News and Information for People who Love Comics Vol. 9 No. 5

In this Issue...

Bags to Boards—Preserving Your Comics

Data Center Update

Tech Tips

Backing Up and Restoring Your Database

Variant Identification

Bags to Boards and in Between
(With Apologies to Sandra Boynton)

Yes, you’ve finally done it. Your collection has been completely inventoried and graded in ComicBase. You have backup copies of your collection stored on your hard drive, your shelf, and in your safe box (see this issue's Tech Tips for our advice on how to best backup your ComicBase). But what now? Where does your collection go after inventory and more importantly, what can you do to preserve its current, pristine condition?

The Unseen Enemy—The Things That Eat Comics

As the veteran comic collector knows, everything from careless storage to acts of nature to marauding toddlers are land mines lying in wait to send your priceless collection to the quarter box. The lightest crease or foxing on the edges will cause a comic’s condition to plummet, taking the value along with it. A variety of factors play into the preservation of your comic, depending on your storage material and location, but here’s a breakdown of the top offenders:

Your first enemy is the comic itself. Your average monthly has traditionally been printed on the cheapest possible newsprint, and the wood pulp contains high amounts of lignin, a compound that breaks down quickly when exposed to oxygen and light—especially ultraviolet (UV) light. This same chemical is also responsible for turning newspapers brown and brittle when you leave them in the sun. Consequently, extended exposure will cause the paper to yellow and grow brittle; not to mention fade the inks on the cover. For this reason, you’ll want to store your comics away from light—and especially fluorescent lights which contain high levels of UV radiation.

Next, heat, cold, humidity, and poor air circulation are other atmospheric factors that work to ruin the condition of your comics. For collectors keeping their collections in the garage or attic, think again. Piling your comics in the garage may secure them away from the prying hands of children or pet–related accidents, but the high temperatures and humidity also encourage the growth of fungi and molds that will happily eat away at the value of your collection until all you have left is mulch. Your best bet is to keep your collection snugly packaged in a good bag and board and stacked away in acid–free boxes in a cool, dry space (away from light).


Comic Book Geek Vocab:


Paper is a hygroscopic material, meaning it readily absorbs moisture from the environment. This is why you want to make sure that your comics are stored in a dry place to prevent water damage and fungal growth.

Finally, beware of natural disasters. Let’s not forget the case of Eclipse Comics, who in 1989 lost the majority of their back issues in a flood; resulting in a wave of comic collector paranoia that has led to the trendy advice of raising your comics at least six inches off the ground to protect from flooding.

With thousands of unforeseen menaces mounting to destroy your collection, how can one person defend against the constant onslaught? ComicBase offers this handy guide to our customers for how to best combat the things that destroy your comics.

Bagging and Boarding

The most immediate way to save your comic from deterioration is to simply bag and board each issue as you get them. Choosing the right bag for your purpose is a little more complicated, however, as you have a range of choices anywhere from high–end display cases and durable Mylar® D sleeves to your basic polypropylene or polyethylene bags.

Comic stores will almost always carry either clear polypropylene or polyethylene plastic bags. These are the most common as well as the cheapest option for comic collectors. Prices for polypropylene and polyethylene bags vary according to thickness and size and will usually be sold in bulk lots of 100. Neither polypropylene nor polyethylene is acid–free, however, and all will require replacement in 3–5 years or else the plastic deterioration will begin to damage your comics. Polyethylene will decompose by yellowing and become gummy to touch while polypropylene decomposition is marked by a lumpy, rippling effect across the surface.

The next step up for comic protection is the Mylar® “D” sleeve. Mylar sleeves are available from major suppliers like BCE Mylar or Bags Unlimited. Mylar is a completely inert plastic that will not discolor, age, or otherwise damage your comic, and does not require replacement. The downside is that such a sleeve can cost about $1 apiece; although lighter weight Mylar sleeves such as Arklites™ are available for about half the price.

You’ll also want to include sturdy, preferably acid–free boards with all of your bags to prevent edge damage and bending. A variety of standard and acid–free backing boards are available from most comic shops as well as online suppliers like Bags Unlimited. The meticulously–minded collector may even want to consider specialized boards such as the Life-X-Tenders™ from BCE Mylar, which features “a thin layer of activated charcoal laminated between two sheets of true archival acid free boards.” These specially–coated boards will absorb and neutralize the acid content of comic book pages to protect from aging.

For the true exhibitionist, however, there is the comic display case. These hard–to–break, plexi–glass cases can be easily mounted on a desk or shelf, but unless specified by the manufacturer, generally offer no UV protection. For maximum archival displays, collectors may want to consider the UV–protected Universal Archival Collector’s Display Frame from BCE Mylar.

Bill Cole Enterprises, Inc. / BCE Mylar
PO Box 60
Randolph, MA 02368-0060
Phone: 1-781-986-2653
Fax: 1-781-986-2656

Bags Unlimited
7 Canal Street
Rochester, NY 14608
Phone: 1-800-767-BAGS
Fax: 585-328-8526

Options for Storage Boxes—Should I Go Long?

Now that you’ve bagged and boarded your collection, there’s nothing like an acid–free box for storing your comics away for safekeeping. Available in magazine–sized (great for golden age comics), short, long, and now manga (also usable for digests and small trade paperbacks), storage boxes are available in whatever format you need.

For most collectors, the big decision is whether to store their comics in long boxes or short boxes. Short boxes can comfortably hold around 120 bagged and boarded comics when full, and weigh in at about 25 pounds. These compact boxes may often be easier to move, but keep in mind that in the long run, it will cost you in time if you have to move a large collection. Long boxes, on the other hand, weigh about 35 pounds when full, but can hold a good 200 bagged and boarded comics, lightly packed. Long boxes are certainly easier on the budget, but moving them is also harder on the back.

