Friday, August 1, 2008

Now What?

By Chris Buchner

So you’ve started buying comics (hopefully due to one of these articles), now what? Well, there’s no correct way to collect them; it all boils down to what type of collector you want to be. You can be the type that reads them, throws them in the bottom of the closet and forgets about them until they move out. Or you could be the type that gives them away to kids or charity after reading. But, this article deals with those who want their collections to grow and stick around for a while; be it for the love of the books or the hopes of having an investment someday.

Comics are made of paper. Paper, as we all know, is not one of the strongest substances known to man, and people are not the most graceful. You can wipe out an entire novel with a full glass of water. If you’d like to keep your books for a bit, it’s recommended that you invest in some comic bags. These are plastic bags that you can slip your book into and will protect them from the little mishaps of life. They come in a variety of sizes, including current (comics from the 1980s and up), Silver Age (comics before the 1980s, as they were a bit wider in size), Golden Age (for those very early comics) and even magazine (for your MAD Magazine collection). Now most collectors will tell you you have to get the bags made out of more expensive mylar and change your bags within ten years. This can be a pricey proposition, especially as your collection grows. I find that the cheaper polypropylene bags work just fine past the decade “deadline,” especially if you keep your books in a reasonably controlled environment (as in not directly next to your radiator in the dead of winter). Just be sure whatever type of bag you decide to use is clearly marked “acid-free” so they won’t eat away at your books.

So, you’ve protected your comics from spills and mild mishaps, but they can still be bent, crumpled, crushed and damaged. Worry not! Along with the bags are corresponding sized boards. These keep your books nice and sturdy in their plastic protectors, making them harder to damage and easier to store somewhere. Again, make sure whatever kind of board you use is acid-free.

But, let’s face it, they’re still in glorified plastic wrap and cardboard; both of which can be damaged or punctured with enough applied force. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dropped a comic in a bag with a board and had it land on a corner, only to dent the cardboard AND comic (again, humans are not the most graceful of creatures). Anyway, for that extra durable protection, they have plastic holders. Basically, they are solid plastic versions of the comic bags, which can also fit a comic within a bag and board. Some plastic holders come with a stand similar to that of a picture frame so that you can display your favorite issues.

Okay, we’ve just talked about all the ways there are to protect your books, but where do you put them? Again, there is no standard method of storage. It’s basically all about the amount of space you have, the size of your collection, and how much protection you want for your books. They make boxes for comics in two sizes, called appropriately long and short boxes, which can be turned into virtual filing cabinets by inserting them into specially designed cardboard shells. But, many collectors use generic boxes, file boxes, filing cabinets, 3 ring binders with appropriate plastic pages and more.

You’re reading the books, and that’s great. What happens after you do is entirely up to you. You can easily find comic supplies at your local comic shop, or online with a simple Google search. You can bag them, board them, put them in a box (with or without the former), or even go the full nine yards and invest in a high-tech ultra-sensitive security system with three-inch thick steel plated doors. There’s no wrong way to collect comics. The most important thing is you enjoy them, and maybe share the fun with someone else.

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