Comic book storage is an important part of collecting. Proper storage can mean the difference between protecting your investment, or destroying it. We store to keep our comics fresh, clean, crisp, and vibrant. The three key ingredients to proper storage are: bags, boards, and boxes. There are a number of online retailers for various comic supplies, and any of them can also be purchased at your local comic book store. Following proper storage guidelines will ensure the preservation of your comics condition, ensuring a higher Comic Book Grading and retaining book value. This guide is intended for anyone who is interested in comic book collecting, or has just started collecting and desires a better way to protect the books you have in stacks around your bedroom. It is also important to remember that it is never too late to start taking better care of your books. Neglect and a bad environment can causes damage, but proper care and storage can often prevent further damage from occurring.
Environmental contaminants such as dirt, oils, dust, and excessive moisture can not only devalue your comics by causing excess wear and damage, but may also lead to deterioration of your books. Also, unbagged comics may become scuffed easier. Bags should be made of either polyethylene, polypropylene, or mylar (polyester). All three are archival quality materials, meaning that they are formulated without acids or other harmful chemicals which will lead to the deterioration of your books. Mylar is commonly thought of as being the best choice of the three because it lasts the longest, and provides extra support, however many collectors elect to use one of the other two choices because of Mylar's higher price tag. Bags come in a variety of sizes (and thicknesses), so it is important to make sure that whatever you are buying will fit your books properly. The most common sizes are Modern, Regular, Silver, and Golden age. Most comics since the 1980's will fit in Modern size bags, so Modern bags will fit most books produced today.
Bags are designed with a long flap at the top which is to be folded over and taped down (most use simple scotch tape). This is important because you will not risk the tape making contact with your books. Self-adhesive bags are also available at a slightly higher cost. While some collectors prefer self-adhesive bags for their ease of use and convenience, others will avoid them because repeated taking out and returning of books makes it easier to get the adhesive flap stuck to your books. Bags are also available in a 3-ring binder version which will allow 3-ring binder storage of comics.
Boards provide extra structural support to your Bagged comic books. You will only want to purchase acid-free boards to store your comics to avoid contamination. Boards are inserted into comic bags behind the comic, with the back of the comic to the board. As with bags the grades of boards can vary. What is most important is purchasing archival safe boards (again, there are degrees to this too) ensuring proper care of books for the duration of their storage. Comic book boards have two sides to them: one side is rough and matte, the other side is smooth and glossy. Since boards are only intended to protect one comic, only one side is treated, this is the smooth side of the board.
Boxes can also be an important measure to protect your books from environmental contaminants, sunlight (which can cause damage to the covers of your books), and will preserve the edges and corners of your comics. Boxes are also important because comics prefer to be stored upright rather than being laid flat or stacked, and boxes allow this to be done more easily. There are a variety of styles of Boxes, but here we will only be looking at the most common. Long Boxes and Short Boxes are the most common. A traditional Long Box will store around 300 books depending on what kind and how tightly packed they are. Short boxes only store around 100 books, but some collectors find them better suited to their needs because they are smaller (meaning easier store), and the reduced number of books makes them drastically lighter than a full long box. Another option is pull-out drawer boxes. Boxes with pull out drawers are designed exactly how they sound which can make them much more convenient for comic storage. Boxes are often stored stacked on top of one another, and enough boxes can make reaching those bottom boxes quite an ordeal each week. Boxes with pull-out drawers can be stacked and accessed at any time without having to constantly unstack or rearrange. Dividers can also be purchased for boxes (or may come with them). Dividers are not necessary for the care or protection of your boxes, but may improve access to comics.
As with Bags and Boards, boxes come in a variety of materials including cardboard, plastic, and wood or metal. Most collectors will opt to use traditional acid-free cardboard boxes because they are inexpensive, safe, and stackable. Long boxes, short boxes, and pull out drawer boxes all come in cardboard designs which can be assembled without any adhesives. Some collectors will purchase archive safe plastic boxes, and occasionally collectors with larger allowances for their comic habit will use wooden or metal cases (which can be purchased or built in a variety of styles).
Sometimes a collector desires more than just the simple bagging and boarding. A variety of shapes and styles of comic storage devices exist on the market to give a much more rigid protective shell for comics. The main designs of such are clam-shell or slip over. Hard shells for storage can become very costly, and therefore is not something that most collectors opt to do. Some, however, will purchase special storage for their prized books: sketched or autographed copies as well as older or more valuable books. Again, you should use your discretion and make a choice here that fits your interest and budget. Also, it is still important to seek out cases that are acid and contaminant free so that your means of protecting your books do not actually destroy your books.
Several companies exist that will offer Comic Book Grading services. The most prominent of those will also store comics in archival-quality storage cases to prevent deterioration of or damage to books. Two of the most common are CGC and PGX. The capsules used by both companies to encase comic books not only include information about the comic and its grade, but will also enclose your comic in a rigid, contaminant free exterior which rivals the best cases that one can buy on their own. One of the main drawbacks to this is the price-tag. Because of the high price tag involved this is not a good method for general storage, but can be an excellent way to offer some of the best protection to your most valuable and important books. It is worth noting that while encased for their protection, comics in these cases can still be damaged if not properly cared for. Also, these cases are designed to be tamper-evident so comics that are encased in such capsules cannot be read and the shell must be broken to remove them. This is so that the grade given and the book cannot be altered after you get your book back. These cases are also much larger than traditional comics, and require special boxes to store them.
If you have particularly old and valuable comics that have sustained damage or wear over the years, repair options do exist. This remains a controversial topic in the comic book community: Should I repair, or is it best to leave a book alone. Proponents of comic book repair see repairing or restoring a book as bringing it closer to its original condition, and therefore bringing it back to the way that it should be. Those who are against comic book repair often see it as deceitful, making a book appear to be something other than what it is and artificially inflating its value. While much debate exists in this area, proper restoration of a comic book can raise both its grade as well as its approximate value under the right circumstances. Some common repairs are:
Pressing - Pressing a comic is the act of putting it under large amounts of pressure (and sometimes heat) in order to flatten it out. This can raise the value of an older book; sometimes by thousands. Pressing can be as simple as leaving a book under a stack of dictionaries, and there are even professional pressing services that use special machinery to apply both heat and pressure to a book.
Staple Repair - Rusted staples may be filed down and smoothed to remove oxidation and discoloration. If this is done well it is only evident under magnification. Staples may be re-folded and re-attached to books when they come loose, and the paper of the book may be tucked under and inside the staple.
One's stance on repair or restoration is simply a personal choice, but it is good to understand both sides of the issue before one decides to go ahead and have books restored (or attempting to do it on your own).
One particularly easy aspect of comic book care, preservation, and handling that is easy to overlook is personal hygiene. It is important to have clean, dry hands when working with your comics. Dirt, oils, dust, and other contaminants can damage comic books. This is especially true when dealing with older comics. Acid in particular has been mentioned several times throughout this article because the papers comic books are printed on (particularly older comics) can be highly susceptible to damage from acid, and will deteriorate much more quickly in its presence. Smokers should be particularly careful because the chemicals in cigarette and cigar smoke will also destroy your books. Keep your books away from sunlight and florescent light. Sun and florescent light will damage book covers causing them to lose color vibrancy and gloss. Comic books also prefer to be stored in a cool, dry place. Heat and moisture (including humidity) can cause a variety of damage to books including mold, mildew, water staining and wrinkling of paper. Also, because of inferior papers and inks older comics are much more susceptible to just about all forms of damage than those produced to day. This is particularly true of books that are already damaged with age and wear.