People collect comic books for a number of reasons — some old or rare books are valuable collector’s items. Other comic book fans don’t care about the “market value” for their book, they just want to be entertained. No matter the reason, understanding how to store comic books will have a big impact on how long you’ll be able to enjoy them.
Whether you’re a dedicated Marvel fan, hooked on graphic novels, or an acolyte of DC, keeping your comic book collection properly stored will ensure a lifetime of entertainment.
Handling Comic Books Properly
A big part of proper comic book storage is keeping your grimy hands off the paper. Handling your comics properly is basically a three-step process. First, before you ever touch a book, wash your hands with soap and water. Sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself while washing to make sure you’ve cleaned your hands properly. Washing removes damaging oils from your skin — these oils stain paper over time. The second step to proper comic book handling is wearing gloves. Even though you’ve just washed your hands, wearing gloves is a “better safe than sorry” measure. The values of your books depends almost entirely on their condition. Finally, make sure you’re holding the book in the proper place — the best way to pick up a book is by the open edge. Picking up by the stapled side will cause “stress marks” on the spine, which devalues the book.
Bags and Boards
Comic book storage does require a few accessories — namely backing boards and bags. These items help you store comic books and don’t cost all that much.
- Buy backing boards and bags that are designed for “archival storage”.
- The best kind of bag to store your books in is made of Mylar and referred to as a “sleeve”. These Mylar sleeves are not the only thing that will work, they are the bag of choice for collectors who want to protect the value of their vintage books.
- To give your books some support (which prevents spine stress and page wear) you need backing boards. Backing boards last a long time and they’re acid free, so you can consider them a one time investment.
- If you want to save a little money, buying cheaper bags and boards for less valuable books or ones you read more often will work great, especially if you follow proper handling procedure. These cheaper materials are not rated for archival storage, aren’t acid free, and therefore you need to change them every 7 years.
- If you plant to store comic books in boxes, invest in cardboard boxes made from acid free cardboard. How you organize your books (by titles, dates, prices, or whatever) is totally up to you. Every collector has their own method.
How’s the Weather?
Like storing wine, keeping comic books in their ideal condition requires steady humidity and temperature and little vibration. The best place to store your collection is an inside closet.
Avoid storing comic books in basements or attics — basement storage will make your collection susceptible to water damage, mildew, and other nasty things you don’t want between the pages of your favorite book. Remember that moisture is a comic book’s biggest enemy outside of fire — water is bad.
Maintaining Your Collection
Don’t just store comic books and expect them to stay in pristine condition forever. You need to check up on your collection with some regularity. What are you looking for?
- Color bleeding onto the backing boards
- Yellowing pages
- Any buildup of mold or mildew
The best way to check for mold and mildew is using your nose. Mold and mildew have a distinct smell, and if you notice that smell you should quickly pull the collection out from the moldy area, carefully set them out to “air dry”, and check the books again in 72 hours. If there is no mildew odor present after three days, it is time to re-bag and board your collection. If, on the other hand, the smell lingers, you may have to start making difficult decisions. Identify the infected comic books and destroy them or remove them from contact with the rest of your uninfected collection. Mildew and mold are living things that multiply and move from surface to surface, so getting rid of two mildewed books could save the hundreds of other books that are otherwise untouched. Mylar won’t protect from mildew, so there’s no way around this step.
Final Steps in Protecting Your Comic Book Collection
If you have a large collection or plan to sell and trade books based on their value there are a few other steps you should take to make sure you get the most for your investment.
Insuring your comic book collection may seem like a drastic step, but if you store your comic books properly and still have to deal with damage, an insurance policy is the only way to get something back for your time and effort. Don’t assume that your comic book collection is covered under a traditional home owner’s insurance policy — in most cases, they are not. You can, however, attach a rider to your existing policy to cover your valuable comic collection. How do you figure out a money value for your collection?
If you’re going through the trouble of insuring your comic collection, look into having your books professionally graded. There are a handful of companies which will look over your collection and help you determine an official grade. Yes, this process is expensive, but you aren’t just having your books graded, often these companies will store your more valuable books in special archival holders (called “wells) that are the most secure spot for such a valuable item.
When your comic book collection turns from a couple of your favorite X-Men titles into a room-sized obsession with all things comics-related, it is time to properly store your comic books. The good news is that a small financial investment and a few steadfast collecting techniques are all that’s required to keep your comic collection safe and valuable for decades to come.