Thursday, August 16, 2012

This N That Reborn!

Ok…it’s official! Collecting comics has officially hit the 21st century! Last night I received a call from a comic auction house (that I will leave nameless) to tell me that a book I had inquired about TWO years ago was up for auction. It was an Archie #50 (CGC 5.0)

Clearly they had a record of that inquiry and when they posted this book (which I actually purchased some time ago from another seller) came up they generated a call list from their database and began making calls to get the bidding going! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I WISH they had called me sooner because I might have actually bid on a second copy! Well, they are still working out the bugs. Comic telemarketing. Whoda thunk it?!

They released a great teaser trailer for next summer’s Superman flick “Man of Steel.” Let’s just say that it really pulled me in! Finally a Superman who doesn’t float! He FLIES, and powerfully! Check it out on You Tube!

DC Universe Online is set to release it’s next update pack (DLC5) in September. It’s big, its bad and it’s got Dr. Fate! I’ve been hooked since launch. DCUO is a great game. ALSO it’s free to play, so give it t try you gold brickin’ yahoos!

Let’s do a little math. Suppose you purchase ten comics a week at an average price of slightly over $2.99 each. Add your local discount (which is a nice fat 10% at CBJ each and every Wednesday…yet another unabashed plug!!!), allow for the occasional trade paperback or special issue and you can easily invest over $200 per year on your comic fix. And that is IF you only average TEN books a week. I average close to twenty and I know a lot of collectors who buy far more than that!

Obviously we make a pretty hefty investment, on an annual basis, in our hobby! So why would ANYONE not want to take proper care of their collection when it costs you LESS than 10% to properly care for your precious books???

Believe it or not, many if not MOST, collectors fail to do at least one of the big three.

1) Bag and Board
2) Box
3) Inventory

Bagging and boarding your books is the single most basic and important step in maintaining your collection in top condition. Over time even modern books on high grade paper will degrade for any number of reasons. They become creased, water damage, tears, color fade etc. By putting your books in bags with acid free backing boards you can protect your comics from most, though not all, forms of degradation. There are many options for bagging and boarding your comics that can run you between 10 and 25 cents a comic. LESS than 10%! I prefer to put all of my books from Silver Age through Modern Age into SILVER AGE resealable bags with Silver Age Acid Free boards.

Why use the larger Silver Age Bag for smaller modern comics? Well, it is an individual choice but I find that Modern Age bags are a bit tight and with my fumble thumbs I am more likely to damage the book during the process of bagging and boarding. Using a Silver Age bag in conjunction with Silver Age boards gives me a nice tight fit BUT allows some wiggle room in bagging and then removing the comic for reading. I use resealable bags because I don’t like to fuss with the scotch tape but resealable are not better or worse than normal bags. I also tend to use the lighter gauge bags because I think the books LOOK better in them but again that is a personal choice and many collectors favor the heavier bag.

Of course I am describing bagging and boarding with standard bags and acid free boards. You can also opt to use Mylar or Mylite bags but they are more expensive and typically will push your cost to 25 cents a book, still a great deal. Mylar/Mylites have several advantages. Mylar is the heavier, less flexible of the two choices for archival storage.

Mylites 2 are made from 2-mil thick Mylar. The 2 mil sleeves are twice the thickness and 4 times the protection of 1 mil thick bags, and offer hundreds of times the archival storage protection of non-archival polypropylene and polyethylene bags. This means that you won’t have to rebag your comics every five years or so. I use this option for my more valuable and older books. Both Mylite and Mylar make your books look fantastic!

BIG NOTE HERE ON MYLAR AND MYLITE! When you go to shows bear in mind that the books you are looking at up on the wall all benefit in appearance from Mylar storage. They tend to look HIGHER in grade than they really are. Any reputable dealer will let you see the book OUTSIDE the bag if you are considering a purchase. If the dealer refuses to do so I always wonder what he/she is hiding and move on to the next table. Of course the etiquette goes both ways, never ask a dealer to remove a book from the Mylar unless you ARE seriously considering making a purchase.

The bottom line is that bagging and boarding your comics is a must for any serious collector. You never know, you MAY want to sell your books one day and they will always fetch a better price if they are in high grade.

Now let’s talk about boxes.

You COULD use any old box for your comics. Anything made of sturdy cardboard will do. However I use standard long and short comic boxes, specifically designed for my books.
The Comic Long Box is the highest quality, most competitively priced cardboard storage box on the market today. They are constructed of white corrugated paper and have a 200 lb. test strength. Use this box to store and protect all your valuable collectible comics.

The major advantage to using comic boxes designed to HOLD comics is that you can store your books standing up which makes them much easier to arrange and organize. In addition the heavy gauge boxes are somewhat stackable. I typically have no problem going three high myself. Another advantage is that you can get about 250 bagged and boarded comics into a single long box. As your collection grows storage DOES become a very real issue. I currently have over 30 long boxes filled with my “active” collection and at least that many more that I have archived away. If I tried to do that with non standard boxes, it would be a complete mess!

