Basic Grading Questions
What are the benefits of buying a graded figure?
You gain the confidence that what you are buying has been properly graded by a professional. You can have the peace of mind that a graded figure is tamper free and know what you are getting. With AFA /VGA /DCA / CDA there are no surprises!
What are the benefits of selling a graded figure?
Graded figures will normally sell for much higher prices than un-graded figures. You will be able to sell graded figures faster and easier through the mail and internet.
Is grading an item necessary?
Yes! Many people tamper with and counterfeit action figures. A lot of the expensive figures today have factory paint variations and many games have aftermarket modification. A professional counterfeiter can easily remove, repaint and reseal a figure without you knowing. With the advancement of computer technology, they can even produce reproduction pieces and similar counterfeit items. To the average collector it is impossible to identify these fakes.
Can AFA/ VGA determine the value of my figures or video games?
No. We are only issuing an opinion on the condition of your figure. The actual market will determine the value of your figure. We recommend visiting eBay to research the market value of your figures and games.
How does an autograph affect the grade?
Because we can rarely verify authenticity, an autograph is considered a flaw or can be graded under our Qualified scale.
How do the subgrades affect an item's overall grade?
The overall grade is not really an average of the subgrades. In actuality, the subgrades point to where the greatest flaws are, i.e. what has gone into determining the overall grade. Sub-grades are used to better illustrate the overall grade an item receives. They are not averaged to determine the main grade. They are meant to further inform the buyer about the weakest and strongest points of the overall grade. (For example, an AFA 80 item can have sub-grades of C80, B85, F85 showing the card as the weakest point which caused the overall grade to be an 80. An AFA 85 can have the exact same sub-grades, but in this particular case, the card flaws which justify the 80 card grade do not justify an overall grade of 80. They do however show a buyer that the card is lower than average for an 85 and is the weakest of the 3 aspects of the item.
Do price stickers lower the grade of an item?
Price stickers are generally not considered major flaws, but only become a factor if curling, tearing, staining, picking, etc. of the sticker has occurred. The location of the sticker is also a factor, though most are placed in an area such as a corner that does not detract from the overall appearance of the card. Basically, the condition of the sticker factors into the card subgrade, and from there into the overall grade of the piece.
What is over-grading?
When a figure or game is given a higher grade than it deserves either purposely or accidentally by overlooking certain flaws in a figure to misrepresent its true condition. E.g. a seller assigns a mint grade to a figure when in actuality it is in excellent condition. Over-grading occurs because: sellers are uneducated to grade definitions, flaws are missed or purposely overlooked, or to take advantage of the unsuspecting collector.
What we grade
Do you grade prototypes?
AFA does grade most prototypes and first shots, but they must go through our third party authentication provided by
Do you grade figures that are not on your list?
We grade almost all action figures. Most standard-size figures fall under our Modern and Vintage Categories depending on whether they were produced before or after 2000. Other non-standard-size figures fall under our Custom Categories.
Do you grade other toys?
Currently we grade virtually all packaged toys and select loose action figures. We also grade diecast vehicles under our division Diecast Grader and collectible dolls under our division Doll Grader.
Do you grade loose figures?
We grade loose figures from select toy lines. Please click here to view information on grading loose action figures. For figures graded in the baggie, the baggie condition is taken into account for the grade.
Do you grade figures in mail away boxes?
Yes, we do. We remove the figures from the mailer boxes and if the box is still factory sealed the figure would receive an “Uncirculated” designation. For the figure to have “Mail Away” on the grade label, you would have to have it graded and cased with the mailer box. You could have items of this type graded under our Custom Tier.
Do you grade packaged toys that are not sealed?
AFA will grade certain items which never came factory sealed, provided the items are in new and unused condition. AFA can also grade boxed items that are no longer factory sealed (i.e. the tape has been broken or come loose) as long as the boxed item has an interior sealed bubble and all the contents (paperwork) are stilled sealed in their bags. The same criteria applies for VGA as well.
Do you grade foreign figures?
Do you grade 12" and 15" dolls?
AFA will grade 12″ and 15″ dolls in their original package. The category you should submit under depends on when it was produced, and what toy line it is from.
What is the submission process?
Our grading process involves a thorough and in-depth evaluation of every item submitted, regardless of the tier selected, item type, age, condition, or value. The highest level of care is taken when handling, grading, and casing each and every item sent to us.
A generalized outline of the steps your item(s) will go through once submitted can be found here.
How do I determine my tier code and cost?
