1. Handle the comics properly Wash your hands with soap and water before handling comics. Don’t just rinse, or you will still have dirty hands! This will remove any oils from your hands, which can cause staining on the cover or interior pages. Ideally, you should wear gloves when handling the comics. Never handle comics by the stapled edge, rather, pick them up at the open edge, top or bottom. The fewer spine stress marks, the better.
2. Place each comic in a bag with a backing board. Use supplies created specifically for archival storage.Mylar sleeves are considered the premiere bag or sleeve of choice (see Tips). While it may be superior, it is probably not essential, if ordinary care is taken to check the books periodically and change the bags when or if any yellowing is noticed.
Back boards are important to provide support and will prevent spine stress and corner/edge wear. Boards may be acid free at time of manufacture but that can change over time creating yellow stains on the board. 24 point solid bleached sulfate, coated on one side boards are for short term storage (<5 years) and the comic should rest on the coated/glossy side. The rough side will create a tan image transfer from the back. For longer term storage look for boards that have a buffer throughout.
For everyday use, ordinary bags and boards are less expensive and work fine. Unless you’re using Mylar with virgin, alkali-buffered backer boards, however, you should plan on changing the bags and boards every 7 years or so.
3. Get your comic books in order. Organize your comic collection and find an acid-free box to store them in. A good storage box is one made of acid-free cardboard. You can also buy smaller archival storage boxes from archival and conservation supply stores online.
4. Store your comic boxes in a cool (70 degrees F or below is ideal), dry (50-60% relative humidity), and dark location, where humidity and temperature do not fluctuate. Interior closets are usually the best places to store comics in a typical house. Do not store comics in a basement if you can avoid it, as a burst pipe can result in flooding, which will ruin your comics. If you must store comics in a basement, make sure that the boxes are at least one foot off of the ground so that if any flooding occurs, you can minimize the possibility that water will reach the comics. Moisture is a comic book’s second worst enemy; right next to fire. Also, if you plan on storing your books in a basement you should consider storing them in a plastic container, as if you do have a flood, water will not leak.. (and it might even float, but hopefully you wont have that much water.)
5. Check up on them regularly. Check for bleeding of colors onto the boards, yellowing, and mold or mildew. If you notice ANY odor of mildew, remove the books from the contaminated location, set them out to air dry, and check again in three days. If you still smell mildew around the books, re-bag and board them immediately. Finally, if the mildew smell lingers, it is best to amputate – destroy the infected books, or at least remove them from contact with the rest of your clean collection. Mildew is a living thing and will migrate right through even Mylar to destroy your books (not to mention their value – the barest whiff of mildew will send a prospective buyer running).
6. Insure your collection. Comic books are NOT covered under your homeowners policy, even if part of a collection – they require a separate insurance rider. If your collection is extensive or valuable, talk to your insurance agent to get appropriate coverage in case of fire or theft.
7. Consider having good quality, older books professionally graded by a known, respected company (such as CGC). This is the ultimate protection for these books as they are sealed in an archival acrylic “well” with alkali buffers after being appraised by a panel of experts as to their condition. They may be re-sealed and certified for a small fee if you need to open the book for any reason (such as to show to a prospective buyer).
Here’s some handy Comic Care Tips -
There are generally two basic camps when it comes to protecting your comics. The entertainment collector and the investing collector are those two. The entertainment collector buys comics just for the stories and doesn’t really care about what happens to their comics afterwards. The investing collector buys comic books just for their monetary value.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, buying comics for pleasure and wanting to protect their future value. The basic protection is putting them in mylar plastic bags with slim cardboard boards to keep them from bending. After this, they can be stored in a cardboard box designed just for comic books. All of these can be bought at your local comic book store.
- Bag your comics. Using a protective plastic bag will keep your comics from being exposed to atmospheric pollutants such as dust and harmful gases. Bags are available for most comic book sizes and in materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or Mylar. Polyethylene and polypropylene bags are designed to last for 3 to 5 years, after which time they should be replaced, while Mylar bags are designed to last for longer periods. Whichever type of plastic bag you use, be sure to buy bags that are acid-free to prevent damage to the comic inside.
- Use backing boards. Backing boards help keep your comics flat in the bag. As with bags, choose boards that are acid-free and insert them in the bag with the comic slowly, with the shiny side facing the comic book. Backing boards should be replaced every 3 to 5 years to remove any contaminants that may have gathered while the comics were in storage.
- Tape the bags shut. You can use either a regular tape or double-sided tape, provided it is acid-free.
- Box up your bagged comics. After bagging your comics, place them upright in a protective box. The best boxes to use are acid-free cardboard boxes made for the purpose.
- Store the comics in a safe place. A “safe place” means not just safe from prying eyes, but also somewhere safe from environmental damage. Store your comics somewhere cool, dry, and dark, away from both sunlight and fluorescent light. A closet on the main level is best, with a dry basement a good second, but an attic subject to temperature and humidity fluctuations throughout the year is the worst storage location. Keep the storage box at least 5 to 10 inches (12.5 to 25 cm) off the floor, with space around it to allow air to circulate and prevent the growth of moulds and fungi.
- Inspect your comics periodically. Even with the best storage, it’s still possible for comics to get damaged. The surest way to prevent lasting damage is by checking your comics over every so often.
Always try an remember with all delicates like comics, especially valuable ones, use cotton gloves if possible and treat them as if you are handling historic documents in an archive, as in a sense, you are.