With the onset of Marvel and DC's domination of the Silver screen, a new generation of "kids" are being exposed to the charters and creations of yesteryear, some dating back generations. If you've caught the comic-book bug, I'm terribly sorry, for there is no cure. Thankfully, continued exposure helps to mitigate the symptoms.
The following guide is meant to help keep your stash in pristine condition so you can get your fix under controlled conditions for years, nay decades to come! So, strap in, grab your funny books and we'll get this party started!
Disclaimer: I'm not a comic book dealer nor am I a preservation specialist working part time at the museum of natural history to pay off a lone shark (Lenny Markowitz) over a bum horse in the third. I'm just a guy who digs comics and was taught at an early age to respect my things, and treat them well. The following are my opinions, and shouldn't be taken as gospel. As with all my ibles, take what you want and ditch the rest (yes, that applies to my opinions as well).
Authors note: I don't actually know anyone named Lenny Markowizt, but If I did, I'm sure he'd be a real stand up sorta fella.
Step 1: Because You've Got to Start Somewhere...
Preservation really starts with the purchase. Whether you're shopping thrift or purchasing pedigree*. The beginning of a collection starts with taking stock of the overall condition of your perspective purchase. To that end, I'd shy away from making any significant purchase sight unseen. Sure, snapping up a couple wholesale lots off Ebay is a quick way to bolster your budding collection; if you're just planing on reading them, that's actually a great way to immerse yourself in the mythology of any particular subject. However, there are any number of issues that don't lend themselves to photography, for instance: ever bought a book, from a pack a day smoker?
Really, if you're just starting out, you should pick up a few current volumes of whichever character or super group your into before investing in Silver & Gold.* Get your feet wet, so to speak. Wanna jump right in? Your best bet when it comes to buying vintage is going to be dealers or trade shows, sorry to say. You may get lucky every once and again on Craig's list if you're savy enough to spot a bargin and quick enough to get there first. But that takes: time, patience and computer literacy. Myself, not so good with computers... or literacy, if I'm being totally honest (ah, self-depricating humor).
Then, there's the time honored tradition of a listless afternoon perusing the wears of ye olde comic-book shoppe. Here's your meat and potatoes when it comes to garnering the makings of a killer collection. If you've never spent and afternoon in a comic shop, I highly recommend it. Typically, shop owners or their employes are happy to wax poetic about their favorite characters; point out the latest volumes of this or that, and direct your passions towards key issues i.e. first appearances, or pivotal transitions in story line (typically commanding a high premium). Take the time to talk to them. Comic book collecting doesn't have to be confined to the dark recesses of Mom's basement (anymore).
Pro Tip; When buying new, I buy two, "First rule of government spending; Why buy one? When you can have two at twice the price?"- Contact. I like to have a reading/lending copy and one to squirrel away for a rainy day. After all, no way of knowing when someone might go pulling my marker*, it's good to have assets.
*Pedigree or Provenance pertains to purchasing part of, or the entirety of, a known/documented collection. Think: Sotheby's or Christie's; well beyond the scope of this ible.
*Gold & Silver; Referring to vintage comics printed between 1938 through the mid 1950's and 1956 through 1970 respectively.
*Marker: A gambling tearm meaning debt. Aren't footnotes fun!
Step 2: These Should Have Boards in Them.... Heathens. ~Mall Rats
Books in hand we can get down to the nitty-gritty of comic-book preservation. For those that either follow me or have read some of my other ibles ya'll know I'm heavy into preparedness. Upon writing this ible it dawned on me how the pit falls of food preservation parallel comic-book preservation in many ways, namely: Temperature, humidity, light and critters.
Paper tears, ink fades, water ruins and smoke can make right a mess of things (not to mention: cancer & emphysema). Once you've got a book worth preserving, there are some very basic supplies needed to insure your investment stay just as it were the day you first laid eyes on it. They are;
Bags: Sold in any reputable comic-shop, or any number of on-line venues in slews of 25-100. Bags are your first, best line of defense against grit, grim and finger prints. We're not talking zip locks here either; the bags I'm talking about are specifically for comic-books. When shopping for Comic-book bags make sure they correspond to the Age of comic you're looking to protect (i.e. Golden age vs Modern age). In some instances, such as with treasury editions you may have to exercise your Google-fu in order to find a bag of the proper size. It goes with out saying that the bags should be acid free and of archival quality, So we won't bother saying anything...
Pro Tip: Don't buy resealable bags, there's more of a likelihood, you'll damage your comics trying to get them in or out. Also, there's no need to go taping up your bags, unless you really want to. Provided you're careful, and you package them well, it won't really offer any additional protection. If you must use tape, try masking or painters tape as it's easily removable, and not likely to leave a residue.
Boards (acid free): Consider these the "backbone" of any proper comic collection, comic-books are only paper after all. Creases, crimps, folds and tears are the scorn of any would be collector, and having your comics properly bagged and boarded goes a long way toward keeping your treasures crisp as the day they were printed.
Pro Tip: Place the boards in the bags before slipping the comics in them to ensure you don't damage the comic trying to shimmy the board in after it.
Step 3: Long Term Storage and Display.
Part of collecting, often the fun part, is being able to show off your collection. Sadly, I haven't gotten around to pulling any of my Comics out of long term storage to have the pleasure of putting them up on display, too busy... Doing what, I've no idea. Let's just agree to disagree, shall we?
Putting back comics for the long haul doesn't mean you've got to purchase an air tight, hermetically sealed vessel with which to sequester them (both the comics and your virginity) away from the world. Really, the best tool for the job is the lowly comic-book box. Available in either the long and short variety (as well as some exotic configurations of which I'm presently unaware).
These little corrugated wonders keep your comics upright and out of sight, away from: sunlight, shelf-wear, critters and the prying eyes of your greasy-handed nieces and nephews. Once more, if you're especially anal-retentive you can organize and catalogue them, thereby knowing, at a glance which issues your missing or what variant, of what volume for which to be on the look out.
ProTip: An extra board at either end of a long or short box is a great way of preventing any damage to the books contained therein by keeping your nails from digging into the covers when hefting them around.
In either case, once bagged and boarded you can either stow them away on a shelf, pop them in a box or display them for the whole world to see. Here are some nifty ibles demonstrating just that:
Pro Tip: When displaying your comics be mindful of their placement in relation to windows. Sunlight can damage/fade cover art quicker then you can say, "Mister Mxyzptlk"
Step 4: Frozen in Carbonite... Not My Idea of a Fun Friday Night
Encapsulation: It's a choice, not something I personally care to do. For those unfamiliar, there are companies that will take your comic collection to "the next level" through grading (.5 - 10.0) and encapsulating them (for a nominal fee, of course). In my option comic-books are meant to be read and enjoyed. But if you're looking to keep your funny books enact after the zombie apocalypse: http://www.cgccomics.com/grading/grading.asp
Conclusions; Comic-book collecting isn't just from the socially impaired, from Paleolithic cave drawings and Egyptian hieroglyphs to Calvin and Hobbes and the Justice League; comics are here to stay. Keeping your collection in immaculate condition is fun and potentially profitable. Hope you dug my ible. Please feel free to vote (Preserve it contest), comment favorite and follow, or not. Hey it's a free country. Thanks for reading it through. Cheers
Runner Up in the
Preserve It! Contest