Monday, October 23, 2006

Storing Your Comic Books

By the Rat Packer

One caveat that comic book collectors face is that of properly storing their treasured comic books. All too often I've come across budding or lapsed collectors that have ruined collections from improper storage. Some use grocery bags or leave them out unattended only to have someone carelessly handle and rip the comic books. Most collectors have the basics down pat: after the comic book is read, place it in a clear plastic bag with a board and tape it up. That's fine and the comic book will be protected, but it doesn't end there. Many are surprised to find out that there are additional steps that need to be taken when it comes to preserving comic books.

Let's start with the basics and that involves the bag and board. Most comic book stores sell ample supplies of plastic bags or they can be ordered on-line. Various companies sell them and honestly any one of them manufactures fine quality bags. They are made of polymer, either polypropylene or polyethylene, but both should be acid-free. Usually for modern comic books the bags are seven and a quarters inches wide, Silver Age books are seven and an eighth inches wide, and Golden Age books are seven and three quarters wide. All three types of bags are usually ten and half inches tall. The bags have a lip at the top that is meant to bend over the back to seal the comic books. Most collectors use tape to complete the seal but be extra careful when using tape, I've had horror stories when the tape stuck and tore a comic book when I took it out of the bag.

Boards are used to keep the comic books upright when placed in boxes and provide more protection. Place the comic books on the treated side; usually they are the ones that have the shiny and smooth surface. They are sold separately in bundles and are similarly sized to the bags. As with the bags, it's a good idea to get boards that are acid-free. Note that some stores will give you free bags and boards when you purchase comic books but it depends on where you go.

From my experience I found out that it's a good practice to periodically change the bags and boards every few years. I've noticed that after a while the bags will turn yellow with age. Not only is it not very attractive but supposedly this means that the plastic is releasing acids that will eventually damage the comic books' pages and this happens even with some bags that are labeled acid free. This also happens with the boards. An important factor with this happening has to do with storage but I'll get to that in a bit.

Mylars are made with a harder, stiff plastic that measure for most current comic books seven and a quarter inches wide and eleven inches tall. While for older Golden and Silver Age comic books, there are Mylars that measure eight inches wide by eleven and half inches tall. Most agree that these are the ideal storage medium and I use these for comic books that are more valuable since the holders - - you can't really call them bags - - are ideal for long storage, are resistant to mold and tearing, and they don't turn yellow when they get old.

Once you have a sizable amount of comic books they should be placed vertically in comic book storage boxes. These come in two sizes; the smaller ones hold about one hundred comic books while the larger boxes hold about three hundred. They are made of cardboard and are usually very sturdy. I've been trying to find a good alternative to the boxes since I find that they attract insects because of the cardboard, plus they are not waterproof. I've recently seen ads for plastic corrugated boxes that are acid-free and waterproof but I haven't used them yet but plan to try them.

If you want to go an extra distance, you can use dividers so that you can locate your comic books easily. But they do take up precious space in the boxes and you do need time to label them and all, though it is a good way to help you keep track of your collection.

Once you've finished placing your collection in bags and boxes and cataloging them, the next important step is finding a place to store the boxes. Remember that the elements are your comic books' enemy. Watch out for humidity, heat, vermin, pollutants and even skin oils. Store the boxes above ground; forget about basements and attics because the insects in there will love the boxes. Preferably place them on shelves above ground in a cool, dry environment. Trying to find the ideal place is one of the greatest hurdles I've faced since a lot depends on where you live and how much storage space is available. If you have a spouse who isn't too keen about your collection try to find a spot that is out of the way to avoid arguments. As for the skin oils, try using surgical gloves when handling comic books, especially the older ones. One thing to remember is that time is an enemy that you can't really combat except by treating your collection more delicately. Consider this, I know of someone who works at DC Comics and was told by this person that their oldest comic books are kept locked away and people are not allowed to touch them since the pages are so fragile from age.

Some of these measures may seem extreme to some but I've seen many bemoan their ruined collections. So whether you want to eventually sell your collection or just want to preserve them for future use it's a good idea to make the effort.

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