When I graduated from college, a friend offered to store a few boxes of comics at her house until I got settled. Whirlwind marriage, new house, cut to six months later and I had no idea where my comics were. Neither did she, unfortunately. Her father could have benefited from this short lesson in the proper care of comic books and trade paperbacks:
Step One: Don’t use them to prop up a workbench in a shed inhabited by feral cats.
Step Two: See Step One.
Status of the bulk of my collection: Unknown. So, in the meantime, I present a quick and dirty primer on how to keep your comics looking crisp and clean until you move out of your mom’s basement and she throws them all out anyway.
No Glove, No Love
Most collectors swear by bagging and boarding their comics, but that is not the beginning nor the end of comic book care. If you do want to show your issues a little bit of love, I recommend something tough and acid-free that won’t prematurely age your books. Sliding a cardboard back into the bag also helps the comic stand up to age; provides support while lessening wrinkling and stress on the flimsy staples holding the whole thing together.
Newer comics are printed on more virile acid-free papers, so if your budget or patience is limited, give the older or more prized issues the royal treatment. They are more prone to yellowing and fading, being made of fallible newsprint.
If you a) have highly prized issues (signed first editions, etc) or b) are totally hardcore, you can also get hard cases for comics. Of course, these are going to be pricey and bulky, but could be worth it for the right Detective Comics.
If your collection is small now and you see it growing, now is the time to figure out your system. If you already live in a Fortress of Solitude constructed entirely of trades, it is never too late to get a start. You can get specially-designed cardboard boxes for comics, or try bankers’ boxes from the local office supply store. You’ll want to make sure that whatever Ark you do decide to rest your comics in is acid-free so won’t speed up the aging of the pages. If you’re unsure what is and isn’t acid-free (or what acid-free means), go hang out with scrapbookers for a while. They’re kinda scary about their acid.
And a piece of advice that is often overlooked but is extremely important: LABEL THOSE BOXES. Make sure that they are marked as VIS (Very Important Shit), or they could end up the new legs on your best friend’s dad’s toolbench.
Set the Ambience
If you’re going in for serious collection, dedicate a space to it. For the best preservation of comics, your vault should be cool, dry, and usually dark. It should also not be an actual vault, because most of the materials used in safes are actually unsafe for your comics.
Try to store your boxes above the ground. Prop them up with some old bricks or decks of duplicate Pokémon cards you can’t find another use for. This makes sure the temperature is more regulated, and keeps them safe from accidental floods and pet accidents (see feral cats above).
And last but not least . . .
Set My People Free!
Check your comics regularly, especially if they’re somewhere out of sight. Mould and mildew are not the latest additions to Spidey’s Rogues Gallery, and rusty staples or fading pages can be repaired or protected if they’re discovered
Best way to do this is read them. They were made to be loved.
And now I’m going to go read up on how to make trades stop smelling like sawdust and bearded men.