The Beginners Guide To Taking Care Of Your Comic Books
by Jimmy G.
The collecting of comic books, over several decades, has become more of its own art form than those looking in from the outside tend to realise. While comic books are still viewed as a form of quick entertainment to pass the time by many parents and grandparents alike, the recent popularity of superheroes in popular culture has resulted in many a young and budding reader starting to take note of how veteran comic book collectors handle and store their books. However, we at Comic Warehouse understand that getting started with a collection can seem pretty daunting to the newcomer, so we have compiled a list of 10 of the most popular methods that comic book collectors use to keep their books in excellent condition to preserve their value as time passes.
1. Clean Your Comics
If you have ever shopped for comic books at a flea market, a local fête, or a second-hand bookshop, you will often encounter plenty of dirty and dusty books. These books are immediately recognisable by the dim and rough feel of the cover. Should your book look like it just dug itself out of a grave, we recommend taking a damp (and we mean just barely damp) cloth and giving it a swift once over. Any surface dirt should be removed, and your book will immediately begin to look a lot better. If your book has pencil marks on it for some reason, you can use a gum eraser to get rid of them gently. Just be extremely careful so as not to rub off any of the original ink in the process as this will lessen the value of your book.
2. Use Mylar Or Polypropylene Bags To Store Your Comics
If you have ever been in a proper comic book store before, you will have noticed that the comic books are all packed in unique plastic bags with a piece of a backing board behind them. These plastic bags are specially designed to protect your books from the elements and even accidental spills. There are three different types of bags that you can use to ensure your comics stay in good nick so we shall give you a quick breakdown of them:
- Polyethylene: Probably the cheapest and lowest quality of the plastics on this list. It was quite common for these bags to be seen during the 80s and 90s when comic books were frequently bought and stored. This plastic can easily be recognised by its very soft texture and the fact that it is not entirely transparent. These bags often begin to turn yellow within a few short years, and they wind up staining your comic books. If you are unsure about the quality of plastic, take the comic and the backing board out and scrunch the plastic in your hand. If you see a yellow tint in the crinkles and creases, then it is polyethylene, and you should immediately put the book in a polypropylene bag.
- Polypropylene: This plastic is by far the most preferred and common plastic used by collectors and comic book stores today. Unlike polyethylene bags, these plastics are entirely transparent and do not pose any risk of damaging your books. They are great for storing your comic books that are of a lower value. These plastics do breakdown over time though, so it is generally recommended that you replace them every 10 years or so.
- Mylar: Mylar bags are purely archival, and as such, they do not breakdown overtime at all. They can range from being wafer-thin to thick and rigid, however, these plastics are quite expensive and thus should only be used for your comic books that have a high value attached to them.
3. Use Acid-Free Backing Boards
It is not enough to simply store your comics in the plastic bags mentioned above. Unique backing boards, which are designed to be archival and contain no acid, are also needed to keep your comic books in the best condition as time passes. The purpose of these backing boards is to give them extra protection from any form of warping or bending while they are in storage. These unique backing boards can easily be identified by their white colour and are coated on both sides; they are also quite thick and rigid, which is better for the comic book in the long run. Half back boards will have white on one side and either grey or brown on the other side, these boards are not designed for archival purposes and should be avoided at all costs. If you wish to ensure that your comic books stay in mint condition, make sure you use Museum Board, it is the highest quality of the backing board and is made from cotton. You can purchase Museum board from any art shop in sheets and can be cut to your desired size.
4. Store Your Comic Books Upright In A Comic Box
As your collection grows over time, you will start to notice that you are having difficulty finding a place for them and you will begin to wonder as to how you should store them. The first thing any budding comic book collector should note is that comic books should always be stored standing upright and not on a bookshelf or completely flat. This is mainly due to the staples used to bind the comic book together. Therefore, a stack of comic books will always be slightly lopsided which creates an uneven distribution in weight which rolls the spines of your books causing them to become misshapen as time passes and it is not easy to notice until it’s too late. It is crucial to use a proper comic book box to store your comics. These boxes are acid-free and coated to reinforce the shape of your comic books. While using plastic containers or totes might seem like a good idea for storage, the problem with using them is that because of their round bottoms and odd shapes, they will still wind up damaging your books in the long run.
