Comic Book Collecting Tools Everyone Should Own in 2023

by Joseph Overaitis

022223C-1024x536 Comic Book Collecting Tools Everyone Should Own in 2023Every comic book hobbyist knows the basic supplies needed to collect comic books. Bags, boards, comic dividers, boxes, and crates fill collector/investor shelves.  Those are the most common tools of the trade, but other gadgets exist that should be on your list.  These items will make you a better investor and collector.

1. Soap and Water

sudsing-hands Comic Book Collecting Tools Everyone Should Own in 2023

Reason Needed

Sometimes, the most basic of items are also the most important.  The problem is that many times people believe the most advanced tools are better.  This is not the case with soap. Comic book store owners sometimes frown on individuals who ask to inspect books.  The reason is not that they lack customer service skills, but rather poor customer experiences.

People fail to realize that comic books are very fragile. In addition, hands are magnets to materials that can harm these books.  Oils, adhesives, grease, dirt, and other foreign substances can damage books.  How many times have comic con guests or store patrons asked to review books shortly after eating nachos and cheese or are drinking a cold beverage with condensation droplets on the container? These substances may seem minor, but the damage they could cause is major.  Fingerprint marks and stains can alter a potentially high-grade book to mid-grade status.

Many times, when reviewing a client’s valuable estate assets, attorneys are asked to wash up before they review the items by estate sales companies.  This is to avoid damaging valuable items. Saving a few dollars with cheap fragranced soap is not a wise choice.  Soap should do its job but leave no odors after one is done washing hands.  You may not need a dedicated wash station, but a gentle non-fragrance soap should be accessible to all hobbyists.

Extra Tip

Many old-school collectors and investors try to take extra protection.  These individuals wash up and then use white lint-free, nitrile, or vinyl gloves. They believe that this extra barrier will prevent a soap’s fragrance or sweat from migrating from the hands to the books.  Unless you are an expert, this should be avoided. The reason is that these gloves may cause handling issues.  Vinyl and nitrile gloves may cause the page to stick to the gloves, causing stress and crease marks. In contrast, white cotton gloves may avoid the sticking potential but the lack of grip may cause the same type of issues.

The Library of Congress does not recommend using gloves because of the possible damage their use can cause. As one of the largest collectors of comic books, the opinions from the Library of Congress on the subject should carry some weight. Comic books are fragile, so care should be given in their handling, but gloves may be too much care.  Killing a fly with a rolled-up newspaper may do the job better than a titanium baseball bat.  Sometimes less is more.

2. Baking Soda, Charcoal Briquettes, and Kitty Litter

Screenshot-2023-02-21-151349 Comic Book Collecting Tools Everyone Should Own in 2023

Reasons Needed

Every collector and investor has come across that common attribute with comic books. Comic books are odor attractors. The Edgar Church Pedigree collection sometimes could be identified by a cedar smell. Other pedigree collections had their own distinct odor that betrayed their lineage. While those odors may be desirable, many non-pedigree collections have a smell that can impact the resale value of a book. They have that unmistakable musky odor smell that smells worse than a 10-day-old pizza left in a backpack.  Worst than musky is that ammonia smell that indicates a cat was in the house. This is a problem that sometimes can be prevented and removed from books to make the books smell better.

Many collectors make a closed storage area available for these books.  The books are left in an elevated un-bagged state to air out.  Then, these hobbyists introduce materials into that closed environment to try to eliminate that musky smell.  In the bottom of the area is unscented baking soda, lighter-free and unscented charcoal, or unscented kitty litter.

Remember that trading one scent for another is not the desired outcome. That is the reason all the substances must be odor free. Sometimes the smell will not go away completely by using these compounds but only be lessened.  This can still help resale value. While smells may not impact grading, undesirable smells may not be the best thing for a healthy spousal relationship or a sale to a hobbyist.

Extra Tip

Inspect comics frequently.  A musky smell developing may be a sign that the humidity where books are being stored is not ideal.  This can be easily remedied. Replacing the bags and boards regularly every few years may be a good way to force oneself to put some extra TLC into your collections to determine if there should be cause for concern. Finally, a bad smell could reveal major problems. Water damage is bad, but if caught early it could mean only a few books are damaged rather than a whole collection or inventory being lost.

3. Hands-free magnifying device AND magnifying glass

glass-300x300 Comic Book Collecting Tools Everyone Should Own in 2023

Reasons Needed

During many depositions and cross-examinations, witnesses will use the lack of eyeglasses as justification for not being able to identify a key piece of evidence.  Many times, those exhibits can be enlarged in a print pre-trial, but sometimes one has no advance notice this excuse will be used.  Imagine a witness’ surprise when they believe they are off the hook, only to have the attorney whip out a magnifying glass that will force them to reveal information that they would have rather not mentioned. Those people have reasons why they do not want to see exhibits clearly. That is not the case for hobbyists.

Hands-free magnifying devices with a light source allow for careful inspection of books while keeping your hands free. These devices can reveal the true condition of books in a collection that may be ripe for grading and others not so much. This type of identification can produce savings that are multiple times the cost of the tool.  Handling and post-purchase defects can also be revealed which could enlighten the owner so that repeat offenses are eliminated. The only caveat is that you have to make sure the base is sturdy and the light source is not so hot that a slight mishap could cause the burning of the book.