A note on boxing. If you box your comics UNBAGGED and UNBOARDED they tend to bend and suffer damage over time. Boxing your books in that state IS better than not boxing them at all but I highly recommend doing the two in conjunction.

ANOTHER NOTE ON BOXING. I keep different “flavors” of box.

1) First are my “Active boxes” these seven or eight boxes are for my current ongoing purchases of ongoing titles. (Superman, FF, Iron Man, current mini series etc)

2) Completed runs. In these boxes I store recent completed mini-series and canceled books. I can get at them easily but it leaves my Active Boxes free for filing new books.

3) Archive boxes – These are boxes that I use for multiples, books I want to sell, older books I am not going to read any time soon etc.

4) Current “Read me” box. This is a short box that I keep for my brand new, unread books. When I fill it after reading them, those books move down to my Active Boxes for filing.

Now to, what I consider the most overlooked aspect of maintaining a comic collection. INVENTORY.

“Why should I inventory my comics? I know what I have.” Tell me that when you own 1,000 comics, or 5,000 comics. They add up SO fast. Just go back to our original premise of 10 books a week and you add 520 comics to your collection EVERY year! There is no way anyone can know every single book they own unless they record them in an inventory. There are MANY advantages to maintaining an up to date and accurate inventory of your books.

1) On that day you consider selling your comics it will help to know what you own!

2) A good inventory also tells you what you NEED. Want to fill in that run of Amazing Spiderman? Keep an inventory and you can create a “want list” anytime.

3) I ALREADY buy doubles accidentally because I am chronically absent minded. If I did not keep an inventory I would probably buy two of everything!!

4) A good inventory allows you to properly organize your books so you can actually FIND a title when you want it. All you need to do is NUMBER your boxes and make a note of which box your inventoried book is in. You are not compelled to keep them in alphabetical order which is a pain to maintain.

5) A good inventory helps you in knowing when to archive a title or put it into a “non-active” box. For instance I have all of my Secret Invasion and Final Crisis runs in a single box. As they are completed runs I don’t need to keep them in my active boxes.

“OK, so HOW do I inventory my books?” you ask. Good question grasshopper! There are several ways depending on the size of your collection and how much detail you want to go in to. At one time or another I have used all of the following methods.

1) Writing the titles on the outside of the box. This is the MOST basic way to inventory your books. However the minute you consolidate your books the information is no longer correct. I gave this up almost as soon as I started the practice. NOT a good method at all.

2) The next method I used was to record my books into a notebook. I established 10-20 pages per title and entered the issue #, qty, condition, value and which box they were in. This IS a very accurate way to keep an inventory but it also has some drawbacks. Not the least of which is that you have to WRITE an awful lot and that you have to RE-write when you change the storage box, or the value changes. It is a nice ANALOG method though if you are computer phobic!

3) Computer Spreadsheet – Excel, Lotus, it makes no difference. Any spreadsheet program will work. You can easily update and edit your inventory and create reports and charts. I used this method for several years until I migrated to an Access database.

4) If you are a computer geek like me and know how to use Access, you can build a custom inventory program. This is the method I use today. This has advantages over a spreadsheet because data entry is easier, you have many more reporting options and your data can be imported/exported to a number of different formats. The disadvantage to this method is that, like the other methods, updates happen manually across the board and you must create a new record for every entry. There are a lot of keystrokes involved!

5) Third Party database – There are many over the counter programs designed for maintaining your inventory. I currently use ComicBase. ( This program automatically updates current values, adds new issues through weekly updates, and gives you an option to post books for sale at NO COST. The program has a robust reporting function and entry only requires me to enter the quantity and location. You no longer have to waste time entering title or story line information. AND ComicBase actually supports bar code scanning so all you have to do is scan the barcode on the cover! There are several good programs out there and most of them have a stripped down FREE version for you to try out to see what works best for you.

A note on inventorying your books. While it is a ton of work at the beginning, once you have caught up with your back stock, keeping your inventory up to date is just a matter of entering your new purchases so don’t be discouraged by the size of the task facing you. It really does pay off in the end!

So there you have it. Using these three steps, I have been able to keep my books in good shape, organized and accessible. I know what I have, what condition it is in, the current value and where all of my books are.
Make sure to ask the team at CBJ about the wide variety of comic book supplies that they carry!!

Is this for you? Well only YOU can answer that. Regardless of the methods you use to maintain your collection, the MOST important thing is to read and enjoy your comics!

That’s 30!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1) You received your official announcement a little late. Auction sites have been doing this for years.
2) The "fisherman" Superman trailer pulled you in? Also, how can you say that this is the first Superman to fly? Rewatch your Superman movies buddy, there are plenty of "powerful" flying moments in the Superman movies.
3) Nice job passing off your guide to collecting as a new blog post.