Introduction to Pulp Magazine Grading by Timothy Ray Dill
The pulps derive their name from the fact that they were produced on cheap pulp paper. This paper had untrimmed edges on the early pulps. The paper was definitely not meant to withstand the years. It flakes and is brittle. Each time a pulp magazine is read, more tiny bits of these paper fragments flake away and shorten the life of the magazine. As with any antique or collectible item, the condition of the pulp magazine is very important when deciding the price. Unfortunately, the grading of the condition can be somewhat subjective. Some dealers list their definitions of pulp grades in their catalogues. Others just rely on a "standard" definition. Below is a set of standard conditions for pulps. Once again these definitions may vary from dealer to dealer.
Mint (M) - Perfect condition. Perfect binding and no printing errors. Paper is still white. There are probably no truly mint copies of pulp magazines.
Near Mint (NM) - Almost perfect condition. Some small defects such as flaking and yellowed pages. There are few truly near mint copies of early pulp magazines.
Very Fine (VF) - Excellent condition. No tape repairs in the issue. The cover is only slightly creased at the edges, etc. Some yellowing of pages. Pulps can be found in very fine condition.
Fine (FN) - Not quite very fine. Some tape is acceptable. Yellowed pages. Overall in quite nice condition. Many pulps can be found in fine condition.
Very Good (VG) - A copy that shows some signs of wear. Ragged edges, possible notations inside the magazine, some creases.
Good (G) - An average copy that shows considerable wear and usage. Spine may be somewhat detached or loose. Tape and notations. Cover creases. Possibly a small cover piece missing.
Fair (F)- Covers repaired or in need of repair. Loose pages. Very ragged edges. Loose binding. Cover chunks missing. Readable but abused.
Poor (P) - Sometimes called reading copy. It can be read, but is in a very abused condition. The covers are usually missing.
Many dealers will list a pulp as G-VG or FN-VF. As stated before, grading is subjective. Some dealers record all of the defects with pulp and list them with the condition and price. These meticulous dealers are a prized lot. Some of their abbreviations are listed below. Variations of these abbreviations will also be found from dealer to dealer.
- CpM - Cover piece missing
- TC - Torn cover
- YP - Yellowed pages
- LP - Loose pages
- SpM - Spine missing
- SmC - Small crease
- Tp - Tape
- WD - Water Damage
The grading and condition of a pulp magazine has a tremendous effect on the value or price. A pulp without a cover may only be worth a quarter of the value of the same issue with a cover. The best way to judge the price of a pulp is by comparison. The new pulp collector should search for as many dealers as possible and compare their prices. Basically a pulp will be sold for whatever the market will bear. Dealers must pay for overhead and the cost of the capital that they have tied up in inventory. They must also earn a profit to stay in business. Since the field is relatively small, the variation from dealer to dealer can be measured fairly easily. This doesn't mean that the same dealer will always give you the best price. It is fairly easy to spot which dealer is the highest on the average. As with all businesses, you pay for service. Chances are that a dealer who continuously updates an inventory on the internet will charge more on the average than a dealer who hasn't purchased the computer equipment necessary to offer this service. Most of the people who deal in pulps are reputable; however there is always a few dealers who charge outrageous prices to unsuspecting collectors. The best advise is to find a handful of different dealers and compare overall prices before purchasing any items.
The words facsimile or Xerox are terms sometimes applied to pulps. They both mean that the item for sale is either a partial or total photographic copy of the original pulp. Many collectors are happy to purchase faxes especially if they are of a rare pulp. Facsimiles should always cost less than the actual pulp. Look at these prices carefully. The creator of the facsimile may or may not have the copyright approval for the reproduction. Always look in the small print in a catalogue to determine if photocopies are being sold.