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Who Watches the Watchmen

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comicwiz

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Most self-appointed grading consists of consumer recognition of trusted third-party attestors.

The trust is implied, but not backed by any credentialed certification or impartiality, and is lacking protocols to address the central question concerning "who verifies the verifier?"

The original intent of graders was to safeguard protocols from a vulnerability previously thought to be impossible to address in peer-to-peer trading without some third-party grader acting as a verification checkpoint.

What has happened instead is the confluence of enterprising pursuits which have used every available analog and digital resource to subvert the models of authentication, pricing systems, and exposed their weaknesses to a degree where it has left outdated methods of safeguarding collectors very vulnerable.

Now, more than ever, we need to be aware of what this looks like in our everyday collecting pursuits, in order to circumnavigate the various methods of deception that have been used to resemble previously known and recongized systems of trust.

Those that continue to stick their heads in the sand, ignore, or feel that graders will continue to give them the best chance of protection in this ever changing collecting and trading landscape will eventually find out for themselves they have succumbed to the very spoon-feeding that gave graders the foothold in the market they were able to achieve.

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What does certification mean?

Certification has various meanings, but in the context of collectibles being "certified", it ought to represent an official document (soft/digital or hardcopy) that attests the item is at the very least genuine. In the case of third-party grading, this is a necessary function to arrive at the subjective opinion of assigning a grade. 

Certification however does imply something very important in order for the attestation being made. 

In the context of "appraising" an item, the two-step process is similar because it does require the attestor to authenticate the item is genuine. From this, they are able to arrive at a determination of condition and henceforth it's value - this is conditional to it being real, and based on it's state of preservation at the time it is being inspected.

The most critical part of something being certified is that it should have the attestors name signing the document. Without this, it is not a certified opinion.

Edited by comicwiz
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Not to derail your journal - Is the issue really the certification process or maintaining a secure chain of custody?

What has been revealed is that the existing authentication methods have failed resulting in fraudulent behavior.

The existing certification methods mainly relied on physical criteria such as the book and the information on the label. Of course the information on the label is a subset of the digital record found in the Certification database that we can access using things like the Verification web tool. My point is that they are currently utilizing a very basic two factor authentication method akin to just a username and a password.

Both of the authentication criteria (the book and the label) are housed in the outer well; whether it leaves a noticeable trace or not, at least one method has been presented that compromises the integrity of the outer well using commonly available materials.

This permits multiple fraudulent activities that we've already witnessed & documented since the inception of the new case and the rollout of the Custom Label programs:

  • Label swapping
  • Custom Label abuse (specifically with Restored/Conserved books getting Universal labels)
  • Inner Well/Book swapping (our current scandal)

How do they increase the security in the chain of custody (which in turn increase the value of the certification and the brand name)? By adding another authentication factor that is not part of the outer well, label/Certification or book.

Same thing that Financial services companies deployed: they added a chip to the cards. 

Same thing that most Banking apps deployed: they added authentication thru a text message

Same thing that Gaming platforms deployed: they added authentication thru a token or phone app

Same thing that the multi-billion annual Italian Parmesan cheese industry is using to avoid counterfeiting; they added authentication thru a microchip https://wired.me/technology/parmesan-cheese-microchip/

I'll quit rambling now before the board software loses my post.

-bc

 

 

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I like that last part "attestors name signing the document". Not at all the same as a corporate employee watching the clock count down.  A personal reputation at stake...

And if we're referring to swap-gate, did an "attestor" (grader) even see those books? Probably not.

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I feel that The CGC Rule is deserving of some analysis. Under section C. of the CGC v. Terrazas Complaint (pg 13) CGC is trying to establish the history of the grader they hired "around June of 2022." He was, according to the document, a collector. He also, according to the document, handled "high-value" comics. 

I met Steve Borock in 2000, in a shop in Toronto, just before CGC opened it's doors. It's been 24 years that I've watched CGC evolve into the company it has become. 

Just last week, Steve Borock was interviewed by Swagglehaus, and the full length video was posted on YouTube. In it, he talks about the early days when CGC operated, and how it was important for them to prove the integrity of CGC - namely, that Borock and all future employees would not be allowed to commercially buy and sell comic books. It says so in this in Jan 3rd, 2005 article right on CGC's website. I've posted a screenshot of an excerpt, highighted in blue for posterity at the end of this post.

