AFA-Graded SDCC-Exclusive Black Series Jabba’s Throne Room Set
AFA (Action Figure Authority) is a company that grades toys based on their condition, and in some cases will also authenticate them. While grading itself isn’t a new thing, the AFA concept is somewhat new. After grading, they encase the toy in question in a sealed acrylic box, making impossible to access the toy (and presumably maintaining the condition that they graded it at) unless you completely destroy the box. They do both loose toys and boxed ones.
On the one hand, I can almost understand the appeal of grading, since you know that the toy you’re buying is up to a certain level of quality. When buying online, it can be very difficult to know exactly what you’re getting, even when there are a lot of photos. And having them protected in an acrylic box might be attractive, especially if you’re the kind of collector who keeps things in their boxes anyway.
But the flip-side of this is that (at least when you’re talking about something like Vintage Star Wars toys), AFA-graded examples tend to sell for a lot more than ungraded ones. Many people grade things in an attempt to get more money out of them, and for some rare figures this can make it pretty tough to find an example that’s not graded. Worse, AFA has a so-called “uncirculated” (or “U”) grade, which is for loose toys that have never been removed from the package. You send them something in the package and AFA removes it, grades it and puts the loose toy into an acrylic case. This concept has in some cases led to extremely rare toys being removed from their packaging because the owner felt they would have a better chance of selling it as a loose U-graded figure than as a figure in less-than-perfect packaging. It’s crazy.
Anyway, generally speaking I’m not really a big fan of the whole concept, and don’t generally collect graded figures. But when this graded example of the SDCC-Exclusive Black Series Jabba the Hutt Throne Room came up on eBay, I was intrigued. I decided to put in a lowball bid just for the heck of it, and it turned out that I won. It ended up being quite a bit less than ungraded examples of this set sell for. I’m sure the person who graded it lost a fair amount of money on the deal.
I think the reason is obvious — the box for this set is extremely plain, and if you can’t open it up to see the figures inside, you’re basically just displaying a black cardboard box. I have several of these sets, though, so I thought it would be interesting to have this as a curiosity. Also, since all of my sets had damage of some kind, I thought it might be nice to have a mint example. However, it does have some major creasing on one side. I’m surprised it got an 8.5. (8.5 is the highest generally available score — very few items get a 9 and nothing seems to get a 10).
The acrylic case is quite nice, and does make it look kind of fancy. But I don’t really think grading is worth it — especially for modern figures.