Storing And Preserving Your Comic Collection:
A Guide To Looking After Your Vintage Comic Collectables
So, you’ve acquired or are in the process of acquiring a nice collection of treasured vintage comics. Collecting is a labour of love, and you can invest a lot of time and money tracking down those elusive items to complete a run of a title, or the work of an artist, or appearances of favourite characters etc. Whether you’re buying for pure enjoyment or for investment purposes, or a bit of each, you’ll want to ensure that your comics hold their value and retain the condition in which you bought them.
Comics are paper and will deteriorate with age. In addition, lots of nasty things will be trying to help that deterioration along: sunlight, artificial light, humidity, moisture, heat, insects, plastic and the card of boxes they are stored in etc. However, there are measures you can take and storage supplies you can buy to keep this deterioration to a minimum and ensure that not only do your comics out-live you, but they out-live you in as good a condition as possible, as near as possible to what they were when you acquired them.
Firstly, light: keep your comics out of it. If you have a special comic that you think it would be a great idea to frame and put on the wall, don’t! Sunlight and electric light will dull the inks on the cover over a period of time and you’ll be left with a lifeless copy worth only a fraction of its original value. The images here of two copies of Hulk #180 show what will happen if you leave a copy exposed to light for too long! If you really want the comic on your wall, get a good quality colour photocopy and frame that instead – at least the copy can be renewed inexpensively when it fades. You should keep your comics in boxes with lids or in cupboards (and if the box has hole handles like most of the specific comic boxes on the market, cover the hole with a backing board rather than have the small area of the cover of the leading comic exposed). Obviously you will want to take out your comics from time to time to enjoy them, so filing them away accessibly is a good idea.
Humidity, moisture and temperature: high humidity can be harmful to paper. A low and stable humidity is best. Fortunately, the UK climate is quite reasonable for this, but avoid storing comics directly against a wall, particularly an outside wall, to avoid condensation and poor air circulation. High temperatures should also be avoided, since fungus and mould can thrive in such and turn your treasures into junk.
Now that you’ve got your comics in a cool, dark, dry place, do you need to actually store them in specialist supplies? Probably, as long as you ensure that you’re using the right product. You could keep them in a cupboard, and many people do, but shelving surfaces can often contain acids that will interact with the inks in the comics and devalue them. If you do keep them this way, they’re best stored vertically rather than in stacks, since with the latter method, the upper items in each stack will with time acquire the unattractive spine roll defect. Far better to store them on shelving in speciality boxes as mentioned above.
However, these boxes themselves contain acids, so for maximum protection, you really want to store each comic in an acid-free bag or sleeve, preferably with an acid-free backing board. Some cheaper bags and boards may contain chemicals that will help destroy your collection rather than preserve it. The common polypropylene and polyethylene bags are safe for temporary storage, but need to be changed every three to five years. If you have these and haven’t changed them in that long, take a few of the comics out and see how yellow the bag has become! The only safe bags for long-term archival storage are those made from acid-free plastic such as Mylars, or their thinner, less expensive counterparts Mylites. At 30th Century we keep all our more valuable stock inventory in Mylite 2 bags (twice as thick as Mylites, and half the thickness of Mylars), with acid-free backing boards. I also keep my personal collection entirely in these. These bags are available in a variety of sizes to fit Golden Age, Silver Age, Magazines and some smaller British comics. The acid-free Mylars, Mylites and backing boards are not necessarily a cheap option, and if you have a large collection, you should perhaps consider how much of it is worth storing in archival supplies. However, you should also ask yourself if you can afford to take a chance on your valuable collection losing some of its value due to poor storage arrangements. A Mylite 2/acid-free board combination may cost you around 50p per comic, but if that comic is worth £500, £50 or even £5, isn’t that extra 50p a good investment?
Everyone makes their own decision on how much trouble and expense they’ll go to in order to store their collection, but I hope this advice has offered some help along the way.