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Grading Action Figure Tips

It's important to know what Action figure grading involves and how your figures are graded in order to also know what's involved in action figure pricing on the open market and determine the value of your figures.

Also if you know what graders are looking for you will know what preventative measures to take to ensure yours keep their value.

However, there are many important factors that contribute to a figure's grade and/or value, including:

  • The figure's condition
  • Is it on its original backing card?
  • Is it loose?
  • Does it have its original accessories
  • Are there any dents, scratches or marks etc?

One of the most important of these factors in determining an action figure's grade, or value, is the condition of the backing card. This is because most collectors are looking for MOC (Mint On Card) figures because a figure that is MOC is presumed to be in a Mint or Near Mint condition itself, but its value could decrease quite considerably if the card is damaged and in poor condition, unless it's highly sought after, such as:

  • Mego figures
  • Early Kenner figures
  • Rare and obscure figures that have gained a cult following over the years.

Another important factor in valuing your figures is the supply/demand ratio...

Or in simpler terms, the number of figures available on the market compared to its popularity.

Due to the complexity of trying to grade and value loose figures we will be look at how to grade your carded figures here, but it may be worth bearing in mind that your loose figure will be valued at approx 40% of its MOC value, IF it is in Mint 10 condition.

As I've already said, one of the most significant factors in determining the grade of your figure is the condition of the backing card.

This may seem a little strange if you're a new collector but the theory is that if the backing card is in Mint 10 Condition then the figure inside should be also.

Up until recently the most popular grading system was the Condition Scale or "C=-Scale" which was pretty much universally accepted as the standard.

However, with the increasing popularity of the hobby, several professional grading services have sprung up; one of the most popular of these is the Action Figure Authority (AFA) , who use their own grading system.

This system has now become widely accepted and recognized by collectors, so much so that a figure bearing an AFA grade will often sell for 2-3 times more than the equivalent ungraded figure, and has pretty much replaced the old "C Scale" System.

The biggest drawback with a professional grading service such AFA is the cost, but ultimately it should be considered as an investment because the return and the increased value of a graded figure far outweighs this cost.

Do You Need Professional Grading?

The professional grading service grew out of the frustration and disillusionment of the average collector and the problems facing the hobby due to unscrupulous dealers abusing the C-Scale grading system and intentionally misrepresenting a figures condition and/or value.

Also the hobby was enjoying a surge in popularity but collectors were losing confidence in the secondary market and this was threatening the market and devaluing figures due to the drop in demand.

It was therefore becoming increasing obvious that a new system was required to restore collectors' confidence and stimulate the secondary market with a recognized and internationally accepted grading system, and so numerous professional grading services were started up.

Probably one of the most popular and most widely accepted of these services is the AFA (Action Figure Authority) Grading System.

Once a figure has been given its AFA Grade it is sealed inside a hard acrylic case to preserve its graded condition is preserved, much in the same way as PSA Graded trading cards are.

Whether you get your action figures professionally graded is ultimately your personal choice, however if you plan on selling any of your action figures, particularly any vintage or valuable figures, in the future then you will want to get the best bang for your bucks, so yes you should get them professionally graded.

Also if your collection is an investment, then you should at some stage get them professionally graded.

After all if you had an antique painting wouldn't you get it appraised before auctioning it?

Of course, so the same applies here.


if your collection is just that, then I would suggest that you don't really need to get them professionally graded.

Remember that a professionally graded action figure, that has been graded by a well known and respectable company such as the Action Figure Authority (AFA) will increase its value and keen collectors and/or investors will feel more confident on bidding/buying on it.


A Word of Caution

If you are going to pay to have your action figures' condition and authenticity verified by a professional grading service make sure it is a well known, established and respected company that you use.

As already mentioned Action Figure Authority (AFA) are highly recommended for this service.

Having your action figure/s professionally graded can be expensive so only get those figures that are either vintage figures or valuable figures professionally graded.

If you have a new action figure that you have invested in and wish to ensure it stays in pristine condition then I would also advise it being professionally graded.

If however your action figure has any minor flaws or damage then it is probably not worthwhile getting it graded. It is usually only 85+ AFA Graded Action Figures that command premium prices or that are in demand with collectors and dealers so action figures of a lower grade can generally be bought at a cheaper price anywhere on the net.

What Defects Will Affect My Action Figures Grade?

Your Figure: If carded the actual figure will be considered to be in mint condition unless there is an obvious defect noticeable. If the figure has paint wear, discoloration, fading, broken limbs or other signs of wear this will affect the grade. Any accessories will also be graded in a similar way.

The Blister: The blister or window is the plastic storage section for the figure. Any dents, breaks, creases or discoloration of this will also have an adverse effect on the overall grade of your action figure. Other defects to check for are sticker residue, clouding, cuts and signs of tampering, i.e. its not been unknown of dealers to re-seal shop displayed action figures back into the boxes to re-sell.

Backing Card: Any creases, tears, surface tears, sticker residue, stains, discoloration, ink marks, breaks, broken ink/print or staple/pin holes will affect the grade of your action figure. Most action figure backing cards also have a natural sheen or gloss to them and the quality of this will also affect the overall grade.

Autographed Action Figures

Over the last few years there has been a large increase in the number and variety of action figures available from movies, sports, pop groups/bands, and TV.

This has also resulted in an increased demand to have the action figures autographed by the star or character depicted by the action figure.

But this opens up another large can of worms and you may well wonder if:

  • It increase the value of your figure?
  • Does the autograph need to be verified?
  • Will it affect the action figures grading if professionally graded?

There are no easy answers to these questions but my recommendations would be to:

i) Have a photo of you with the star getting the action figure signed.

ii) If you get the figure signed at a professionally organized convention you will usually be supplied with a certificate of authenticity. Keep this with your action figure and the photo.

iii) Have the action figure AND the autograph VERIFIED professionally, this may need to be done separately.

My guess is that with this becoming more and more popular the Professional Grading sites will begin to include autograph verification into there service, however this is an area fraught with dangers and hazards.

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