Advanced options are available for the painstaking preserver, such as the “high-grade blue-grey boxboard” from University Products, made “with a minimum of 8.5 pH and 3% calcium carbonate buffers.” Bags Unlimited also carries a series of plastic corrugated comic storage boxes and Wizard Universe has put out a new, completely plastic long storage box under its “Comicare” line which can currently be ordered in advance from your local comic store.

Wizard Universe
151 Wells Ave.
Congers, NY 10920

University Products
Phone: 800.628.1912
Fax: 800.532.9281

Title Dividers are Great Timesavers

Finally, don’t forget that title dividers are your underrated tool in the struggle for comic collection organization and maintenance. Dividers are available in plastic or cardboard for whatever sized box you’re using. Although the cardboard option is definitely cheaper (you can find them from suppliers such as Bags Unlimited at $16.30 a pop in quantities of 50), we rate plastic as the best for durability—try out BCW Supplies for some great prices.

It’s suggested that you place a divider between each new series and label each divider for your reference. Use the ComicBase program to help you generate title divider labels and descriptions!

BCW Supplies
PO Box 970
Anderson, IN 46015
Phone: 1-800-433-4229
Phone: 1-765-644-2033
Fax: 1-765-649-2884


Pardon Our (Digital) Dust

We recently moved our web servers into a new, rather cavernous data center. We apologize for any glitches you may have had accessing the web site or registering online during the move. We think we’ve got the servers happily humming away in their new home now, but if you have any problems, please feel free to give us a call at (408) 266-6883 and ask for “Whatever Mole Man subdefective is in charge of the website.” The Mole Man subdefective on duty will do their best to get things straightened out for you. Sending polite emails to also works.

Tech Tips

Q: What’s the best way to backup my database?

A: For daily backups, it’s best to just let ComicBase save its automatic backup. You can control whether ComicBase backs up your database each time you quit and where the backup is saved using the Setup menu’s Preferences command. It takes an extra minute or two to save the database when you quit, but this extra copy can be a lifesaver if your regular database is damaged by a disk error or virus.

If you’ve got more than one hard drive, it’s a good idea to have the backup save to a different drive than your regular database. This can save your tuchus should you hear the terrible “whirr-click-thunk! Whirr-click-thunk!” of your hard drive deciding that today was a good day to die.

In addition to the daily backups, we also recommend periodically burning a copy of your database off to a CD or DVD (or using a tape backup). Doing this every month is a good minimum, although the key question to ask yourself is how much work could you stand losing if your computer got wiped by a virus, hit by lightning, stolen, ruined in a flood, or destroyed by a spouse who resented all the time you spent with your comic collection.

Please note since CD and DVD recorders aren’t quite as simple for Windows to write to as a hard drive, you normally can’t burn a copy to CD by just using the File menu’s “Save a Copy” command from within ComicBase. Generally, you’ll need to Save a Copy to your desktop first, and then use your CD or DVD recorder’s disc-writing software to “burn” it onto the CD/DVD.

Q: How do I restore from a backup?

A: Older versions of ComicBase were a bit trickier to restore from (check the user's guide for a complete run-down if you haven’t upgraded to ComicBase 9 yet) but with ComicBase 9, it's pretty simple.

First, install ComicBase, if it’s not already on your computer. Move your backup copy onto your hard drive (we’d suggest putting it in your ComicBase folder: normally C:\Program Files\Human Computing\ComicBase 9\Program Data). Finally, launch ComicBase, and use the File menu to Open the backup from that same folder.

Q: I’ve got a bunch of variant comics. How do I know what to call them?

A: Oy! This one ranks right up there with Spider-Man clone continuity in terms of pure indecipherability.

Once upon a time, variants were a rarity, and were easily handled by just designating comics as, for instance, “#1” for the regular edition, and “#1/GO” for the “Gold Logo” edition of issue #1. Today, with publishers like Avatar regularly publishing over a dozen variants for every single bloody comic

Sorry. I was about to go into a bit of a rant there.

In any case, we’ve shifted away from the more descriptive variant abbreviations (e.g. “1/PL” for “#1 Platinum Edition”, “1/SI” for “#1 Silver Edition”, “1/Nude” for “#1 Nude Edition”) in favor of the simpler “1/A”, “1/B”, “1/C” etc., since we discovered that it was becoming increasingly silly trying to concoct meaningful abbreviations to designate “Skeletal black light nude limited edition with ruby red foil logo” and the like.

If there’s a known “regular” edition of a given comic, we’ll refer to it by just the number (e.g. “1”) with variants listed as “1/A”, “1/B” etc.). If there is no real “regular” edition—only variants, we’ll tend to go straight to the “1/A”, “1/B” stuff.

If the publisher actually listed or labeled which variants are which, either on their covers or in some sort of index inside, we’ll respect that labeling (as in Nobel Causes’ labeling the “A” and “B” editions on their covers). Unfortunately, most variants are spewed out more or less randomly by the publishers, marketing different editions to various collectors’ markets, and sometimes going back to print years after the fact to release new variants of old comics. Typically, even the publishers themselves don’t possess a comprehensive list of these variants, much less any sort of classification of the different editions.

In such cases, we’re forced to simply designate each comic as we discover it, noting the distinctions between each edition in the Notes field of the comic, and compiling photo reference of the different editions whenever possible. (ComicBase Archive Edition is especially useful for variant identification, as it includes photo reference for thousands of variant covers, making issue matching much easier).

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