Reeded Edge's UNIVERSAL Guide to Grading Die Cast Toys
by Rob Lehmann
The art of grading toys is
not an exact science. Trying to apply an objective standard to a subjective
matter is difficult, but necessary. In a collectable marketplace, where
so much emphasis is put on a piece's condition, and where a slight
difference in the condition of an item can mean thousands of dollars,
it is important that we have a uniform set of standards to use for
both buying and selling.
It is also important to note
that toys, were designed to be played with, and most were. The collector
needs to be somewhat forgiving when factoring this into the overall
equation. It is easy for us, in our pursuit of perfection, to get a
bit overly anal about condition. Few children had the foresight to
put their toys away, thinking that someday they may become collectable.
The following grading system
has been instituted for the use with English Die Cast toys, such as
Corgi, Dinky and Matchbox. It is our opinion, however, that this system
can be used for virtually ALL toys.
A brief discussion is needed
about the use of the word "MINT". Mint, in the context of toys, means
literally, how the product left the factory. It is important to stress
that MINT does not always equate to perfect. Matchbox, for instance,
were manufactured on an assembly line. The manufacturing process was
mostly automated. Possibilities for flaws during manufacturing were
not only a possibility, but also a probability. Models that were not
sprayed with paint properly, or had casting flaws were not unusual.
Furthermore, since all of these models ended their production lives
by being dropped into large bins to await packaging, factory nicks
and scrapes are not at all uncommon. So, technically speaking, a model
could be MINT and C-9, because that is a reflection of how that particular
piece left the factory.
- MINT-As it left the factory
with NO playwear.
- NEAR MINT- Virtually "as-made" but
showing some extremely trivial use.
- EXCELLENT- A nice near-MINT
appearance, but with more obvious signs of use.
- VERY GOOD- Still a decent
appearance, but with obvious playwear. A VERY GOOD toy will not require
close examination to see the flaws.
- GOOD- Obvious and somewhat
extensive flaws, although there is no structural damage to the toy.
Usually considered the minimum condition for restorations.
- FAIR- Extensive wear with
structural problems (i.e. detached axles, missing parts)
- POOR- An absolute basket
case that is only usable for parts. POOR toys are usually beyond
restoration, the exception being great rarities.
- RESTORED- Any toy that
has had some aspect of its originality altered. It is possible to
have partially restored or fully restored toys. The most common restoration
is repainting, although replacement parts are also fairly prevalent.
If a part is replaced with another identical ORIGINAL part, and is
done-so in a way that can not be detected, this is NOT considered
- C-10 - Visually PERFECT
with no signs of imperfections.
- C-9.5 - Visually almost
PERFECT with no more than 2 imperfections, neither of which should
be readily apparent, without close examination.
- C-9 - Visually very appealing
with no more than 4 imperfections. At arm's length, a C-9 model should
look virtually PERFECT, but upon closer examination will have some
- C-8.5 - A model with more
obvious flaws, such as larger paint chips. Still, a C-8.5 model should
be visually appealing. Very seldom will a C-8.5 model be MINT, as
most more-obvious flaws, result from playwear, and not manufacturing.
- C-8 - A model with extensive
flaws, but NONE of which are serious. A C-8 model may have 10 or
15 paint chips, but none should be much larger than a pinhead (especially
on smaller models, such as Matchbox). A C-8 model is still aesthetically
pleasing. This is the lowest grade that a common model should be
collected in. Of course, a rare model could still be VERY desirable
in C-8 condition.
- C-7.5 - A model with extensive
flaws, and additionally, with one or 2 larger flaws. At this grade,
the eye will be drawn to the flaws, as they are much more obvious.
A C-7.5 model should still retain about 90% of its original paint
in the case of a postwar model, and 80% of its paint in the case
of a prewar model. There should be absolutely NO structural damage
to a C-7.5 model.
- C-7 - Extensive paint wear
with up to 20% paint loss on a postwar model, and 30% or more on
a prewar model. A C-7 model should not be missing any parts, or have
any structural damage. However, in the case of a prewar model, a
C-7 may show some signs of metal fatigue, or light cracks in the
- C-6 - Extensive paint wear,
with some damage noted to the model. In the case of prewar models,
they may display extensive fatigue, with loose or detached parts.
- C-5 - Extensive paint wear
and extensive damage to the model.
- C-4 - Missing major parts
(such as pieces of the frame) of the model. Damage so severe, that
replacement or restoration is not an option.
- C-3 - Clearly identifiable
as to the make and model of the toy, but not much more.
- C-2 - Model is beyond identification.
Parts are no longer usable. At this level, all but the rarest of
rare toys, should be discarded
of Models at Various Grade Levels
Both a descriptive and numerical
grade in tandem are really necessary to ascertain the condition of
a model accurately. When an item is, for example, MINT C-9 vs. near-MINT
C-9.5, it is a bit easier to visualize how that piece will look. Where
as, just describing the model as C-9 or C-9.5, is not only incomplete,
but possibly inaccurate.
It should be noted once again
that grading is subjective, and for this reason, that even with a uniform
standard, such as the above scale, the system is still open to interpretation
and perception. We, at the Reeded Edge, are not striving for perfection
but rather an efficient and simple system that can be used easily for
the buyer, seller and collector of die cast (or other) toys.