Let's Talk Comics

 
 
Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Now that you have bought that special comic book, comes the task of storing it properly.
 
Milk crates and paper bags stuffed under the bed aren't the best way to store comics. Leaving them among the bathroom magazine pile isn't recommended either.
 
If you are going to collect comics, it might be a good idea to be serious about it. There is only one basic way of storing a comic book, or even a magazine, and that is putting the comic, supported by a backing board, into a plastic bag and then placing it upright into a properly sized comic book box.
 
But there are a variety of materials used to make those bags, boards and boxes, from the great, top-of-the-line materials to the you-get-what-you-pay-for supplies. I recommend bags and boards found at the higher end of the spectrum, but it can get pricey.
 
The point is to keep the book looking as if it just came off the press, or in the same grade you bought it. It is to stop time as much as possible and protect books from physical damage, moisture, dust, bugs and rodents and sunlight.
 
The goal is to keep them flat and standing on edge in a box and away from sunlight. The older the book, especially those from before the 1980s, the lower the quality of the paper and the inks used to make comics. So they will need extra care to protect them. Indeed, inks were acidic and they react to air over time.

The best, of course, are comic bags and cardboards that are inert and acid-free to withstand the ravages of time.
 
There are different bag sizes and accompanying backing boards to match the size of the bags. The plethora of sizes includes Golden, Silver and Current Ages, Treasury edition, magazine and paperback book.
 
Never force a book into a bag that is too small because the pages will curve or crease, and never use a backing board that is smaller than the magazine, because it will crease.
 
While we are at it, suppliers also offer storage materials for trading cards, posters and coins.
 
Among the best comic bags are Mylites, a thin type of Mylar, acid-free plastic that allows for a flap to seal the bag with tape. Acid-free boards are highly recommended, as is acid-free tape, but small strips of Scotch tape is acceptable as long as it doesn't deteriorate.
 
There are thicker Mylar sleeves that offer more physical protection; some designs don't allow the tops to be sealed, allowing dust to enter and maybe bugs to devour paper.
 
You will be amazed at how many types of bugs like to drill holes in paper in their quest for a daily meal. But Mylar and Mylites are expensive, and a collector may want to store only key books in them.
 
Polypropylene bags are the second best choice as they are - supposedly - acid free. They are cheaper and can last a few years, but note they will have to be replaced at some time because they do become cloudy looking and deteriorate. Avoid polyethylene plastic bags. They are economically priced, but I had to replace them all within a year or two.
 
Next, the box to store the books in. They come in different sizes, storing anywhere from about 150 books to 300 books.
 
The older collectors among us might do well to consider the smaller boxes. Paper is heavier than one thinks.
 
Again, there are different materials and acid-free archival boxes are best, but again expensive. There are comic boxes made of cardboard that are for the most part good enough for storing comics, mags, cards, coins and paper money, and posters.
 
A storage place that is cool and fairly dry, avoids sunlight and ultra-violent light is optimum.
 
So, here is the process: First, buy a comic. Keep it flat until you get home and place it on a board that is shiny side up and lying on a table. Read it, but don't force the pages open, avoiding any damage to the paper and the spine.
 
Always handle a comic - or any collectible - with clean, dry hands. With the comic closed and laying flat on the board, gently slide it into a comic bag, making sure the corners or edges of the book don't snag on the plastic. Then turn it over and lay it flat on the table. Gently slide the edge of your hand bottom to top of the bag to push air out of the bag. Then flip the flap over and seal it with tape. Never use anything other than archival or Scotch tape. Some bags are self-sealing.
 
(If you need to open a bag sealed with tape, take the tape off completely and put it somewhere far away before taking the comic out. If tape comes into contact with a comic, the tape always wins.)
 
The comic is then stored in a comic box. It might be a good idea to line the front and back of the box with spare backing boards to prevent light or a wayward, but potentially damaging, finger entering the carrying handle from damaging a book.
 
There are other archival materials available, but you might want to save them for key books, like if you happen to own an issue of Funnies on Parade, published in 1933.
 
Archival paper can be placed between a few pages inside the book to prevent acids from causing damage, such as yellowing the paper.
 
Age can ravage a book, so it is worth the effort to protect your investment, whether it is for money or enjoyment.
 
Mylar is a trademark of Dupont.
 
Next column: Grading comics
 
Return to top of page
 
This Is Livin' Publishing © 2012
581 8th Line West, RR1 Hastings, ON, K0L 1Y0
Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833
 
 
Rob's five steps to a properly stored comic book collection
 
 
Inventory required to
properly store comics
 
 
Slide board halfway into bag
then the comic, avoid snagging
 
 
Lay comic on clean, dry flat surface, squeeze air out
 
 
Close flap on outside, use
two pieces of tape
 
 
The end result: A properly stored comic book
 
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades.
 
You can reach Rob at lamberti@cogeco.ca