Action Figure Grading – Can You Really Trust It?

For several years, AFA Grading has been trusted by collectors. It has been the go-to place to send your action figures away to to have them professionally graded. It gives collectors a piece of mind when they are purchasing extremely rare figures, but does it?

Fellow collector, Andy Peek, wrote in about his recent experience with Action Figure Authority. He’s been using their service for years, getting various rare items in his collection graded and protected in the acrylic plastic cases. Several years ago Andy purchased a collection of Futurama prototype figures of which he wanted to get graded and find out if they were the real deal of fake. So he sent his figures away to be graded.

He was expecting the figure to get checked out by the team at Action Figure Authority, given a grade, encased in a protective acrylic plastic case, and sent back to him. Well the figures were checked out by their team and sent back to him, but the figures weren’t encased in the protective case with the AFA sticker.

Andy contacted AFA to see if there is anything that they could do for him. They told him that some collectibles can’t be encased in the protective plastic case because of the delicate nature of figures such as ceramics or hardcopies. AFA also said that their service that is reserved for prototypes, like what Andy submit, isn’t meant to be proof to the potential buyer, but more of a piece of mind for the person who submit the item.

With a “are you serious” look on his face, Andy reached out to his friend that’s a plastics engineer for over 40 years. He has advised that the case should have been made without the figure inside, the figure then pleased in the case and the back sealed on, but only on three sides. The back of the case could then be attached with very little heat so the figure wouldn’t be damaged at all. If there was still concern about the figure becoming damaged with this process, they could have put an extra piece of plastic between the figure and the back of the case.

Based on his current experience with Bender, he could send these other figures away and receive them back loose with a COA and grade. Say his figures received grades of 85, 90, and 60. With the figures sent back loose to him, there is no way that him or any other casual collector could ever tell what COA belongs to what figure. This opens the possibility of claiming the figure with the 60 grade is actually the one with a 90 and getting much more money on the secondary market. After selling the figure with the 60 grade, he could potentially send the figure that received the 90 grade back to AFA and get another COA.

With Action Figure Authority not encasing delicate prototypes, collectors can easily be victims of counterfeit items on the secondary market. Have you bought a “AFA graded” prototype on eBay? It just may not be what you think it is.

This is how Andy received his Bender figure back, loose with a COA.

By Nick Lenihan

Nick is toy fan, geek, and action figure collector. When not geeking out about action figures and keeping up with the latest Toy News, he likes to pretend to play guitar. He's just another one of those pop culture fanatics that likes to share his passion with the world.

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