Preserving the Comic Book Collection

by Norman Robinson III

100929_a064e96435ac2c5378dfd6399155dfb62221a921-217x300 Preserving the Comic Book CollectionComics from the Bronze, Silver and Golden Age are fragile and need protection. The paper used, back in the day was not of the highest quality. The need to keep your comic collection becomes paramount as you advance from a beginning collector to a seasoned, knowledgeable accumulator of rare vintage comic books. Preserving and storing the comics can actually improve the comics over time. Spine roll, creases without a color break, smell, even the decay of the paper itself can be halted to increase the lifespan of your valuable collectible. The featured issue Action Comics #39 is a variant cover with a WWII scene and needs every bit of protection and preservation that we can provide it. This Golden Age classic has one variant on the cover; can you guess what is wrong with the cover? The answer is at the end of the blog. Let’s review some of the great archival tactics available to comic book collectors.

In the beginning, everyone usually follows a similar path back to comics. First, they realize something they own has value. Second, they are hit with a wave of nostalgia when they review the old books they have leftover from their childhood. Finally, they start taking their collection seriously again, as they did as a child. Valuing specific issues, remembering reading one story or another and talking to their friends about the heroes or villains. From this point forward the comics are collectible and valuable which need care. That is when the preservation of the comic becomes paramount. Who wants to pay for that Incredible Hulk #181 and watch it turn brown? After all, the average price of (8.0) very fine grade would run you $3300 FMV. If you are going to fork out that kind of money you need the best protection for that comic.

Basic Preservation Tactics 

The polypropylene bags are the first step in protecting the comic. Without getting into too much chemistry detail these bags support the comic shape, holding it tight inside the bag. This keeps out dirt, debris, water, and simulates the form of the comic to give consistency for the comic book shape. The most important protection the polypropylene bags offer is they are chemically inert. Standard industry bags are made with “2 mil archival-safe acid-free poly bags.” Most bags claim to be 100% acid-free, but my cursory research shows that they should be swapped out every five years as that inert coating decays over time.

No bag would ever be complete without a backing board, to protect the comic book shape and corners (especially those corners). The standard issue board is usually certified acid free and “coated on one side with calcium carbonate.” The boards have a shiny side and a dull side. If you have trouble telling, merely angle it up to a light source and you should see a shine on one side and nothing on the other. The shiny side touches the comic. Once you have an acid free bag, acid free board, then you put your comic inside and buy a comic box. My suggestion is to stay away from the long boxes as they are difficult to move. The short boxes hold 150 or so comics, and just about everyone can lift one. Typically they now come with acid-free interiors that resist damage to your comic. The comics should be stacked tightly to keep the pressure on the comics but not crush them. You don’t want free comics moving around in the box.

Conclusion: Action Comics #39

Your favorite comic books can be slabbed and graded to retain value. The primary grading companies like CBCS and CGC both encapsulate the comic for protection, grade the book, record grader notes, issue notes, and place Microchamber paper inside the case to protect and preserve the book. I will get into more detail on Microchamber paper in an upcoming blog. Using CGC, or CBCS is often the best approach for those costly books like Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Action Comics #39

Most Golden Age comics like Action Comics #39 are expensive to own. This comic was made during World War II (though America had not entered the war yet) and depicts Superman attacking some German 88’s. The creative team of Siegel, Boltinoff, Fox, Fitch, and Hart (scripts) breathed life into Superman. Along with an army of pencilers drawing the splendid Superman Golden Age artwork. Have you figured out what is wrong with Superman’s Action Comic #39 cover? One big hint: It should not be blue. Still no idea? Okay, look at Superman’s cape the “S” is blue on his cape, not red! Yep, a mistake, which makes this an actual variant comic cover. The Action Comics #39 in grade (4.5) very good plus, sold just five months ago, for $550. Every collector is using some form of archival protection for their comics. Just like Superman needs protection from Kryptonite your comics need protection from the elements.




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