Getting Into Comics 101: Basic Tools for Collecting Comics


    When you want to protect your clothes there are a variety of tools that you use to keep them at their best. Much like garment bags, and dry cleaning is to clothes, comics require a certain level of care and tools in order to keep them protected through the ages. Take a good look at what you see at a quality bookstore, or a business that sells old books. How do they take care of their products? How do they exchanged them towards customers? These are all factors that directly relate to the collecting, preservation, and storage of comic books.

    Many comic collectors today may claim to know the in's and out's of comic collecting, yet they fail to up keep with the basics of comic book maintenance for their products. Here at Comically Cultured, we have decided it's time to even the playing field. I want to introduce and explain the language of the comic culture in regards to these collection products for novice collectors while simultaneously providing useful and uncommon information for the more experienced collectors.

    A couple weeks ago, we discussed several intro books into comics. Let's say you've read these (or other comics) and you or a friend decide to start collecting a series of comic books or graphic novels, consider investing in a few products for the security and protection of your new collection. While there are a variety of decent ways to protect and store comics (there are no "perfect" ways, just preferences) there are certainly some very bad ways to do so.

    The products you purchase to protect your comics should always revolve around your general goal for collecting comics. Do you want to be able to re-read the issues you purchase? Are you trying to create a collection to sell later on? Depending on the condition of the comic, it may not be worth it to spend top dollar for a protective case that will just be opened constantly to be read. So before you go out and spend tons of money on materials, spend some time reflecting what you are trying to accomplish and the best route to achieve this. Trust me, this will save you hundreds of dollars in the long term.

    No matter what your end goal is, there are three basic tools for starting a comic collection. I will review these three products and explain why they work as well as the thought and maintenance processes behind each of them. Here we go:

    1. Bag and Board


    The bag and board may be one of the simplest and most well known method of comic book protection out there. They're pretty intuitive and cost effective. You simply place the comic inside the plastic sleeve and tape it shut. These generally range from $0.10 per unit to sometimes as high as $0.50. This normally depends on the size and thickness of your protection but either way if you're looking for basic protection on the go, this is a good solution.

    There is a huge debate between two types of bag and boards: mylar vs. poly bags. The general debate is this, mylar bags are clearer, are made acid-free, and make your comics look better IN the bag, but poly bags are biodegradable and last longer. Mylar bags also tend to form micro tears after prolonged open and closing of the bag while poly bags are more resistant to this but do not have the "glossy" look. 

    There are two types of poly bags; polyethylene and polypropylene. Ethylene bags are good impact resisters and are light and tough. Propylene bags are stiffer and more chemically and scratch resistant. When it comes to which one is better, it really just depends on how often you wish to open and close your bags and how long you plan on keeping your collection. General rule of thumb, if you want to keep your collection for yourself, get poly bags. If not, get mylar.

    While these may be cost effective, collectors tend to disregard one simple maintenance procedure with them. Over time, the comics placed in these bags need to be replaced. In the older days, comics where made with paper that, among many other chemicals in them, acid was present. This acid over time will degrade the comic's pages as it makes contact with the stagnant air. This is why pages in older books look yellow. Today, comics are made with acid free paper so the lifespan of these books last long. Nevertheless, it is good just to protect your book collection from any damage.

    If you choose to go the bag and board route, make it a point to check your comic collection about once or twice a year just to see how they're doing. Also keep them in a dry, cool place while storing them (more on this topic in a sec). If you see signs of yellowing, you can simply remove the comics from their current bag, and place them into a newer one. Just make sure you get the right size bag for the book.

    There are a few alternatives to bag and boards but it really depends on how much physical handling of the comic you wish to do. For more access to the comic you could use binder pages. These generally range about $1 and allow you to keep all of your comics together in a simple comic binder but can leave your comics exposed to liquids and other harmful substances that could damage your books.

    For a more permanent solution (and depended on how much you want to spend) you could use graded comic sleevesor frame kits. These vary in cost depending on the size and the preexisting quality of your book. These will keep your books virtually shielded from most hazardous situations but even like bag and boards, it's good just to keep an eye on your books for signs of yellowing.

    2. Storage Boxes

    This one may be the most difficult topic because there are simply just so many options here. Comically Cultured will try to give you some of the best and most creative ways we've seen but just remember, there is no "right" way to do this. As long as you follow a few basic guidelines, it is completely open to interpretation for you.

    The first rule of thumb for storing comics is to obvious put them into a container. Make sure that the books don't have too much room to move around. The last thing you want to happen is have a really great book get damage simply because you were moving the box from one shelve to another and the book got banged around. The second rule is you want to keep this storage away from the sun (or any other source of extreme heat) and moisture. This can quickly degrade the quality of the pages in your book. The last rule is to keep your stored books in a well ventilated room. Stagnant, humid air seems to be the leading cause of book yellowing from what I have researched.

    Comic book shops have official comic book storage boxes for these reasons. They can vary from $15 up to $30 depending on where you go, the material they are made out of, and the size of the books you are trying to store. These can hold anywhere from 50 to hundreds of comics depending on the length that you buy and are most frequently made either out of cardboard or a a plastic. I personally use these just because they're convenient and end up saving space in the long term.

    I have seen many other solutions for storing comics though. I guess here it all really depends on the size of your collection, your expectation for the size of your future collection, and of course the amount of money and care you wish to give each of your books. I have seen shops and fans store them in filing cabinets, shoe boxes, shelves and much more. Be creative, have fun, and tell us down below in the comments what has worked for you!

    3. Inventory

    There is no bigger frustration for a comic collector than to go to a store, find a book that will fit into your collection, but not be sure if you already have it or not. I have been collecting Nightwing comics for the past 15 years and I cannot tell you how many times I have had to walk away from a book because I was unsure whether or not I already had it in my collection. For this reason, I recommend Google Drive to you my readers.

    Because smartphones are so dominant in our society now (and an available computer is around almost every corner), there is no reason why we should forget anything these days. You can keep documents that you regularly need quick information on the cloud now and access them whenever you need via smartphone, tablet or computer that is connected to the internet. To prevent forgetting what comics I already had, I made a spreadsheet on on my cloud, typed in all the information of my collection and saved it. Now whenever I am in doubt, I can just use my phone to reassure myself before I make a possible mistake.

    If you are wary of the storing information on the cloud, consider services like Comixology that will track your collection and keep you up-to-date on what new books are being published that pertain to your interests. These books can be registered to a local shop that will create a folder for you and give them to you as soon as you can drop by and pick them up.

    Other services that I have seen work for people are EvernoteDropbox, and SkyDrive. These are all free services and available for access on both the Apple App store and Google Play. If you generally use Android products, Dropbox or Google Drive may work better for you, while Apple customers may prefer services like Evernote. Remember, it's all about what works best for you in the end. It's your comic collection, own it

    But remember, inventory doesn't only exist in the form of raw data. I integrate physical organization into inventory. What I mean is this: keep your comics organized in whichever way you decide to put them into storage. I have invested in dividers for my storage boxes that help me quickly locate my comics. Some people simply alphabetize their collection or place each collection in different boxes. All seem to work, and everyone has their personal preference. Just remember this, it's exhausting to search your entire collection to find that one comic you want to read or show someone. Take the time to save time and organize!


    Again, there are many solutions to all of these topics above and there are definitely many more tools for comic book collecting. This is a just a good introduction for beginners with some more in-depth facts for you seasoned collectors. This is just what I have found to work but I always love to hear new suggestions. So my question to you readers is this, what new and different ways do you know to protect and store your comics?

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