How to store your collectible comics
The collectible comic market seems to exist for two reasons: Mothers and incorrect storage.
If mothers didn’t clean out their children’s rooms when they grew up and moved out, the comic back issue market would be very different. My own great-grandmother remembered throwing out my grandfather’s original Captain America comics from the late 1940’s thru the early 1950’s. Back then, comics were considered garbage printed on cheap paper. Today those discarded Captain America comics sell for more than $2000.00 apiece. Thanks Grandma Lola.
Comics that did survive the motherly room cleanings of the 1930’s thru the 1980’s were generally piled in cardboard boxes. Forgotten and slowly decaying in damp basements and hot attics, these classic comics became more and more difficult to find in good condition.
In fact, the classic comic slaughter could be continuing in your house right now.
While working in a comic book store for more than eight years, I saw more than my share of classic comics that would have been worth ten-times more had they just been stored properly. I’m not exaggerating when I say that on a monthly basis I would see several comics that would have sold for upwards of $500.00 apiece had they not been crushed under the weight of a pile, water-damaged or gnawed on by rodents.
So how do we stop the slow death of our comic books? There are three simple steps to protecting your comics investment: Bag, board, and box.
This can be done easily and affordably by picking up a package of comic bags and comic backing boards from your local comic book store. You will want to consult your local store owner on the size of bags you will need based on the comics you wish to protect. Comic bags and boards sell in packages of 100 and are available in several different sizes. Here is a list of the most common comic book bag and board sizes from smallest to largest:
Current (fits most comics from the early 1980s to today)
Silver Age (fits most comics from the 1950s to today, including annuals and giant books)
Golden Age (fits most comics from the 1940s)
Magazine (fits most magazine sets)
I use Silver Age bags and boards on my collection because I like my comics to slide in and out of the bags with minimal resistance. This prevents spine divots and corner wear. When selecting your bags make sure that they are made of a non-reactive, non-PVC plastic such as polypropylene or polyethylene. Both bags and boards should state on their packaging that they are “100% archival” and “acid free”. These bags and boards are good for up to 10 years of storage and if stored in a controlled climate can last even longer. Replace them when the bags begin to turn yellow.
Museums use Mylar bags for protecting documents and books because of their superior archival properties. In recent years, comic book collectors began storing their higher-dollar Golden Age and Silver Age books in Mylar sleeves and bags for the same reasons. Mylar is an inert plastic that has a much longer shelf life than both polypropylene and polyethylene and its stiffness helps to support the fragile spines and bindings of older comics. Mylar is a considerably more expensive option and probably unnecessary for the storage of most collections.
Proper handling comes next. Slide the comic boards into the bags one at a time with the glossy side of the board facing up and making contact with the back of the comic. Then gently slide your issue in so the cover side is visible. (See photo above.) The comic should be placed in the bag with the flap-side of the bag on top so that the flap may be folded over and taped down to the back of the bag. Be careful when unsealing the taped bag.
There are brands of comic bags out there that come with an adhesive flap, but I do NOT recommend them. These adhesives degrade with time and can make bags very difficult to open. The adhesive flaps also can catch the back cover of a comic during removal and destroy its value.
Congratulations. You are now part of a vast minority of people who know how to protect a comic book. But you’re not done yet.
Now it’s time to store our bagged and boarded comics. What better place to do so than in a comic box? Comic boxes come in dimensions that correspond to the bags and boards you are using. For example, comics storied in Silver Age bags and boards require a Silver Age comic box. Boxes come in two lengths: short boxes hold 150-175 comics and long boxes hold 200-225 comics. I use long boxes for my collection as they hold more. I don’t advise stacking long boxes more than 3 high or short boxes more than 4 high. Full boxes are heavy and over time the underlying boxes and their valuable contents will be crushed. Your choice of long or short boxes only depends on your storage space. There are also drawer boxes on the market but I don’t recommend using them as they can be hard to open when full and will still crush when stacked too high.
When placing your bagged and boarded comics in the boxes, be sure that the issues stand vertically with the majority of the weight resting on the comic board that is supporting the issue (flap side up). If you don’t have enough comics to fill your box, they can be allowed to sit at a slight angle for the time being but I would not recommend this for long term storage. A piece of soft foam can be used to prop your comics upright as long as the foam is not applying too much pressure on the books. I also don’t recommend jamming your boxes too full for the same reason. You should be able to easily flip through your full comic box so as to find issues quickly and safely.
All the supplies I discussed here should be readily available at your local comic book store. If your local shop doesn’t keep comic supplies in stock or store their back issues as I described, I would start looking for another store.
Now go call you mother and tell her not to throw your old comics away. Then start protecting your collection before your comics suffer a slow painful death. Otherwise, you could soon be staring at a $1000.00 comic book in your local comic shop thinking, “I had that issue when I was a kid…”