If you have a carded figure that has a damaged card, but the figure itself is mint and still sealed, then you can send it in to AFA and they will pull the figure off the card and assign the loose figure a U-grade. U stands for uncirculated and it's supposed to mean that the figure has never been touched by human hands (except for the Kenner factory workers and AFA graders of course - but I'm assuming the AFA guys use gloves). U-graded figures look exactly like your average loose AFA-graded figure, but they have the additional "U" in front of the grade. So, an AFA 90 becomes and AFA U90. Supposedly, this additional letter justifies a significantly higher secondary market price than your standard AFA graded figure.
Originally Posted by LusiferSam
The problem is that a U90 grade is extremely difficult to come by and your average carded figure will only get a U80 or U85. It's the rare gems that get U90 or above. So, of course, that means that many collectors will ONLY accept U90 figures for their collections and I've read reports of guys who literally send in 20-30 vintage carded figures in the hopes of getting just a few U90 grades.
Of course, all of those figures are being pulled off their cards to get this U-grade, thereby reducing the number of vintage MOCs. Making it much more difficult for other collectors to find MOCs for their collection and making it extremely difficult for new collectors jumping into the hobby.
In fact, this has been going on so long that there might be carded figure variations that have been completely obliterated from existence and we would never know it because those figures were pulled off of their cards.
It's become such a widespread problem that there is even a website dedicating to educating collectors on the harmful effects of U-grading on our hobby:
I knew AFA had been causes quite a fury over the opening so many figures. But I guess I hadn't been paying enough attention to read the term 'U-graded.' I understand opening a heavily damaged card. But we'd have to be talking about a heavy damage like a ripped card, or cracked bubble, or extreme water damage. But a less than perfect card? Come on. Any carded figure (unless it's heavily damaged) is going to be worth more than any loose figure of the same type.
I heard of the AFA opening the DT Ben and Vader. I am still dumfounded by that. These are two of the rarest and most valuable figures and AFA basically destroyed them. I know there was one or two VC Jawas opened.
I'm never going to collect carded figures. It just isn't going to happen. I hate the AFA cases, but for carded and loose figures. I want to be able to hold the item. It's not really a loose figure if it's in a case you can't open. The figure isn't holding the weapon or accessory, it's taped to the side. I just find it as a display piece to be unacceptable. And it begs the question what happens if the tape turns yellow or falls off?
AFA claims to be interested in the preservation of the hobby, but when they opened that DT Vader and Ben they simply proved that they are only interested in exploiting the hobby to make money. They could have simply refused to U-grade those figures on the basis that they are so incredibly rare and opening them would do more harm to the hobby than good.
But then again, a big part of the blame goes to the collector who made that request in the first place.
And I agree about the silliness of sealing away loose figures inside acrylic to never be opened again. I have no problems with an acrylic case to store the figure in, but I would like to have the option to open that case and actually handle the figure anytime I wanted to. Otherwise, it just sucks all the enjoyment out of collecting for me. I'm a very tactile person, I have to be able to actually hold the item in my hands to really place any value in it. If it's sealed away for me to do nothing but look at it, then I might as well just download a bunch of high quality JPGs of vintage figures and store them on my computer. Because that would be essentially the same thing.
Thanks for your input. I have been collecting vintage baseball cards mostly the past 5 years and a similar story with how grading has changed the hobby (not for the better). However, there seems to be much shorter supply of carded Star Wars figures than I expected, particularly ANH. ESB and ROTJ does seem to be in greater supply, and I am going to shift my focus on characters I want on these cardbacks given my budget.
Good point about being patient. I had done some searching on previous sales on Ebay, but probably did not do enough research. I just dropped $100 on a Ben Kenobi SW 21-back (non-graded) on Ebay. I may have spent too much for its condition (maybe C-6 or C-7 if I'm lucky), but not seeing that much out there. Oh, well.
I've made quite a few vintage purchases recently. First off I picked up instructions for the Cloud Car, Rebel Commanded Center and Ewok Catapult. These are the final ROTJ and ESB vehicle and playset instructions I needed. Right before I got these I lost a massive lot of instruction that would have netted me everything I needed but the Skiff and Sonic landspeeder instruction.
Next, on a whim I picked up a Ewok Battle Wagon. The thing is basically mint condition, I'm not sure it was every played. It wasn't exactly a killer deal and I generally haven't been interested in EU items. So it was just a whim.
Finally I've gotten a couple of the Micro Collection worlds. The big instruction lot that I lost had instructions for the Bespin World set. Now I've always felt that we've never gotten a great Bespin playset at the 3 3/4" scale. Kenner's Cloud City sucks and Hasbro's Freezing Chamber is just barely passable. The best Bespin playset I've seen was '82 Micro Collection one. Had Kenner not gone down the Micro Collection road we may have gotten a good Bespin playset in '82. I've thought one and off for a number of years about making my own custom 3 3/4" scale playset based on elements from the Micro Collection one. To do that I need a Micro Collection one. So I got picked up Bespin World and for good measure Hoth World.
A couple of recent additions are instructions for the Rebel Laser Cannon, Vehicle Energizer, Sonic Landspeeder and it's blue plastic tuners. I didn't find out about the tuners until after I had bought my Sonic Landspeeder and just assumed I wouldn't be able to find a pair. Now that just leaves the Sandcrawler and Skiff. I've not seen any Skiff instructions for a while now and the last ones I saw were way too high. I missed a good opportunity on the Sandcrawler last week and am still kicking myself about it.
I picked up Blue Snaggletooth. I have wanted one for years. At about $100, it was the most expensive single action figure I have ever purchased. I'm really happy with it. Now, I need three more vintage figures to have all of them (I don't collect Ewoks or Droids). I still need EV-9D9, Pop-up lightsaber R2, and Yak Face.
Interesting, in that Yak Face was my most expensive (almost $70, loose), while I "snagged" Blue Boy for $4 at an Ohio swap meet in the late 1980s (with no gun).
Well I've finished off my effort to get all the instructions. In November I picked up a set of Sandcrawler instructions and last week I got the Tatooine Skiff. I also picked up an insert card for the Dagobah playset about how to straighten the levitation posts and a ton of ESB and ROTJ catalogs. So unless the regular Landspeeder or Dewback came with instruction I can say I've got instruction to very thing I own.
How's the rest of your collection looking Lucifer? I haven't looked for anything in a long time....maybe one of these days I'll dive back in.