Protect your comic collection

By Michael Kim

Hello Midtowners, this is Michael from the back issues department of Midtown Comics for another blog entry on protecting your collection.  On the last entry, we talked about preserving and/or conserving your collection focusing on comic books.  In preservation, you would protect your comic book by simply bagging and boarding.  In conservation, you would restore it close to the day it came off the printing press by color retouch, paper repair, replacing staples, etc.  You could consider preservation for monetary value and conservation for sentimental value and/or historical relevance.  Uniqueness or intrinsic value could fall under both.  How unique is the comic book to the owner without the possibility of reselling it?  Is it inscribed to you?  How unique is it to the world of collectors?  Does is have monetary value because it’s scarce, misprinted, or recalled?

Keep in mind that you could use the same principles of protection for your magazines, hard covers, trade paperbacks, and other types of collected editions.  Some of these items could be just as rare as any comic book.  There are magazine bag and boards available.  Depending on how issues are collected, you could use silver/golden age, magazine, newspaper sized bags and boards with some HCs, TPBs and other CEs.  Would it be wrong to bag and board your modern age comic book in a silver age sized bag and board?  It is the same material as a modern age bag and board.  The height is the same at approximately 10 ½ inches, but the silver is wider at 7 to 7 1/8 inches, which is perfect for spine roll prevention.

Spine roll might be something you order at a sushi restaurant or a technique used by chiropractors, but in this situation it pertains to comic books.  Note the photos.  Spine roll happens over time.  Let’s say we have a full long or half box of comic books.  It is packed tight with no shifting forward or backwards, but what about side to side?  Comic book boxes are designed to house most golden to modern age books.  They’re wide enough for a golden age book which leaves a little extra space for a modern age book.  Books could shift left to right if you move the box from time to time.  I move things around my room every once in a while, including my boxes.  Let’s say for example, Uncanny X-Men #281 shifted slightly to the right, my right if I’m facing it, and is no longer aligned with #282.  Now over time and pressure, #282 could develop spine roll.  It is exactly what it sounds like – the spine of the comic book tends to roll forward slightly.

Comic book supplies midtown comics

Spine Roll

The pressure comes from a box that is packed tightly and you will be able to see part of the back cover on the front.  Spine roll is not as damaging as spine dents, however.  With spine dents, the damage is permanent.  Spine roll could be reversed, again, over time and pressure.  However, some rolls could tear the cover where the staples are and result in a loose cover.  An easy way to avoid it is to leave space in your boxes.  Don’t pack them tight.  If you come home every Wednesday with new books, you are always adding to your boxes.  Need space?  Shift books to the next box over or buy a new box.  If your collection is not large, you will be able to keep an eye on your books.

However, here at the Midtown warehouse, we have seen collections acquired as large as 30 to 80 long boxes, which is approximately 9000 to 24,000 comic books (thanks Alex!)  Some are well maintained and some are neglected.  I do not intend to sound negative with the word “neglected.”  It is more about a lack of time.  A typical situation is space and a busy lifestyle.  You could run out of space when you collect and collect.  The next logical move is a storage facility.  If you are someone with a busy lifestyle – family, work, rinse and repeat – you might find it difficult to dedicate time for your comic books in storage.  These are the books that we tend to find with some minor to severe spine roll.  Not the entire collection, but just a small percentage, no need to panic.

How often should you replace the bag and board?  There is no time frame.  It is not like changing the oil in your car every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.  A great start would be to remove the lid from the box and take a look at the top of the boards, survey the collection.  If you see “tanning” at the top of the board, it might be time for a new board.  When transferring comic books, do not forget to use the treated or glossy side of the board.  We have seen books boarded with the untreated side facing the comic book.  The result is “acid” burn from the comic book (photo.)  You can see the “acid” lining on the board and you can almost see the ad from the back cover burning right in, I believe it is a milk advertisement.

acid burn midtown comics

Acid Burn

If you are a smoker or live with smokers, residue from cigarette smoke tends to stick to the bag.  There tends to be a tacky yellow film on the bag which is good because you don’t want it on the comic book.  However, the odor does stick to the comic book and some of that residue could find its way inside the bag.  It would be wise to replace.  Some bags tend to wrinkle as well.  They look like waves in the ocean (photo.)  This could be a result of the chemical reaction between the paper and the plastic.  Additionally, over a period of time, bags tend to rip.  Replacing the bag and board is a case by case situation.  If you see it needs changing, it would not hurt to do so.

Comic bag wrinkling

Comic Bag Wrinkling

Temperature and humidity can also have an effect on the comic book as well as the bag and board.  Always keep in mind that the room your collection is in could have an effect on the comic books depending on the temperature.  Archivists (SAA) recommend a room temperature of 68 degrees, give or take 2 degrees, and a relative humidity of 45 percent, plus or minus 2 percent.  Higher temperatures and humidity levels accelerate chemical reactions.  In this case, the chemical composition of the comic book and bag and board.  If you do not have access to an archive, just try to keep your collection in a room without windows, smoke free, dry, and cool.

Stay cool, and thank you so much for reading this entry on protecting your comic collection!

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics.  Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.

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