CGC Reflects on the Past 15 Years
As CGC enters its 15th year in the comics industry, we sit down with Primary Grader Paul Litch to discuss how CGC got started and evolved to where we are today.
Tell us about what CGC was like when you started 15 years ago.
We started out in a small room in the hallway of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). We wouldn’t open for seven months, but during those early days I could tell we would either be a glorious failure (there were many who expected this outcome) or more likely a spectacular success that would cement CGC as a
necessity in the comic book collecting world.
What shows did CGC attend when it first started?
Early on we did the Church shows that Michael Carbanero put on in NYC. They were really fun shows in the basement of this beautiful church. Dave Cockrum used to show up as a regular guest. They were one-day shows. We took in submissions and answered questions. They were a blast.
What are some of the important developments along the way that helped propel the company forward?
Based on collector feedback, we realized that how we were treating signatures wasn't ideal — by giving them Qualified grades. We wanted a way that we could distinguish the signature on the CGC label without there being any question of its authenticity. We were all discussing the problem, and we went back and forth with different ideas (one was having artists sign our wells and selling those as an add-on). By the next day, an outline for Signature Series was born. Shortly thereafter, we chose Peter Dixon of Paradise Comics, Toronto, to test out the new program. Over the years we have modified Signature Series to
strengthen the integrity of the program. Now it is unsurpassed in signature authentication and market acceptance.
Is there a moment you remember when you really felt the company start to take off?
A few of them. First, back when there were only three graders, I vividly remember Mark Haspel walking into the grading room after getting something out of our safe and saying in disbelief, "There are like 4,000 books in there. We are so screwed." Also when we started getting noticed by pop culture. Futurama ran a "CGC parody cover" for issue #8. We were on the TV show Numb3rs. The Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. had an episode based on our product. Most recently we've been featured on Comic Book Men and we are in an upcoming episode of Pawn Stars. But, if you look strictly at when our submissions skyrocketed, that'd be around the end of 2008 / early 2009, and we've been growing steadily ever since.
When was the first time that CGC got to work with Stan Lee?
We first worked with him directly with the Hero Initiative at San Diego Comic-Con. We had a private signing / meet and greet on the Comic Book Resources (CBR) yacht anchored at the dock behind the Marriott. I was a chaperone and was told to wait for Stan by the elevators. I was very nervous and I wasn't sure
if he was coming out of the elevators or we were going in. And in that Marriott there are two sets of elevators, far apart from each other, and I wasn't sure which set I was meeting him at. When I heard him say from behind me, "Where is this Paul Litch fella I'm supposed to meet?" I got goose bumps. I fumbled around and acted a fool. He asked me if I was OK a few times and if he should chaperone me instead! Everything went off without a hitch and he later signed at our booth at that show.
What are some other key accomplishments?
A major moment for us was our purchase of the world-renowned Classics Incorporated, now CGC’s sister company, Classic Collectible Services (CCS). The addition allowed us to give hobbyists a streamlined service for pressing and restoration of their books. CCS and CGC continued to branch out into comic book
magazines, regular magazines, photos and lobby cards (and we have new services to be offered soon!).
Looking back, we never would have believed (although we hoped!) that every certified comic to sell for over six (or seven!) figures would be CGC certified! Like the Action Comics #1 graded 9.0 that sold for $3.2 million, or the Amazing Fantasy #15 graded 9.6 that would sell for $1.1 million.
After all those years, what’s it like for you to come to work at CGC these days?
I remember when we moved into our first building there were only six of us. Now, I look around at over 60 people that show up each day to do their best for our hobby. It is a truly humbling feeling to see such a dedicated staff smile, laugh and work together tirelessly to bring CGC to even higher heights. All
from a seed planted 15 years ago.