In the world of comic book collecting, there are casual collectors and there are hardcore collectors. I find myself somewhere in the middle, but no matter what category you fall into, there are certain guidelines to take proper care of your comic book collection. There are a few schools of thought on the matter, but in every case it’s safe to say that doing something is much better than doing nothing at all.
Back on the revolving rack in the drug store days, when I was buying comic books, I just threw them into an empty drawer and that was their place. I was a kid and I didn’t know any better. It pains me today to think of all the great comics that I lost or destroyed by not taking proper care of them. Back then the prices of comics were a fraction of what they cost today and I really never put much thought into it until I was in high school. In those days I was buying my comics at a used book store that also sold comics. It was run by a husband and wife who although were incredibly nice, scared me a little because they looked as if they lived in that store. They smelled funny, had poor hygiene, and were grossly overweight. But the guy knew his comic books, and he put me on the path to properly caring for my collection.
They sold all their comics already bagged and boarded, which at first I thought was a great annoyance because I would have to take the tape off the stupid bag to get at the comic to read it. I also used to read the same comic multiple times, and having to deal with the bag was a pain. So I asked him one day why he sold his comics with the bags and boards. He told me that was the best way to protect them and he explained to me why.
Publishers make comic books differently today then they did back then. The paper and ink are now improved and made to last longer and resist the elements. Back when I first started collecting, comics were printed on basically the same paper as newspaper stock, and were very susceptible to dirt, dust, oils and moisture. Any paper product is going to be susceptible to the elements over time and with a little care you can prolong the life of your comics. Acidity will deteriorate paper products. Many early bags and boards were not composed of acid-free materials. Colors will fade and the paper will yellow over time. A good polypropylene or mylar bag along with an acid free cardboard board will help protect the comic. Luckily comic preservation technology has come a long way over time, and it is now much easier to assure that your collection is properly protected.
The gentleman at the store also explained to me about boxes and how once your comics were bagged and boarded they needed to be stored upright in a box that was made to fit comic books. The box then needs to be stored in a place free from excessive heat, light and pests. Sunlight is an enemy of print, and will start to fade exposed inks in a fairly short window of time (a few months). Needless to say it didn’t take much explaining at that point to convince me that I had to take proper care of my comics. I had amassed a pretty decent collection by this time and I wanted to protect them. He was even nice enough to give me enough free bags and boards to get me started. With that and a couple of long boxes he sent me on my way, and I have been caring for my comics in that manner ever since.
If you are fortunate, the store where you buy your comics will sell them already bagged and boarded and that is great; but not all stores do that. Those that do may or may not be giving you the best quality bags and boards, so be sure to check. Some stores will give you bags that are too big or not made of suitable materials. The store I buy from does not bag and board their comics. They do however, sell some of the best bags and boards I have ever used. This isn’t a commercial for the store, but I will say that their stuff is top quality. The gentleman who owns the store is also an avid collector and he takes the care of his collection VERY seriously, so I trust his judgment.
When it comes to bags and boards be careful. You can get them in different sizes to match the particular era of comic book. Comics books have varied in sizes over the years and you should really use bags that fit properly. An over-sized bag lets too much air get inside and may speed up the deterioration process over time. Be sure to buy bags and boards that fit the particular size of comic. Boards will be a slightly smaller width to fit inside the bag but should match the era size of the bags.
Current size – 1980s to today
6 7/8″ by 10 1/2″
Regular size – mid 1960s to 1970s
7 1/8″ by 10 1/2″
Silver Age – 1950s to early 1960s
7 1/4″ by 10 1/2″
Golden Age – early 1950s or older
7 3/4″ by 10 1/2″
As I said before, doing something is better than doing nothing, and keeping your comics piled on the floor of your bedroom isn’t going to cut it. If you’re serious about caring for your collection or ever have thoughts of one day selling them to someone, you’re going to need to take care of them. A comic in near mint condition will fetch you far more money than the same comic with ketchup stains and dog eared pages. Many comic book fans think of it not only as a passion, but also as an investment.
Whether for monetary gain or just being able to pass them on to your kids, you’ll want to protect that investment.
A comic book today costs around three dollars, sometimes even more. I remember buying comics for twenty-five cents when I was a kid (now I am showing my age). At today’s prices, are you just going to read it and then toss it in the corner to collect dust? I know some guys who wear surgical gloves when handling their comics, new and old. Making sure your comics are stored in bags doesn’t sound all that extreme now, does it?
Now you’ve got all your comics bagged, boarded and stored in a box, so now what? How can you keep up with what comics you have and properly catalog your collection? This is going to sound like a commercial, but it is worth mentioning, so please be patient with me. If you’re like me, you are a little anal about your comic book collection and you want to know exactly what you have in it at all times. I used to keep a very complicated spreadsheet that I would have to go into and make changes to every week when I got new comics. It was just a simple list with the titles, issue numbers, and the date I bought them. The list was tedious to compile and a bit of a pain to maintain. It would have been nice to be able to see what the covers looked like and a synopsis of each story.
That’s when I saw this little advertisement on the side of my Facebook page. It was for a software program called Collectorz. It is extremely versatile and an even handier database software written specifically for comic books. This software changed my life when it came to cataloging my comic collection. It many useful options and applications, and did everything I wanted and then some. Since buying the version I am using now, there have been a few amazing updates and it is now compatible for iPhone and iPad. There are even versions available that come with barcode scanners that allow you to quickly enter your comics simply by scanning the barcode on the cover. But since I am not a paid spokesman for Collectorz, I will leave the banner waving at that and say I’ve only scratched the surface of the features of this software, so check it out for yourself.
I don’t know of many casual collectors that don’t at the very least bag and board their comics these days. Some take it a bit further and have their books rated and sealed in hard cases to preserve them. That might sound a bit extreme to some, but if the book is really worth (or could potentially be worth) a lot of money, it’s a safe bet to protect it. Remember what I said about dog eared pages? There are services that will rate and seal your comics for you, so if you ever wanted to sell them you’ve got an official appraisal of its condition, and let’s face it, the better condition your comic is in, the more it could potentailly be worth.
I hope this article has been informative and useful to you. If you’re in a situation with your collection where you’re not sure how to proceed, you can probably get guidance from your local comic shop. There are also many online resources that you can utilize, or if you just need a few questions answered you can email me or just about anyone here at Comic Booked and we’ll be happy to help you. Happy comic collecting!