Please refer to CGA’s Complete Pricing & Tier Code Schedule to determine which service tiers apply to your items, as well as the correct tier codes and applicable pricing. The cost of grading depends heavily on the items fair market value, the turnaround time selected, as well as the method of grading selected (loose, boxed, and carded).
How do I figure out which tier my custom item goes under?
Custom pieces should be submitted based on their size (length + width + height). After calculating the sum measurements for all three sides, the proper custom category should be selected (1-6). Your cost is then dependent upon the value of your piece (value thresholds are listed under the tier names on the pricing pages) and the turnaround time you desire (turnarounds also listed under the tier names).
What are your turnaround times?
The turnaround time depends on what type of item you submitted and what tier you chose.
Our Archival and Premium Tiers have estimated turnaround times based on the current delays experienced in house. Please keep in mind that turnaround times are estimated and the grading period does not begin until your payment is processed.
What if I select the wrong tier?
Someone will contact you regarding the necessary changes only if you have under charged yourself more than $20. If you have overcharged yourself, then you will only be charged the correct amount.
How do I determine my item's fair market value?
Please refer to a price guide, eBay sales, or in some cases CGA’s Minimum Declared Value web page for guidelines. Items significantly over or undervalued may be corrected at our discretion and you will be notified of any change.
Which Label style should I choose?
Classic label style- smaller label placed on the inner side or bottom of the case. Mainly preferred by Vintage action figure collectors.
Clear View label style- larger label placed on top of the item and visible from the front. Mainly preferred by video game collectors and Modern action figure collectors.
What is eligible for the Qualified Scale?
Qualified Scale refers to items that show signs of previously being opened or items with autographs on. We are looking for the following criteria:
- AFA/ CDA/ DCA: tampered factory tape (cut, re-glued, double-tapped, etc.). Signs of previously opened boxes.
- VGA : reseals (aftermarket shrink wrap, re-glued cellophane/sticker, etc.). Signs of previously opened games.
CGA is offering the option of inspecting the contents of the item. If the contents are found to be in new and complete condition a Qualified Certificate will be released stating this information and a grade will be assigned under our Qualified Grading Scale. If this option is chosen then the item must be processed accordingly in order to receive a grade. If not, the item will be subject to refusal and the refusal options will apply.
- For ALL items with autographs CGA does not authenticate signatures; however, the item can be considered for grading on the Qualified Scale so the autograph will not be considered a flaw. A Qualified Certificate will be released indicating that the autograph was neither authenticated nor factored into the final grade.
What happens if my item cannot be graded?
Items may be refused for grading due to tampering, restoration, or any other reason which makes the authenticity or original status questionable. When filling out the submission form, please instruct CGA on how to handle your items if refused. At the point of refusal, CGA has provided complete grading services, applicable grading fees will not be refunded regardless of the option chosen.
What is the difference between standard and custom cases?
We consider Standard Size items that we receive in house the most, thus we can manufacture the cases in bulk making it cheaper for our customers. Custom cases are cases for we do not have in stock and are made to order while processing your submission.
A list of commonly submitted items and the categories they fall under can be found here.
What optional upgrades do you offer?
Clean – To have your item(s) gently cleaned to remove dirt, dust, frost, and debris, and when applicable attempt to gently remove sticker residue left behind on packaging, please write $10 (the cost for cleaning one item) in the ‘Clean’ column.
Please be aware that we must consider the safety of your item over results. Therefore residue, dirt and debris will not always be removed. We will gently clean each item the best that we can, but results cannot be guaranteed. We strongly recommend cleaning all items prior to sending them in if you desire a more in-depth and extensive cleaning. Please know that the sticker removal is a different service offered only for video games.
Grading Summary Report – A handwritten report that includes a diagram in order to assist you in locating specific flaws. The cost is $20-$25 per item based on size.
UV – To upgrade the acrylic material used to construct the display case for any graded item from standard high quality acrylic with some UV protection to UF-5 (or comparable) archival high quality acrylic with maximum UV protection, please write the cost of the UV-upgrade in the ‘UV’ column. Cost varies greatly based on the size and type of a given item.
Do you offer volume discounts?
We do not offer volume discounts. We offer discounts through our membership program.
What is the GAS tier?
When a figure is rare and/or has an extremely high value , the item will need to be processed through CIB (Collectible Investment Brokerage) for additional research and authentication. Please see the tier selections below for this type of item –
A-GASL-A – Archival Tier (items valued under $10,000; processing time 10-15 business days; includes our UV Upgraded case) $275
A-GASL-1 – Level 1 (items valued under $2,500; processing time 10-15 business days; includes our standard case) $145
A-GASL-2 – Level 2 (items valued under $1000; processing time 10-15 business days; includes our standard case) $95
What if I have multiple items that fall under different tiers?
