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Comic Book Collecting- A Beginner’s Guide

Whether you like Spiderman, Batman or Superman then chances are that you have probably bought a comic book during a time when you loved that character. But some people go further then simply just saying “I love this character!” and in fact they consider purchasing and collecting comic books featuring their favourite super hero. This article is aimed at those people who are just starting out in collecting comics and want to learn more about collecting and caring for their personal collection.

The number one selling comic during the month of September was All Star Batman and Robin Boy Wonder. But there are literally hundreds of comics each with different characters, different superpowers and different situations every week so as you can imagine that lucrative number one spot will change all the time. The thing about comic books is the addiction that you can develop from reading them, or collecting them based on their scarcity.  All it might take is a walk past a newsstand and then be taken in by the look of a comic's cover art.

To say that there are hundreds of artists drawing comic books is an understatement. Most collectors know the names of Jim Lee, Scott Leifeild, Frank Miller, and Scott Mcfarland by the cover of the comic book. Sometimes just the look of the book is enough for you to say “Wow, let me see this!” and then before you know it you are buying that same comic every week or maybe even signing yourself up for a subscription. Let the collection begin!

Once you have your collection truly underway you will want to make sure that the comics that you have will stay in mint condition. As a collector, having a mint condition comic book is what you should be striving for in terms of keeping your comics in great condition. Luckily, there are comic book supply companies there to help you in this area. These companies make polypropylene bags to store the comic book from the immediate elements- dust, water (although not water proof), spills, and some air tightness. These bags are perfect for all your comic books, as they will fit almost any comic whether you have a collection of First Marvel comics or a collection of Warren comics. Comic book collectors will want to make sure that their prized possession of comics go unspoilt for many years to come and these bags are the sure fire way to make sure that they stay in the condition that you bought them in.

Comic book boards are essential to keeping your collection safe from the dreaded ‘flexed comics’ and will also help stop the corners from bending. But one top tip to keep in mind about a comic book board is that they should be switched every 3-5 years. If you fail to do this then the acids in the comic board can actually change the colours of your comic which will obviously damage them instead of protect them. The rule of thumb is simple - when you bag a comic book always include a backing board for support.

You simply can't stack up all your comics in a corner of your room or underneath your bed - you need a better way!  You will need comic book storage boxes to protect your comics. These comic book boxes come in two main sizes - “long” and “short”. They are the same depth and width but they come in different lengths. The short boxes will be 15 inches in length and the long boxes are 25 inches in length. When you are storing these boxes make sure that you have the room to store them. The smaller boxes won’t be too much of a problem, as they will fit in a small closet. But the longer boxes may very well need somewhere more convenient to be stored.

Comic book collectors all over the world are always trying to find new ideas to keep their collection of comic books safe from the dangerous hands of youngsters and the other natural effects that can cause a comic book to become degraded over the years and lose its mint quality. Here are a few basic tips that will keep your comics looking more like their original quality.

You must monitor your comics occasionally. You have to be sure that the location that you have placed them is not adversely affecting them, if it is, then move them out immediately and find a better place for them. The best place for a collection of comic books is in a cool, dark, and dry place preferably in a comic book box in a room that is temperature and humidity controlled. (A hot attic is not a great place!)  The usage of a comic book box in conjunction with polypropylene bags and backing boards are without a doubt a great way to store either your new found comic book collection, or maintaining all X-men comics from #’s 142-present.

Obviously the best place to go for these comic book supplies is which has some of the best prices on all your comic book supply needs. Saving money on supplies now, means more spending money in the future on your comic books!

Copyright 2005, Digital Reprieve, Inc.  All Rights Reserved

BCW protective pages are one of the most popular mediums to store cards, photos, comics & magazines.

Protective pages come in 2 different materials which are distinctly different (Polypropylene & Vinyl). Polypropylene is the most popular choice by collectors because of the archival properties of the material. Below is a list of attributes of the two different types of pages

Polypropylene Pages:
 Heavy-Duty Polypropylene Material (115 micron)
 Archival Safe (contains no PVC)
 Highest clarity available
 Material manufactured in USA
 Highest weld strength attainable for this material
 Straight bar seals
 Designed for 3 ring binder (holes punched & cleared)
 Foil stamped BCW logo
 Retail packaging

Note:  Polypropylene is considered an archival safe material by the Library of Congress.

Vinyl Pages:
 Heavy-Duty Vinyl Material (4.5 mil)
 Double polished clear finish
 Material manufactured in USA
 Highest weld strength attainable for this material
 Straight bar seals
 Designed to fit 3 ring binder
 Retail packaging

A D D I T I O N A L    C O M I C    &    M A G A Z I N E    I N F O R M A T I O N

It is recommended that you change your comic boards and bags every 3 - 5 years.

Most comic books have been printed on newsprint. This includes all comic books printed prior to Modern Age, as well as some Modern Age books. The reason that you will need to change the backing boards is that the newsprint that most comic books are printed on has been bleached with acid prior to printing, and some of the acid from the bleach remains in the paper. The backing boards are coated calcium carbonate so that they absorb the acid that migrates from the book. You will want to store them away from sunlight and in a cool dry place because sunlight, heat, and moisture can accelerate the acid migration process.

Miller Hobby Brand backing boards are solid bleached sulfate and conform to ANSI standard Z39.48.