5. Remove Tape Before Taking Your Comic Book Out
Even the most veteran of comic book collectors will find themselves wanting to take out a book from their collection and read it. However, it’s vital that you take care of how you remove the books from their sleeves when doing so. Before taking out a comic, make sure you remove the tape from the bag altogether. In doing so, you don’t have to worry about the tape getting stuck to your book as you take it out and put it back into its bag. Now you can focus entirely on handing the book with care as opposed to worrying about the tape potentially damaging it. Removing the tape also prevents any nasty accidents like when you put the book down without realizing the tape is exposed, thus leaving marks on your precious collector’s item. Remember, the tape is cheap and replaceable in comparison to the value of your books. So why not read with peace of mind than with regret later.
6. Always Ensure Your Hands Are Clean Before Reading
Human skin is extremely greasy. Even when it isn’t dirty. The natural oils that secrete from your pores are guaranteed to damage or stain your books, especially if you just came back from a meal. Washing your hands is the easiest and simplest method to ensure that your comic books stay in good condition. When handling high-end books, you may want to consider using cotton gloves as these are the books that will fetch a hefty price as time passes and any kind of damage could knock their value down significantly.
7. Store In A Cool And Dark Space
To preserve your comic books and ensure their quality over time, you must store them somewhere where sunlight and fluctuating seasonal temperatures cannot ruin them. While an attic or basement might seem like a good idea at first, storing your books in these areas of your home are a guaranteed way of having them destroyed over time. This is mostly because these kinds of rooms are subject to daily temperature changes and humidity which can cause the paper of your books to age and turn yellow. We recommend storing comics in closets or similarly styled spaces. As they are more likely to have even temperatures throughout the year, they also provide protection from harmful sun rays.
8. Make Use Of Microchamber Paper
Comic books, believe it or not, are actually designed to self-destruct. This is mostly because comic books, even to this very day, are printed on very cheap forms of paper. However, if you have read this far, you can see there are already various tricks collectors use to archive and preserve these books despite how comic books have been made. These methods alone, however, aren’t enough to protect your collection. Microchamber paper is a thin barrier paper that is cut to the size of the comic book pages and is placed between the front covers, back covers, and the interior pages of the comic book. Microchamber paper is designed to protect books from acidic degradation and pollutants that cause the quality of the book’s paper to deteriorate over time.
9. Make Use Of CGC Services
If you want the ultimate protection for your comic books, then make use of CGC’s services. CGC will professionally grade your comic books on a ten-point scale and a full archival encapsulation. This means your comic books will be stored in specially made comic book slabs that will guarantee the preservation of your books over a long period. While not airtight, these slabs will protect your books from the environment, UV rays, and includes the microchamber absorption paper. CGC usually charge around $30 (approximately R450) for a modern age book and a bit more for older books, but it’s worth every cent, especially if any of your older books are high in value and in good condition.
10. Never Leave Space In Your Comic Book Box
One may not think so, but, leaving space in your comic book boxes is actually damaging your collection more than you may realize. Once you have enough comic books, you will need to get a box to store them in. Most collectors will fill up an entire box, but, if you leave more than an inch of space between your books, you will actually wind up damaging them. Imagine your box is either half or 3/4 full. That means there is still a lot of weight that is slumping within the box, which is causing some severe damage to the spines of what would otherwise be mint condition comic books. If your box still needs more books to be completely full, leave at least 5 inches of space in your box and fill it with your board supplies or other books (like graphic novels) that are of a similar size. This will ensure that your books don’t slump or sag, which will result in the spines getting damaged, thus knocking some serious value off of your collection.