Comic Book Storage Secrets
The most important preservation step you can take for your comic books is proper storage. Unfortunately many comic books have been made from the cheapest materials possible. Time and the elements are your enemies to preserve the paper. Heat, air and sunlight all work to degrade your collectible and diminish their value. With the correct storage environment and materials we can slow this process and keep your comics in top condition for many decades.
Today we’ll talk about comic book bag and board basics and which options are best for your specific situation. The correct solution for your collection will save you money while keeping your comic books safe.
The Ideal Storage Environment? Lessons from the Edgar Church Collection
One of the most miraculous finds in the comic book hobby was the Edgar Church Collection found in Denver, Colorado by Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics (also why the comics are often referred to as Mile High comics). Other than the number of comics found, the most amazing part of the collection was the beautiful condition.
It is difficult to store comics like Mr. Church did, but his method highlights some of the characteristics of a good storage environment. When Chuck Rozanski first saw the collection it was stored in Edgar Church’s cool, dry basement. The comics were stacked floor to ceiling essentially preventing air from reaching all but the edges of the comics. This ideal environment – cool, dark and dry, led to one of the most amazing high grade comics collections of all time.
Comic Book Bag Basics
There are two basic types of bags – polyethylene/polypropylene and Mylar®. The standard, low cost bag you see back issue comic books stored in at a comic book store is a polyethylene/polypropylene bag, otherwise known as a “poly” bag. These bags are inexpensive and get the basic job done. The downside to poly bags is they tend to discolor and the heat sealing method of securing the edges introduces a chemical (PVDC) which may be harmful over time.
An upgrade to the poly bag is the Mylar® bag. Here is a description of Mylar® and it’s benefits
MYLAR® According to the US Library of Congress, the preferred material for preserving valuable documents is uncoated archival quality polyester film, such as Mylar® type D or equivalent material such as Melinex® 516. Mylar® is an exceptionally strong transparent film that resists moisture, pollutants, oils and acids. With a life expectancy of hundreds of years, Mylar® will outlast most other plastics. In addition, the brilliance and clarity of Mylar® enhances the appearance of any paper collectible. (Mylar® is a registered trademark of DuPont Teijin films. Their brands of archival quality polyester films are Mylar® type D and Melinex® 516 of which they are exclusive manufacturers.)
Mylar® bags are meant for long term storage and come in different thicknesses. Mylites are typically 2mm thick and the standard bag is 4mm thick and fairly rigid.
Comic Book Backing Board Basics
Comic book backing boards come in different thicknesses and varying degrees of “archival” acid free materials. For the highest lever of protection make sure the boards meet the US Government’s minimum requirements. These requirements are defined as boards having a 3% calcium carbonate buffer throughout and a minimum pH of 8.5. Many advertisers claim that their boards are “acid free at time of manufacture,” but are only spray coated with an alkaline substance making them acid free for a short time. Boards termed “acid free at time of manufacture” do not provide sufficient protection for anything other than short term. True acid free boards are impregnated with a calcium buffer resulting in an acid free, alkaline pH content of 8.5 throughout. True acid free comic backing boards are more expensive than the “acid free at time of manufacture” item.
Which Comic Book Bag and Board for You?
The first thing you should consider is to keep your comics in a cool, dark and dry place. Store them in an unheated room, if possible, and attempt to monitor the humidity.
Once you have a suitable location the next question you must answer is how long do you plan on keeping the comic/comics you are storing? If for short term storage (a couple of years or less), you have some less expensive options. If you are storing valuable comic books or want to keep your collection for a long time, the options change.
Short Term, Low Value Storage Options
If you are storing less valuable comic books for a short period of time (a couple of years or less), then you probably want to go with “poly” bags and a less expensive backing board. These are the bags you see most comic books stored in at a comic book store. Why? They do an adequate job at a reasonable price. They protect your comic books from handling, but they do break down or “yellow” over time. If you decide to keep your comic books for more than a couple of years you should change your bags to either another poly bag or upgrade to a Mylar®.
Long Term or Expensive Comic Book Storage
If you are planning to keep your comics for a long period of time or have an expensive book the only real option is Mylar®. I like to break my personal collection down into two categories: long term less valuable comics and valuable comics. Let’s look at both.
For comic books I plan on keeping for several years that aren’t extremely valuable I choose a less expensive mylite with light weight acid free backing board. This option is reasonable and I don’t have to worry about changing bags. I recently looked through some back issues I’ve kept for over 20 years in mylites (2mm) and they are still in perfect condition. The only downside to the mylite is they are a little thinner so while the material doesn’t break down like poly bags, they don’t give as much physical protection as a thicker Mylar®.
For my more valuable comic books I always go with a full Mylar® bag (4mm) and thick acid free backing board. Short of encapsulating your comics at CGC or PGX, this is about the best protection you are going to get.
The Best Place to Buy Comic Book Storage Bags, Backing Boards and Boxes
I’ve bought from both the manufacturer and other outlets, but in the end it always comes down to price. If you want to buy direct from the manufacturer I’ve listed the major ones below, but it may not always be the best price so read on for my take.
Direct Comic Book Bag, Board and Box Manufacturers
Where to Find Discounted Comic Book Bags, Mylar®, Boards and Boxes
My search is never complete without checking prices on E-bay. Most times I find the product I want for a lower price, often with free shipping. A lot of retailers pass on some of their retail discount to you. For ease of use I’ve provided links to pre-filled searches for each product below.
With a proper storage environment and materials your comic books should survive in top shape for many decades.