Extra Tip

The heading said hands-free AND magnifying glass.  Buying books in person requires access to these visual aids. A hands-free device may not be ideal to drag around a con or in a store, but a magnifying glass may be perfect.  In a hobby where even the most subtle of defects could mean the difference of thousands of dollars a good magnifying glass is a must-have.  It shows the seller that this buyer is serious. It also will let you know the integrity and/or education of the seller.

Bonus Tip

Some sellers will price a book, unaware that the book has been restored. These repairs sometimes cannot be seen with the naked eye, but can be seen under magnification. This can be excusable for some retailers, but not for others.  Catching a restoration and/or defect that was not seen by an experienced seller is bad.  If they did not see the defect that calls into question everything they are selling.  What is worst is that may have been an intentional omission to sell a book to an unweary buyer.

Double Bonus Trick

Sometimes, in an attempt to eliminate that belief, the seller will hastily reveal the restoration and/or defects that will soon reveal themselves to the buyer under magnification.  To box the seller in and know if they are not educated or being deceitful, inspect a book first with the naked eye and ask the seller questions.  Then, after you have their official opinion on the book, bring out your visual aid. The look on the seller’s face may reveal all you need to know on if they knew a book was restored or not.

4. GoCollect Pictures

Reasons Needed

The final tool may seem like a shallow plug, but it is not.  The comic book pictures on this site are more valuable than one could ever imagine.  Key books can be identified quickly in a store or at a con by visual identification.  Many times buyers will see a book and know it is a key only because of the cover. The problem is that sellers may not identify a key comic book that only recently became important because of a movie announcement. Other retailers who rarely handle comic book sales may not even know long-time keys that are in their possession. Identifying these books upon sight is thus very important to those buyers on a hunt for bargains.

Extra Tip

Many users do not realize how important the talent to identify key books on sight is to bargain hunters.  That talent is made easy by setting up targets and doing research on them. The cold hard fact is that most fans could identify the first full appearance of Wolverine but could not identify the first appearances of Loki, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Man-Thing, or even the Golden Age Black Canary.

All those characters have appeared in television or movies and yet their key books are not easily identifiable. Hobbyists love spending time on their books and yet they lack doing one of the most simple things to educate themselves could cost them a lot of money. Studying covers in the GoCollect database is one of the easiest ways to give oneself a step up among their peers.

Batman’s Utility Belt

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The caped crusader was known to have all the tools he needed in one easy-to-access location.  How many times do you think he had the need for Shark Repellant Bat Spray, but when he did he truly needed it. Comic book collectors and investors should have all the tools they need to better equip them to handle any situation that they encounter.

The aforementioned tools are just a few that should be added to a well-stocked hobbyist’s arsenal.  Now, GoCollect asks the readers if you have any suggestions that should also be added to this list?

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Joker

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Ed Dee February 23, 2023 - 6:22 pm

A blacklight flashlight. Put yourself in a closed darkroom with the comic and blacklight, you can pick up things not seen with the naked eye.

Joseph Overaitis February 24, 2023 - 8:23 am


Never thought of that but a defect seen is better than one unseen. Great advice. You never know how those stains could damage a book later on so nice to know.

staninvegas February 23, 2023 - 6:50 pm

Great article! There was a new Congressman sworn in recently on Action Comics #1 from the Library of Congress and I saw them handing it with their bare hands. I thought they were crazy until I educated myself on the subject.

Joseph Overaitis February 24, 2023 - 8:22 am

Welcome to the boards. I missed that and now I have to find that story!!!! Great comment though in that you have to educate yourself because so many people assume we know it all on the hobby. I am still learning and I am glad I can share what I have learned and continue to learn with our audience.

Daniel Robbins February 24, 2023 - 12:35 pm

Or you can just read them and stop catering to the publishers who, like clockwork, let quality and depth of an entire medium decline while selling you variants of bad comics.

Joseph Overaitis February 24, 2023 - 1:09 pm


Welcome to the boards!!! and way to bring it strong with your first post. That is my fear as well. Rather than making a quality product publishers seem to be going with gimmicks to try to get sales. That only works so long and then you start to alienate your audience. Variants of bad comics are like putting a great paint job on a non running car. It looks good and will draw initial interest but after a bit people will want more.

Jeremy February 25, 2023 - 2:48 pm

Great article. Echoing the blacklight comment, in philately we use a UV lamp that has separate short wave and long wave switchable filters. Some small ones are available that run on 4 AA batteries. Each filter will make different things that are not natural to the book pop out vividly. I love my comics now that my eyes are older they are easier to enjoy than stamps. Though stamps are super cool too! To me the IV light is more important than the magnifying glass.

Joseph Overaitis February 25, 2023 - 7:34 pm


Welcome to the boards. The IV lights are gaining in popularity but darn if I had a reader take away ideas for a future article lol. Thank you thought for the comment. It is nice that we have your expertise being shared from a hobbyist who deals with both comics and stamps. Sometimes knowing tricks from a different hobby can translate and I love the comment about the use of different filters.

Redskydigger February 25, 2023 - 11:51 pm

Hi Joseph, great article. As for the smell in comics that are musty or have been in a cat house-use a professional Ozonator. The reason I say this, I purchased a rental property that had the smell of dogs and cats (in it for over 18 years). I friend of mine that is a restoration expert, set up an Ozonator for a week and Voila the smell was gone.

PS. If you use an Ozonator. You or your animals cannot be in the house.

Joseph Overaitis February 26, 2023 - 6:41 pm

How long does it take to work?


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