The hobby of reading and collecting comic books is an immensely fun and enjoyable one, and I implore everyone to do it. Now, if you’re reading this you probably already read comics, but even the most tenured comic book reader can have problems with storing and maintaining their ever-growing collections. As hard as it is to bust in to the hobby (check here for info on how to do that) it can be even more daunting to keep up with a collection that gets bigger every Wednesday of the month, every month of the year. It’s got to be the way post office workers feel: It never stops, and I HAVE TO BUY THIS ENTIRE GREEN LANTERN EVENT!!
Never fear, comic readers, I’m here to help, with a rundown of storage methods, how they rate, and must dos for every comic book collector.
Method 1: Piles and Stacks
The cheapest and easiest storage method of them all, but by far the hardest to organize, simply throwing your comics in piles and stacks DOES have a certain degree of rebel-attitude that comes along with it, but good luck finding that Avengers issue from 2 years ago. Dust, light, that curve to the books caused by stacks on stacks of staple sides, and just being out in the open are all opportunities to irrevocably damage books, but, really, they’re still quite readable with dusty, faded covers and a curve, and once their stacked they can sit. There’s nothing additional TO maintain besides, of course, finding space for piles and stacks of comics.
Cheap and fairly easy to maintain, while providing absolutely no organization or protection, piles and stacks is my kids’ favorite way of doing everything, but should not be used when collecting comic books. It works well for trades, but just looks ugly.
Cost: 5 Out of 5
Protection: 2 Out of 5
Organization: 1 Out of 5
Maintenance: 3 Out of 5
Appearance: 1 Out of 5
Overall: 2 Out of 5
Method 2: Bags, Boards, and Boxes
There’s nothing more tried and true than the traditional comic books bag, board, and box (short or long). Security, protection, easily sort and organize comics into different boxes. The prices vary considerably, but 10 bucks for a hundred bags, and about the same price for 100 boards is average. Boxes, however, come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and setups. There’s, of course, the traditional, solo long/short box we all know, with short boxes running around 5 or 10 bucks, and long boxes around $15. There’s also plastic boxes, and those run a bit more but add extra protection. There’s also house boxes (stackable cardboard boxes that long/short boxes fit inside of), wide assortments of colors (if you look really hard), and all sorts of other cardboard and plastic storage options. Way too many to list here!
Bag and board do a great job of protecting comics from dust and bends, and boxes do a great job of keeping those comic dark and cool, but the system is not perfect (none of them are, though.) Time is relentless and bags, boards, and boxes can get pretty disgusting in a relatively short period of time. You want a storage/protection solution to last, not be just another investment every half decade or so. After a decade or two of collecting, this becomes an additional, annual expense, and that’s money that could be spent on more comics. Furthermore, I’ve never seen a stack of long/short boxes that looked attractive sitting in the corner of any room. They’re ugly, unwieldy, and (after too many years) downright dangerous.
Cost: 3 Out of 5
Protection: 4 Out of 5
Organization: 3 Out of 5
Maintenance: 3 Out of 5
Appearance: 3 Out of 5
Overall: 3 Out of 5
Method 3: Cases, Cubes, and Cabinets
The serious collector (meaning, the collector without a budget) can choose the ultimate in protection and organization that includes NO maintenance and looks beautiful. I’m talking about PVC, single hold plastic comic book cases that run 2 bucks per case. That’s almost as much as the comic it’s holding! But, there’s no flimsy bag requiring a back board, and no need to replace ANYTHING, as these PVC sleeves will last forever. This bag and board alternative may be out of the realm of possibility for all but the most Donald Trump of us, but there are some great box alternatives that will give your collection that hardcore collector look. But it still ain’t cheap.
You can go the office file cabinet route, which isn’t as dorky as it sounds. They allow for easy organization, are great for protection (even from smoke and fire in some cases), and can be found relatively cheap even if buying new, but are the best sorts of yard sale finds they have. This is actually the route I go, and I have a huge 5 drawer, medical file cabinet storing many of my comics, and it doubles as a shelf for toys on top and is a great place for magnets and stickers. Plus, it looks great sitting in an office. File cabinets range a lot in price, but don’t think you’re going to find a new one for less than 200 bucks, and while they look at home in an office, they make your home look like an office, and file cabinets don’t look very nice sitting in a living room.
Then we have Comic Cubes. Comic Cubes are interlocking, modular, finely-crafted, custom built, wood framed comic book cabinets, made specifically for comics. Each cube holds about 150 bagged and boarded books, it looks amazing, and, unlike traditional office file cabinets, you can easily add more cubes to any existing setup, and they look amazing. The fine wood finishes and series of colors opens up a lot of furnishing and decorating options, and a pyramid of comic cubes with trades and toys on top would look great in my living room…no matter what my wife says. Comic Cubes, however, are not cheap. A 1×2 stack runs between $245-$550 depending on the finish, and more cubes mean more duckets.
There’s also the purely custom route. There’s no way to gauge the cost of this because it’s up to the person building the storage. But it’s not going to be cheap, and the investment in time needed to plan the project is incalculable for all but the carpentry inclined among us, and I’m allergic to sawdust. But, ultimately, isn’t this where all comic book collectors; or ANY collector for that matter; wants for their treasured accumulations? Of course it is, but it ain’t cheap.
The piece de resistance for comic book collectors, everything is made simpler when you can blow a ton of cash on it. PVC sleeves, fireproof cabinets, handcrafted wood drawers; these are the things dreams are made of. Everything is easier, but pricey.
Cost: 1 Out of 5
Protection: 5 Out of 5
Organization: 4 Out of 5
Maintenance: 5 Out of 5
Appearance: 5 Out of 5
Overall: 4 Out of 5
There’s no perfect system for storing and maintaining comics, but it all requires some sacrifice. If you’re not spending money, you’re wasting time sifting through back issues and ruining an investment (maybe not a financial one, but an investment all the same). There’s lots of middle ground, however, between an unsightly mess and an epic Mecca to comic collections, so, make budget, get to sorting, and clean up your room.