I urge everyone who has been following this journal to go back and reread The CGC Rules as they've been stated in the CGC v. Terrazas Complaint.

If CGC were trying to demonstrate that the grader went against policy, why wouldn't they just say no employee should be allowed to commercially buy/sell comic books? No 4 per year, no 20 subs per year. Nothing!

In my opinion, the statement of "allowing" employees to partake in selling, with 20 submissions added on top, is a concession that is likely to have been put in place the moment they realized they couldn't keep this matter private any longer, and filed this motion and lawsuit.

If "someone spilled the beans" and that caused this lawsuit to get filed, then it's likely this "allowance" to sell 4 times a year, and submit 20, would have also been called under an intense spotlight and magnification of scrutiny.

Thus the "allowance" is born.

It's a very telling part of how the grading cultures have become fast and loose with process and protocol, particularly when the occasion requires it.

To reiterate, prior to this lawsuit, the CGC policy was that no employees would be allowed to commercially buy and sell comics books. We have reference to this in the article I linked above, as well as the screenshot that follows.  

According to The CGC Rule, they can now do it up to 4 times and submit 20 books every year.

CGC-not-selling.png

Edited by comicwiz
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To summarize, CGC went from NOT allowing employees to commercially buy and sell comic books, to recently stating under "The CGC Rule" (Under section C. of the CGC v. Terrazas Complaint), employees can buy/sell up to 4 times a year, and are allowed 20 submissions per year (at no charge).

"Employees may deal with an auction house, a collectibles dealer, or online marketplace like eBay provided they are using an anonymized ID/handle that they have disclosed to CGC."

CGC went from wanting to prove their integrity by removing the ability for employees to engage in buying/selling, and grading, to allowing it, with the added proviso that they need to use an anonymous ID/handle. 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Edited by comicwiz
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When I read over it. I did seee the selling/grading  part , but doesn't it reference this is supposed to be for their "private collection " (i.e. not commercial) and that these submissions and requests need to be filed with HR?

To me this has probably been part of their hiring package all along ,  but with all of the paperwork comes a Non Disclosure and they didn't want all of us to know what benefits come as an employee. 

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On 2/1/2024 at 7:02 PM, onlyweaknesskryptonite said:

I did seee the selling/grading  part , but doesn't it reference this is supposed to be for their "private collection " (i.e. not commercial) and that these submissions and requests need to be filed with HR?

To me this has probably been part of their hiring package all along , 

Yes, part of CGC's staff terms, business ethics since 1999:

425491217_699612652317130_9065060612010018999_n.thumb.jpg.64d9f7a79a8164c47aed3001d271d475.jpg

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Thanks to Bob Beerbohm for his post from earlier today on FB showing the original CBG article from 1999, adding further proof that CGC employees were not to allowed to buy/sell comics. "The CGC Rule" is revisionist b.s., attempting to entrench an allowance that was never part of the original terms of employment. Under this "new" rule, they are allowed to sell 4 times a year, and get 20 comics graded.

Screenshot_20240203-1344302.thumb.png.b01ea28ee5995868c3960c55001538ae.png

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Imagine having 'CGC grader' on your résumé right now....

Can't help but wonder why people with zero interest in comics (as CGC supposedly used to insist on) would want to be employed as comic book graders? How are they even qualified to work in such a capacity?

 

Edited by Steven Valdez
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The description used on the first page of the declaration is incorrect. I've included a screenshot, and highlighted the assertion in question.

In order for CGC to be providing a service that even remotely resembles "certification", it requires a body of oversight for consumers to report deficiencies, transgressions and seek redress in situations where consumers are impacted. Taking the problem to CGC doesn't count, the oversight needs to be an independent body.

The second tenet is that the attestor has to sign his/her name to what they are certifying. Without this, it cannot be a certified opinion. This step also makes it possible for the oversight to be able to address matters of accountability, and this is where oversight needing to be independent becomes crucial.

