Comics Collection

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    Comics Collecting Then

    As comic books became popular, some readers saved them. Most readers were children and treated comic books as disposable entertainment. Many children traded comics, and one issue might be read, reread, and handled roughly by five or more of them. Originally, comic book paper was newsprint, vulnerable to heat, light, and moisture, with a sulfur content so high that chemical reactions aged it rapidly. Despite this, some readers preserved their issues carefully – only to have them donated to paper drives or otherwise destroyed when their owners left home.

    The few readers who preserved what they loved had to limit their source of back issues to thrift shops or the few second-hand bookstores that bothered to stock comic books.

    Earlier (in the ’30s and ’40s) among science-fiction readers, a tradition had sprung up of collecting (science-fiction and fantasy) magazines, of producing amateur fan magazines (fanzines) in which to discuss SF, and of holding gatherings at which fellow SF fans could meet. In that tradition, some fans in the early ’50s produced fanzines devoted to E.C.’s line of comics – but those died with E.C.

    At the World Science-Fiction Convention (Labor Day weekend 1960), SF fans **** and Pat Lupoff gave away copies of the first issue of their fanzine, Xero. In that issue was the first installment of the continuing feature "All in Color for a Dime" — devoted to comics of the ’40s. Without seeing Xero, several other comics aficionados — some SF fans, some not — decided to produce their own amateur magazines devoted to comic books and comic strips.

    Since then, comics collecting has grown steadily. At first, comics collectors were few compared to the total number of people who read comic books. Comics publishing companies were distantly polite to (and a bit bewildered by) comics collectors – but comic books were not tailored to suit collector interests.

    Over the years, comic-book circulations have shrunk, the comics collector population has increased, and many comic books today do very well selling solely to the collector market.

    Comics Collecting Now

    Someone who wants to begin collecting comics or contact others who collect comics has an easier time of it today than did comics collectors in previous decades. More research material is available; specialty shops abound; reprints are being published at a rapid clip; professionals are accessible; and comics companies respond to collectors’ desires.

    Today, there is a network of comics shops that spans America – a network supported by comics and games specialty distributors that provide comics on a non-returnable basis. This so-called "direct-sales market" has been so profitable that even publishers which did well for years with returnable titles increasingly publish collector-oriented titles which are not sold on general newsstands (since newsstands handle only returnable products).

    Customers who enter a comic-book shop today do so with much the same attitude as customers who enter a book store: They expect to find a full spectrum of reading material — from comics aimed at children just learning to read, to comics aimed at adults with college degrees.

    A poll of Comics Buyer’s Guide readers found that its audience was largely affluent, educated, and male. (More than 2/3 came from households with an annual income of $26,000 or more. Nearly 55% had had at least some college education. And nearly 96% were male.) Women are increasingly involved with comics today, and industry professionals are looking for more ways to get women to buy comics. However, one problem has been that comics are not as easily found today as they were in the ’40s.
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    Preservation & Storage

    You don't have to keep your comics in perfect condition in order to enjoy them, but many people derive satisfaction from doing so. We're happy to present the following information for those folks who want to keep their collection as pristine as possible.

    Comic books are fragile and easy to damage. Most dealers and collectors hesitate to let anyone personally handle their rare comics. It is common courtesy to ask permission before handling another person's comic book. Most dealers would prefer to remove the comic from its bag and show it to the customer themselves. In this way, if the book is damaged, it would be the dealer's responsibility, not the customer's. Remember, the slightest crease or chip could render an otherwise Mint book to Near Mint or even Very Fine.

    The following steps are provided to aid the novice in the proper handling of comic books:

    1. Remove the comic from its protective sleeve or bag very carefully.

    2. Gently lay the comic (unopened) in the palm of your hand so that it will stay relatively flat and secure.

    3. You can now leaf through the book by carefully rolling or flipping the pages with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.
    Caution: Be sure the book always remains relatively flat or slightly rolled. Avoid creating stress points on the covers with your fingers and be particularly cautious in bending covers back too far on Mint books.

    4. After examining the book, carefully insert it back into the bag or protective sleeve. Watch corners and edges for folds or tears as you replace the book. Always keep tape completely away while inserting a comic in a bag.

    Comic books should also be protected from the elements as well as the dangers of light, heat, and humidity. This can easily be achieved with proper storage. Improper storage methods will be detrimental to the "health" of your collection, and may even quicken its deterioration.

    Store comic books away from direct light sources, especially florescent, which contains high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV lights are like sunlight, and will quickly fade the cover inks. Tungsten filament lighting is safer than florescent but should still be used at brief intervals. Remember, exposure to light accumulates damage, so store your collection in a cool, dark place away from windows.

    Temperatures must also be carefully regulated. Fungus and mold thrives in higher temperatures, so the lower the temperature, the longer the life of your collection.

    Atmospheric pollution is another problem associated with long-term storage of paper. Sulfuric dioxide, which can occur from automobile exhaust, will cause paper to turn yellow over a period of time. For this reason, it is best not to store your valuable comics close to a garage. Some of the best-preserved comic books known were protected from exposure to the air such as the Gaines EC collection. These books were carefully wrapped in paper at time of publication, and completely sealed from the air. Each package was then sealed in a box and stored in a closet in New York. After over 40 years of storage when the packages were opened, you could instantly catch the odor of fresh newsprint; the paper was snow white and supple, and the cover inks were as brilliant as the day they were printed. This illustrates how important it is to protect your comics from the atmosphere.

    Like UV, high relative humidity (RH) can also be damaging to paper. Maintaining a low and stable relative humidity, around 50%, is crucial; varying humidity will only damage your collection.

    Care must be taken when choosing materials for storing your comics. Many common items such as plastic bags, boards, and boxes may not be as safe as they seem. Some contain chemicals that will actually help to destroy your collection rather than save it. Always purchase materials designed for long-term storage, such as Mylar type "D" sleeves and acid-free boards and boxes. Polypropylene and polyethylene bags, while safe for temporary storage, should be changed every three to five years.

    Comics are best stored vertically in boxes. For shelving, make sure that comics do not come into direct contact with the shelving surface. Use acid-free boards as a buffer between shelves and comics. Also, never store comics directly on the floor; elevate them 6-10 inches to allow for flooding. Similarly, never store your collection directly against a wall, particularly an outside wall. Condensation and poor air circulation will encourage mold and fungus growth.

    When handling your high-grade comics, wash your hands first, eliminating harmful oils from the skin before coming into contact with the books. Lay the comic on a flat surface and slowly turn the pages. This will minimize the stress to the staples and spine. With these guidelines, your collection should enjoy a long life and maintain a reasonable condition and value.
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