Those of us enamored with the sequential art medium tend to be collectors by nature. Genres run the gamut from superheroes to slice-of-life, from fantasy to non-fiction, providing enthusiasts with enough variety to sate even the most voracious appetite and then some! With an array of monthlies (affectionately referred to as “floppies”), trade paperbacks, and graphic novels continuously being released, we acquire stacks of material to pore over.
Some of the more obsessive fans store their comics in climate-controlled vaults and will only handle the periodicals when wearing hazmat suits to avoid transferring any of our damaging bodily oils. Others may leave them laying about, hardly preoccupied with the condition of the spines or pages. If you wish to keep said periodicals and tomes in decent shape, there are some measures you can take to ensure their abiding quality that fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Necessary Materials for Storage
- Comic Book Bags
- Comic Book Boards
- Comic Storage Boxes
- Hard-shell Cases/“Slabs” for Comics (optional)
Comic Book Bags
Bags are plastic sleeves which come in various sizes depending on the year/decade of release. Most books from the 1980’s through the present will fit in current bags, but if you do have some Golden and/or Silver age comics in your collection it would be worth seeking out the corresponding bag sizes. That said, comics will only endure damage if exposed to direct light and unaccommodating air. If you keep them bagged and boarded in your preferred size and store them upright in a box (which will be discussed shortly), your collection will be just fine.
Comic Book Boards
Backing boards are cardboard inserts used to keep your comics from creasing while sealed inside their respective bags. Acid-free boards are the most effective when your intent is to minimize damage over time. Should you purchase a comic already bagged and boarded, it’s worth asking the retailer whether or not they use acid-free boards. This is due to the fact that some local comic shops (understandably) purchase cheaper boards in bulk to cut down on their overhead. If, for some reason, you are uncomfortable with asking such a probing question you can always simply transfer said purchases to your own stash of bags and boards as soon as you’re home.
Comic Storage Boxes
While you can store your collection in any receptacle of your choosing, most collectors opt for the cardboard boxes designed specifically for the purpose of housing comics books. These collector’s boxes are sold in two distinct sizes, known as long boxes and short boxes. As the names may suggest, these designations give an idea as to the number of books which can be stored inside either container.
Long boxes are 27” in length and can handle roughly 250-300 comics, while short boxes are 15” in length and fall somewhere in the range of holding 150-200 comics. Some of the more diehard investors will procure soft plastic boxes, though these are a bit more expensive and only truly necessary if your collection is being stored in an area where the elements may get the best of them (e.g., a basement, attic, etc.).
Hard-shell Cases/“Slabs” for Comics
Hard plastic holders are also available for those comics in your possession which are considered to be rare or precious. Said hard-shell cases do cost considerably more than a bag and board, but this measure ensures the protection of whichever book it holds. Neither butterfingers nor inhospitable air can damage the treasure contained therein. The hard-shell cases also allow for your prized piece to be propped up and displayed for all of the world to see. In most cases, these are only truly worth the investment if you have acquired vintage and/or rare comics which you may plan to sell.
Were you to be interested in selling pieces of your comics assemblage, it may be worth spending a few dollars to get them graded. This can be accomplished through a company called CGC, which stands for Certified Guaranty Company. CGC employs a team of “graders” that will verify, authenticate, and evaluate your book according to their grading scale. The collectible is then hermetically sealed inside a hard plastic case referred to as a “slab” and assigned a unique ID and barcode for tracking purposes. More can be read about the grading process, including restrictions that apply, on CGC’s site.
Some Things to Remember
- Handle with care. While you don’t necessarily need to be as obsessive as the aforementioned handler in a hazmat suit, keep in mind that dirty or oily hands can damage your valuable titles. Washing and thoroughly drying your hands before fiddling with your comics is never a bad idea. It’s best to refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking around your books as well. Smoking especially will cause the pages to turn yellow over time. The other item, which may seem trivial, is to avoid stacking your comics. Just as with vinyl records, pressure can also cause further damage.
- Consider the environment where you will be storing your comic book collection. Needless to say, you shouldn’t leave your comics lying around without bags and boards. Dumping them outside for any amount of time is also extremely risky! Ideally, your boxed-up trove will be secured in an area which is dry, maintains a temperature that doesn’t fluctuate, and is free of excessive humidity. Another tip is to elevate your boxes using milk crates, or something of the like, to ensure they are guarded against any type of flooding.
- Do a regular check-up. If you don’t check on your comics every so often, how would you expect to know whether they’re beginning to turn yellow or whether they’ve become contaminated with mold or other forms of fungus? This is especially important if you are putting your comics into long-term storage. Climate-controlled storage units would be optimal, but inspections should reveal if your comic book cache is beginning to smell like mildew. Should this occur, move your collection to a new location promptly and replace all of the boards, bags, and boxes.
- Graphic novels and Trade Paperbacks (or TPBs) are entities unto themselves. They can comfortably sit next to your collection of prose books on a shelf and are far more resilient to frequent interaction than their monthly (floppy) counterparts. That said, if you are like me and happen to be a stickler when it comes to preserving the overall quality of your trades and long-format graphic narratives, you may choose to shield them from unforeseen destructive forces by stashing them in storage box along with your bagged and boarded works of art.
When it comes down to it, comic books are meant to be read. Proper storage is integral to their longevity, but not at the risk of rendering them inaccessible. The degree to which you protect and store your collection is up to you, but never feel guilty about freeing those funny books every once in a while in order to enjoy them. Otherwise, happy collecting!
Want more Articles like this one?
1. The Old Guard Volume 1 Blends Chaos with Soul Searching
2. REVIEW: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. – Family Ties stands on its own!
3. REVIEW: Possessive #1 is a Romantic Comedy of Spooky Implications