Just because consumers are taking CGC's word for what they are stating they do does not make it accurate or correct, both caveat emptor and venditor would apply in this instance.

certification.png.39f5e4c9f1001a672c83310520bcf1be.png

Edited by comicwiz
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Here is an example of CGC shifting culpability almost entirely on the alleged perps. Under "Nature of Action", no. 3, we have the following claim:
 
"..and in many cases, submitting them to CGC to be purportedly “re-holdered” in a CGC-branded holder."
 
What the perpetrators allegedly did is send the tampered books back to CGC, it was CGC's job to review those "reholders/mechanical errors" to determine the book inside aligned with the grade assessed on the CGC label.
 
The absolute success achieved gave an undeserved legitimacy to the scheme, because the alleged scammer realized seasoned buyers of these "tampered" books might want to do a look-up of the cert number if they saw something that was off with the book.
 
In the second screenshot I've provided below, you can see how a "donor" book for the swap - a qualified (green label) Hulk 181 - was photographed by CGC, for CGC's certification look-up.
 
In the third screenshot, we see an update to the certification look-up - this is after the swap - it was sent back in, and CGC not only reholdered it, but photographed it again, and consolidated the swap scheme by using the photo of the qualified book as the universal (see final screenshot).
 
Negligence does play a role in assessing fault, and while it could prove to be difficult to demonstrate intent, it's factually erroneous to not see CGC enabling this scheme to have succeeded for as long as it did, with as many books as the alleged perpetrators passed through. 
 
What this example reveals is one of the methods of deception that has been used to resemble previously known and recongized systems of trust.
 
reholder-uncircled.png.30a038b8c29c2b967d9b9cc87fac8209.png
Green-85-Verification.png.a1765b459396eac3b8faf944decae5f6.png
 
Blue-90-Verify.png.537b49a14ba65d3b6523a98cfd4e0c70.png
 
Blue-85-front-comparison.jpg.472b471cfd6d6f23f712e85ff4502df1.jpg
Edited by comicwiz
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Chronology of CGC employees not being allowed to commercially buy and sell comic books

CBG article (Feb 12, 1999)
"CGC employees will not be permitted to engage in the commercial buying or selling of comics books. In this way, CGC remains completely impartial, having no interest other than a commitement to serving clients." 

Screenshot_20240203-1344302.thumb.png.b0

Posted Jan 3rd, 2005
Excerpt from CGC Celebrates Five Years of Graded Comics (Posted on 1/3/2005)

"To further prove the integrity of CGC, Borock and all future employees would not be allowed to commercially buy and sell comic books. Borock took this one step further, so that no one could question his intentions: he sold his entire comic collection and instead began to collect comic book art."

Jan 27th, 2024 
Excerpt from A Life in The Comic Hobby with Steve Borock CGC & CBCS Founder 
Steve Borock: "they told me I can pick my own team and set the ethics, because I really believed this has to be super-ethical, right, where I set it up, we can't buy and sell CGC books, we can still collect, we're collectors, we didn't want to turn people off, but I get, uh, I get an email from one of the top people of the Certified Collectibles Group and they said they wanted to have lunch. So I meet with the three of them, and they were like, we're worried about this guy Mark Haspel, and I'm like why, I mean, I think he's going to be the best. And they were like, there were some people complaining, and, I said their name, I said it has to be these people, and they said, oh yeah, how did you know, and I said, it's because they don't like him, they can't buy him off." 

Footnote: those three guys were very prescient - here's why:

Sept 2, 2021
Wata Co-Founder Accused of Selling The Games He Graded Himself
"A report has accused the company's co-founder, Mark Haspel, of selling games appraised by his own company on his personal eBay account. If these reports are accurate, this is a serious breach of Wata's own policies."

Not sure how up to date the Meet The Graders page is, but he's listed as a consultant on CGC's website:

Jan 30th, 2024
"The CGC Rule"
"As a condition of employment, with the exception of four permissable sales transactions per year (the "Employee Transactions"), CGC prohibits employees from commercially dealing in collectibles, including, but not limited to, selling or reselling CGC-graded comic books, online or elsewhere in the marketplace."

"In addition, as a benefit of employment, CGC employees were permitted to submit for authentication and grading a maxium of twenty of their own collectibles per year (the "Employee Submissions"), at no charge.

"Employees may deal with an auction house, a collectible dealer, or online marketplace like eBay provided they are using an anonymized ID/handle that they have disclosed to CGC."
 

Edited by comicwiz
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