Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Comics: It's in the bag!

Storing 10,000 comics and magazines takes a lot of space, and a reasonable amount of time and money.  Basically, you need the following things to keep your collection safe:
  • Comic bags
  • Backing boards
  • Storage boxes
  • A dry place to keep everything
The last one I can't help you with. I used to pay for storage to keep mine out of the house (and out of my wife's way), but these days I've got them tucked in the corner of a bedroom, stuffed in my office closet, and a few boxes just sitting around as I attempt to catalog what I have (we'll talk about my cataloging efforts next week).

Right now, I've been taking a slow and steady approach to getting things cataloged and bagged/boarded. The truth is, for about a decade, I pretty much gave up on bagging and boarding. I got tired of the expense, the effort, and I was just reading comics and putting them into storage boxes. Part of this was fueled by a movement back in the 1990s that was preaching that cheaper bags would break down over time and actually hurt your comics. The thinking was that it was actually better to put your books into a simple acid-free box and leave them in the dark, rather than have your bags slowly break down into some sort of petro-chemical goo over time.

So I was content to leave the books in the boxes for a few years. Then the moisture came. Even though I was paying $50 a month to have my stuff in a climate controlled unit at a Public Storage facility in NW Houston, I sill had a problem with moisture getting to one of the boxes. Now, to be fair, this was caused by a hurricane ripping the roof off part of the unit and water got into part of the facility. I can't blame them for that, and the hole wasn't actually near my unit. But they didn't fix it for almost EIGHT WEEKS! During that time, the entire "climate controlled" floor felt like a rain forest and the box of comics closest to the door got some kind of condensation thing going, which messed up about 50-100 books. It didn't ruin them, but the bottoms have a little moisture warping.

Fortunately, there wasn't anything super great in that box, but the copy of my thesis (and some other personal papers) were destroyed by the moisture. Naturally, their value was too low to claim on my insurance.  I would not rent at that particular Public Storage facility again (14451 Texas 249, Houston, TX 77086). That incident (and another that I'll tell you about next week) made me decide it was time to start bagging and boarding again.

Back to the bags

Right now, I'm buying locally. The fact is, if I want my comic book store to be there in the future, I need to support it. So, I've been buying my bags in small quantities as I need them from Bedrock City Comics. A container of 100 Ultra-PRO comic bags costs $5.99 plus tax. These are standard-quality bags (not mylar -- which I'll explain some other time). The Silver-Age bags also cost the same amount (comics have gotten a little smaller over the past few decades, so that modern comics are just slightly smaller than comics printed in the 1960s and 1970s).

A container of 100 acid-free backing boards sells for $9.99 (again, plus tax). These come in separate containers so I have to combine them (that is, slip one board into each bag). It's not a big deal as I usually do it while watching TV or a movie. It actually goes pretty quickly, and my wife has offered to help when I finally get around to ordering a whole bunch of them. And that is definitely on the horizon.

Right now, the combination of the board and bag runs about .15 cents per book. If I had to bag all 10,000 comics (and I don't), at that price it would cost me $1,500. Even though a bunch of my comics are already bagged and boarded (and as I revealed last week, I'm an unrepentant fiend who double-bags his comics), it's still a sizable expense.

That's why I've been talking to the nice folks over at Bags Unlimited about buying in bulk from them. I can get 2,500 bags for only $75 (that's 3 cents a bag). Likewise, their backing boards sell in bulk for about 4.5 cents each. These prices don't include the freight costs, but even still, supplies in this quantity run about half the retail cost of buying them locally. Plus, I actually need a few specialty items that my local comic shop doesn't carry, such as boxes and bags for storing comics digests (I'll talk about that some other time).

I estimate the storage expenses for my collection will run about $300. I'm planning to place the order soon and I'll fill you in on exactly what I order and what I think of the materials when I get them, so stay tuned True Believers!

Comic Talk returns on Monday
Check back on Friday for a rant about why I hate buying groceries at night!

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