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How to Store Your Vintage Comic Books

Updated on September 22, 2012
A shot of my Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (Death of Supergirl).  Illustrated by George Perez
A shot of my Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (Death of Supergirl). Illustrated by George Perez | Source

A Meticulous Hobby

Those of us with this sickness know exactly what I’m talking about.

We as comic book aficionados have voluntarily come into a world where we believe that pulp is worth money. Back in the 1950’s, we’d be the guy who collects bottle caps. Now, however, we’ve found the perfect trade off. We get to read some of the best fictional work that is married to (more often than not) artistic genius that is part of a greater continuity and a larger world of mythos.

I’m talking about comic book collecting.

Oh sure, we see some of our peers who are shy socially awkward outcasts who would find talking to, let alone dating, a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex – we’re progressive here), a frightening prospect. There’s a part of us that knows we’ll frighten off perspective mates when they find out we have collectible Green Lantern power rings or perfectly detailed Thor statues when we bring them to our modern day Bat-caves (aka – apartment, home, or basement bedroom).

There is some part of our personality that accepted this as our mild mannered secret identity and we go off to fight for justice on internet posting boards and chat rooms showing off our knowledge and cleverness to whomever would have the time to read it. We accept the burden of nerdom and sally forth to show the world that we are comic book people.

It is a power and a privilege that we must hold sacred. And with that power comes the responsibility to keep and preserve our first run prints with painstaking care.

What’s that? You don’t know how to take care of them? Don’t tell me that you have a stack of complete first run of Alan Moore’s, The Watchmen gathering dust in your bedroom since 1986. Is it exposed to the daylight? Is it out in the air? Or perhaps you’ve inherited an older collector’s hoard. Maybe, through a fluke of luck, he had placed them in some kind of perfect preservation environment and it’s your job to keep them preserved until you can get them to an auction or your own hoard.

There’s not a minute to lose. You need help… and you need advice on how to care for these treasures.

What You Need To Know

We’ve all heard the stories. They go either one of two ways.

The first way is that some guy goes to a garage sale held by an old woman. He sees a long box full of comic books – some with the price of five cents on the cover. The guy buys it with the rest of the box, checks some of the comic titles and issues on the internet and finds out that he’s found an Action Comics #1 worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.

The second story is that some other guy goes to a comic book convention and he sees a valuable issue that he’d once owned. The reason he doesn’t have it anymore is that his mother sold it in a garage sale while he was away at college.

So the first thing you need to know is about storage.

You need a few things that can only be bought at comic book specialty shops. You can’t get them at Walmart or your local five and ten. Actually, I’m wrong, you can buy the scotch tape anywhere – but other than that you have to buy from the comic book guys.

Here’s what you need:

  • Scotch Tape
  • A Comic Book Long Box
  • Comic Book Bags
  • Comic Boards
  • A Cool Dry Room to Store Them In

Now, there are other things you can also get to ensure their safety. One is a large black marker you can use to write on your white box the following: “Mom, UNDER PAIN OF DEATH, DO NOT GIVE AWAY OR SELL MY COMIC BOOKS WHILE I’M GONE. Love, Your Son.”

That way she’s been warned.

Boarding, Bagging, Boxing, and Storage

I hope you have a strong back or a large table.

Here comes your labor of love. In order to store your comic books you actually need to do a little bit of prep. The first bit of prep might involve sorting your comics out by title, and sort them by issue number chronologically. Keep the pile nearby, you’ll want to keep your titles separate so you can find them again later.

The second thing is you’ll need to do an assessment on your comic book. You need to be honest and grade your book by age type. Should you actually have your hands on some Golden Age Comic Books, you’ll need to buy Golden Age Comic Book bags and boards. The same goes with Silver Age. They are different sizes from the issues made since the 1970’s and 80’s – which are known as Modern Age.

If you have doubts about what size boards and bags you should buy, see your local comic book dealer. They should be able to direct you to the right size. If the acne scarred kid behind the desk doesn’t know, ask for the owner – because he certainly does. If the issues you have are valuable enough, he may want to buy them from you.

If you’re sitting on a Golden Age Comic Book, it should be handled with great care as the pages are very delicate. You may wish to use gloves. Silver age are slightly newer (1950’s and 60’s), they should also be handled with care.

The reason why Golden Age and Silver Age books are worth more is not just because they are older but also because there are less of them. Back in the day, the monthly circulation of a title would be limited to a few hundred thousand or so. Nowadays, comic book title distribution is somewhere in the millions in a month.

So handle with care. This is also a game of supply and demand.

Once you’ve done a quick appraisal of your books and sorted them by title, you need to board, bag, and box them. Place the comic book on the board – there are two sides to the board, a shiny side and a plain side. The comic book goes against the plain side (otherwise, after some time, the comic may stick to the board – and you don’t want that).

The comic should be a little smaller than the board or the same size. If the comic is bigger than the board, you have the wrong size board and bag. The type of board and bag should match the comic generation you’re trying to store for.

Slide the board and comic book into the bag with the longer side of the bag as the front. Then fold the bag opening over and tape it on the outside of the bag.

Some of the bags nowadays are re-sealable. This will save you both time and aggravation later on if you decide to reopen the bag (for a quick read). The reason you want to seal them in the first place is to save the paper. Paper open to the elements has a tendency to either disintegrate or turn yellow. Neither condition is acceptable if you try to sell them to a collector.

Once the issue is bagged and boarded, you must stand the issue up in the long box. This will protect the comic book’s spine and keep it from bending. Place all comics with the same title in the same long box and keep the box in a cool dry room.

If your room has leaks or gets humid in the summer, consider renting a storage room in a controlled environment. Most households with a working central AC will do, though.

Final Words

If you are a comic book collector, you probably already know everything that I’ve just told you. If you’re not, you should be aware of what you need to keep your collection safe.

Comic book collecting (and reading – don’t forget about the reading) is a fun past time. I won’t lie to you and tell you that these things can get out of hand if your collection gets big enough. I estimate mine to be over ten thousand. However, I’ve been collecting since I was in high school and I’m forty-six as of this writing.

The return on investment on these can be disappointing if you don’t take care of your stash. You should also be armed with what we call the Overstreet Price Buyer’s guide. If you should find a reputable dealer, you may be able to get them appraised. The more valuable the comic, the more you should be mindful of its care.

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    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 4 years ago from Texas

      The problem is that kids often don't think of these things. My husband had an awesome vintage comic from many, many years ago - but he had framed it and hung it on his wall when he was a teenager. By the time we took it out of the frame, there had been some damage to it. We still got a great trade value from our comic shop, but it was sad to see the comic in such bad shape.

      Great advice!