. However, many are speculating that the category may be gone for good.

There has precedent, and rather recently, for grading companies deciding to discontinue previous services. For instance, the AFA suspended the Economy price tier a few years ago. To date, it has not been reinstated nor shows any signs of returning.

The price for grading loose toys had increased over the years. It was once $35 and later became $50. The various variables of loose toys make grading them very complex and difficult. A toy can have minor changes in color and country of origin that make it difficult to accurately identify. With the requirement for specialized experts that can take the time to correctly identify these action figures and their accessories.

Not to mention, the AFA and other grading services will fit the loose figures into sometimes custom cases so that the figures and their accessories are both secure and presentable. It is questionable whether they can profit from these specialized cases. Between the time investment and the specialized cases, it is reasonable that the CGA will decide to ultimately step away from loose graded action figures altogether.

The AFA will likely grade loose action figures again

Kenner 1977 Star Wars R2-D2 Droid Factory AFA 80

Despite the difficulties that grading loose figures pose, these toys have been the largest part of the AFA’s business in the past few years. Many collectors have sent in hundreds of loose figures to be graded by the AFA. Even with the tier closed, they look forward to the day to submit even more toys. So, it is highly likely that they will reinstate the program, with some changes.

They had previously partially shut down their loose grading tier, only permitting Star Wars toys to be sent in. Previously, they had accepted toys from lines like Indiana Jones, WWF, and more. As they found their backlog growing, they closed off these submissions. Unlike the economy tier, the AFA did temporarily open these submissions for a short time before limiting their services to Star Wars again.

Moreover, their direct competitor in the United States, CAS, still accepts submissions of loose Star Wars and non-complex toys. Now that the AFA is no longer accepting these action figures, the CAS has become the only company accepting loose toys.

What are my options while the AFA is not accepting loose toys?

Kenner 1983 Star Wars Biker Scout Long Mask CAS 80

Even though the CGA/AFA is currently not accepting new submissions of loose toys, there are still other companies available. Both the Collector Archive Service (CAS) and UK Graders (UKG) may be valid choices. Both of these companies supply the same service to the AFA and dedicate themselves to fair grading.

However, all grading services have a significant turn-around time for loose figures. No matter which company you decide on, you may wind up waiting up to a year to receive your toy back. With no other company in the US accepting loose action figures, except the CAS, their turn-around will likely slow as well.

It is worth considering that months to a year is a long time and that the toy may receive unintentional damage or even fail during that time. Even though these companies will treat your toys with care, shipping companies may not be as gentle. So, if you feel uneasy about either the wait or the possible damage, you should consider not grading your toys.

For collectors who just want to obtain a graded loose figure, they may want to consider buying one from an online auction site. These figures are commonly sold and traded, so it is fully possible to get your hands on the toy of your dreams.

Do you have old and used AFA-graded toys?

If you have a collection of old and used toys, you can turn those toys into cash. There is no reason to let those old toys collect dust. Contact us today to sell your AFA-graded toy collection.

Our professional, friendly, and expert staff have decades of experience as collectible toy buyers. If you are ready to sell your collection today, fill out the form below or call us at 888-946-2895.

About the Author

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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