|News and Information for People who Love Comics
||Vol. 9 No. 5
to Boards and in Between
(With Apologies to Sandra
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
and more importantly, what can you do to preserve its current,
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
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
is a hygroscopic material, meaning it readily absorbs
moisture from the environment. This is why you want
sure that your comics are stored in
a dry place to prevent water damage and fungal growth.
Finally, beware of natural
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
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
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
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
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
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
7 Canal Street
Rochester, NY 14608
Options for Storage Boxes—Should I Go Long?
Now that you’ve bagged and boarded your collection,
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
corrugated comic storage boxes and Wizard
put out a new, completely
long storage box under
its “Comicare” line
which can currently be ordered in advance from your local comic
151 Wells Ave.
Congers, NY 10920
Title Dividers are Great Timesavers
Finally, don’t forget that title dividers
are your underrated tool in the struggle for comic collection
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
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
PO Box 970
Anderson, IN 46015
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 email@example.com also
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.
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
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
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
suggest putting it in your ComicBase folder: normally C:\Program Files\Human
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
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.
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
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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