The National Archives and Records Administration specified the following with regard to the long-term storage and preservation of photographic documents;

"Look for plastic enclosures made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester (also called Mylar D or Mellinex 516). These are considered stable and non-damaging to photographs."

Miller Hobby Brand comic bags are made of uncoated virgin polypropylene.

Classification of Comic Books:
Comics are classified into 3 major categories, Victorian Age, Platinum Age, and Modern Age. Comic books came into existence during the Modern Age of comics in February of 1934 with the release of Eastern Color Printing's Famous Funnies #1, Series 1. The Modern Age of comics is classified into 4 sub-categories, Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and Modern Age (Bronze Age and Modern Age comic books are also referred to as "Current" comics).

 Victorian Age - 1795 to 1899
 Platinum Age - 1897 to 1938
 Modern Age - 1929 to Present
 Golden Age - 1934 to 1955 (Miller Hobby Golden Age Comic Bags & Backing Boards)
 Silver Age - 1956 to 1969 (Miller Hobby Silver Age Comic Bags & Backing Boards)
 Bronze Age - 1970 to 1979 (Miller Hobby Current Comic Bags & Backing Boards)
 Modern Age - from 1980 to Present (Miller Hobby Current Comic Bags & Backing Boards)

You will need to determine which of the 4 categories of the Modern Age of comics that your comic book falls under to be sure to get the proper size of comic bags and backing boards. We suggest that you measure your comic book or refer to the copyright date to determine which category your comic book falls under.

A D D I T I O N A L    C A R D B O A R D    B O X    I N F O R M A T I O N

Miller Hobby Corrugated cardboard storage boxes are one of the most popular mediums for long term storage of cards, comics & magazines. We take great pride in having the highest quality boxes available which means no other company manufactures a higher quality product.

Attributes of Miller Hobby corrugated cardboard storage boxes:
 All storage boxes are flat bed die-cut in comparison to rotary die-cut
 Prevents crushing of box flutes
 Allows for better scores which makes box easier to fold
 Straight edges rather than saw-tooth edges
 "B" flute heavy duty corrugation
 Mottled white outside liner
 Neatly bundled & strapped

Comic Books

Valuable old comic books can still occasionally be found for a fraction of their book price at tag sales, church sales, shops, and country auctions. One day you might get lucky and come across an entire stack of early comics in good condition for say, $50. If you do gamble. If it's a large promising collection of comic books, pay more.  Although most people are aware that good specimens can fetch big dollars, few of us, including antique dealers, understand just how much. Editions where a famous character makes his/her first appearance command highest prices. The following estimates are for first-appearance comics in very fine to near mint condition. Please buckle safety belts before reading.

  • Action Comics #1 June 1938, The first appearance of Superman: $100,000 - $200,000. (Please note* DC Comics produced an oversized exact reproduction of this comic book in 1974.)
  • Detective Comics #27 May 1939, The first appearance of Batman: $100,000 - $200,000. (Please note* DC Comics produced an oversized reproduction of this book as well. The reprints have "Famous First Edition" on the cover that might be removed and sold as an original interior. A coverless reprint is a valueless comic)
  • Captain Marvel Adventures March 1941: $15,000 - $20,000.
  • Captain America #1 March 1941: The cover depicts Captain America whacking Adolph Hitler with hard right to the chin. $40,000 - $75,000.
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost, Harvey Comics Hits #60 September 1952: $150.00 - $200.00.
  • Fantastic Four, Present Marvel Comics Group, November 1961: $7,500 - $15,000.

In general, Superhero comics like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four or Green Lantern are more valuable than humorous comics like Casper or Richie Rich. Amongst the most valuable humorous books are early Walt Disney creations that have cross-over appeal with Disney collectors. Generally, old comics are more valuable than later editions. Comic Books are generally assigned by age to the following categories.

  • 1897-1937 Early Period - Not really comic books, most have thick cardboard covers and are found in brittle darkened condition today. Richard Outcalt's Hogan's Alley  was introduced to two newspapers in 1895 and is generally considered the first comic strip. The term "yellow journalism" was probably coined from William Randolph Hearst's political views often reflected by the strip's lead character the Yellow Kid.
  • 1938-1945 Golden Age - Led by early issues of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and 700 other costumed characters, the most sought after era of comic books. All Golden Era books in good condition have antique value today. Most sold in their day for around 10 cents. In mint condition most are worth $7.00 + today.
  • 1946-1949 Post Golden Age - Many romance and crime comics are introduced.
  • 1950-1956 Pre Silver Age - Satires like Mad and horror comics like Haunt of Fear emerge.
  • 1956-1969 Silver Age - The next great era of comic books. Beautifully drawn early examples of Green Lantern, the Hulk, Flash, Thor, the Amazing Spiderman, and other heroes are hotly sought after today. Many are worth several dollars and some are worth thousands each.
  • 1970-1979 Post Silver Age - Collectors should seek out near mint editions.

Keep in mind that you don't have to come across a superhero first-appearance issue to stumble into a significant find. Look for issues that have appeal. Are the heroes well known?  Does the comic introduce a new villain to the scene?  The introduction of any significant new character (good or evil) adds value. Is there a sentimental or cross-over market? Buy from a qualified dealer if you want to be a collector. Take a shot at a legitimate tag sale if you want to leap tall buildings in a single bound.


Reprinted with permission
Copyright by Wayne Mattox ©


Copyright 2014, Digital Reprieve, Inc. All Rights Reserved.