If you are submitting multiple items under different service tiers, and you would like the items shipped back to you in multiple shipments, then please complete separate submission lists with only items you would like shipped back together on each list.
(Example: if you are submitting standard size collectible items, all under the Standard Tier, then you may include them all on one list, since they will all have the same turnaround time. However, if you are also submitting items under the Premium Tier AND would like for those items to be shipped back before the Standard Tier items, then you will need to complete a separate submission list for the Premium Tier items. If you are submitting items under multiple tiers, but would like to save money on shipping by having all of youritems shipped back together, then you may include items from multiple service tiers on the same submission list. Please note that all items will be subject to the slowest tier. Be sure to calculate return shipping separately for submission lists you want sent back at different times.
Why is the AFA case sealed everywhere except the back?
The acrylic case is sealed on all sides except for a slight opening at the back of the case at the bottom. We do not seal this edge to allow for air circulation inside the case. If we did not allow for this air circulation, the case would be subject to a “Terrarium” effect. In other words, depending on the temperature, the inside of the case could start to sweat. The unsealed edge alleviates this possibility. The acrylic cases are still considered sealed and the contents cannot be tampered with without being broken open.
Are the cases UV-Resistant?
Standard AFA cases are slightly UV-resistant. They will also protect your items by sealing them in hard acrylic to keep them in the same condition as when they were graded. They will not be touched by human hands and the hard acrylic prevents it from sustaining any additional creases, bubble dings, or other damage.
In addition, 99% UV-Resistant acrylic cases are available for extra light protection. You can pay a fee to upgrade your case to the 99% UV Resistant acrylic or you can submit your items under the archival tier, which includes UV-resistant acrylic. For more information on UV-Resistant cases, click here.
What case styles for custom cases do you offer?
‘Boxed Case’ – Our standard box/rectangle case design with a hidden bottom panel that slides in and out to apply or remove your item to the case.
‘Sliding Back Case’ – Similar to our standard box/rectangle case design but with the full backside of the case functioning as the panel that slides up and down to apply or remove your item to the case.
‘AFA Rail Case” – Similar to our standard box/rectangle case design but with internal rails on the inside of the case and the top of the case to accommodate carded figure packaging.
‘Top Flap Case’ – Similar to our standard box/rectangle case design but with one top internal rail for boxed packaging with a carded top as part of the packaging.
‘Side Flap Case’ – Similar to our standard box/rectangle case design but with one side (Left/Right) internal rail for boxed packaging with a carded side as part of the packaging.
Which thickness do I select when ordering a custom case?
Depending on the size or your personal preference, you can pick the thickness of your case to be either 1/8 or 3/16. Our system automatically defaults to 3/16 thickness if you are trying to make a case for larger than normal figures and playsets. Please note that 3/16 thickness will increase the cost of your case.
International Shipping Questions
What happens to packages held by Customs Officials and Brokerage Companies?
In order to have any packages that are being retained by Customs/Brokerage Companies released, our company must agree to pay a fee that is specified by the company that is withholding the package(s). This fee will be passed on to you, our customers in addition to a $35 fee from AFA. This fee will be charged in full once your submission is received in our offices.
How do I know that my package is being held by Customs?
Using the tracking or customs number that is assigned to your package, you may check to see if the package(s) have cleared US Customs.
AFA has no affiliation with the US Customs department and cannot control when package(s) are released. Though there is no specified length of time that items must stay within the Customs facilities, we have found that it may take up to 14 business days for the items to arrive once they are released.
How do I know how much return shipping will cost?
Once your submission is ready for shipment, our billing department will reach out to you to give you some shipping quotes. Once you select your shipping method, we will send you an invoice for the shipping costs.
Third Party Reference for eBay and PayPal Disputes
Can AFA help me with an eBay or Paypal Dispute?
AFA offers Official Refusal Letters as a third party source to assist buyers in eBay and Paypal disputes.
What are the steps in purchasing an Official Refusal Letter?
The item will be reviewed by the Graders with all reasons for refusals noted. This information will be provided on AFA letterhead and signed by the proper authorities. Once this is complete, the letter and item will then be shipped back to you.
How long does this process take?
Because we understand that you will need this information back within a timely fashion, the process will only take 1-2 business days.
How much does this service cost?
The price for all items submitted under this service is $25.00 plus return shipping and insurance.
Do I need to fill out a submission packet for this service?
Yes, as we keep track of all items submitted by our customers.