Preserving paper collectibles: Caring for comic books and photographs

Caring for comic books

A vintage comic book is a piece of Americana and should be treated with care. From Superman battling Hitler and Hirohito to Spider-Man taking on serious drug issues, comic books are a snapshot of both American and world history and culture. They are also delicate pieces of paper ephemera, and, as such, demand a certain degree of special handling and treatment.

Taking care of comic books requires some effort and dedication. The three major destabilizing and destructive elements associated with these paper products are the same as for movie posters, sunlight, moisture and heat.

• When storing comics always use acid free bags and boards.

• Always keep comic books free from any contact with water or moisture such as extreme humidity. Moisture will not only stain and mildew a comic book, but it will also deteriorate the elements used in its manufacture.

• Always avoid storing or displaying comic books in overly hot environments, as these elements will make the paper fibers brittle and will darken them, making the comic book’s pages brown in the process.

In caring for comics, there are various handling and storage techniques that should be used. An overall note: while it’s not necessary to wear protective gloves when handling comics, care should be taken whenever comics are out of their protective environment. Creases, folds, bends, tears, etc., can have an adverse effect on the comic’s value, and should be avoided at all costs.

• Bag and board – One of the key elements of keeping a comic book in its current condition is to bag and board it. Bags and backing boards can be purchased at a local comic book store. The best bags and boards for comic book storage will be acid free.

• Do not tape – Do not put any tape on the bag storing the comic book. Why? When removing the comic book it could catch on the tape and damage it.

• Change bags and boards – It is recommended to change bags and boards every two to three years.

• CGC grading and encapsulation – For more valuable comics, Comics Guaranty, LLC offers a grading and encapsulation service, where they will render a third party opinion about the condition of your comic book and encapsulate it in a hard plastic holder.

Caring for photographs

Again, temperature, humidity and light are the three greatest enemies of photographic materials.

• Identifying the subject of a photograph is the first step toward preserving it. Use an acid-free permanent marker to gently write on the back of the print. Never use ball-point pen; the pressure of its use may mar the front of the picture.

• Avoid touching the front of a photograph with your fingers. Skin oil can attract dirt that leads to the growth of mold spores, and salts in perspiration can damage the surface.

• Never store photos in magnetic or self-stick photo albums, or in cardboard boxes. Instead, use archival photo boxes and acid free papers to store them.