Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Curating


Doug: On Twitter we follow all kinds of folks -- publishers, creators, fans, collectors, etc. I get a kick out of one fellow in particular (@AaronMeyers) who seems to have a bottomless comic book budget. He's posted photos in the past of his comic book room. To say it is a warehouse of longboxes would not do it justice. He regularly posts photos of books he picked up for $1, $2, $4... you get the idea. I love seeing the stuff he purchases, as it's varied. Of course I'm digging the Bronze Age-era books he acquires, but that brother has a broad range of interests. Check him out, give him a follow -- I guarantee you you'll find something that kindles a memory.

Doug: This got me to thinking, because obviously he buys comics in a range of conditions. To start us off today, I'll ask this: How do you handle your comic books? I'd guess that anything of age or value you've stored in bags/boards and in longboxes. But how about those of you who don't -- we've discussed storage before, but go ahead and remind us of your system. As my comics have now left to join other families, this is a worry I do not have anymore. In fact, you probably have figured out that I am pretty rough on my trades and hardcovers. Those scans I provide in my weekly reviews don't just happen -- most of my books have been bent in such ways that they could use a visit to the chiropractor!

Doug: So if you're looking at a comic that has some value (monetary or sentimental), do you wash your hands first? Do you make sure the surface is clean before laying it down, or do you not mind holding it? What's your method for unbagging it (because I guarantee I've pulled some color from a few covers in the past in tape mishaps)?

Doug: I was reminded of a funny story in this vein when teaching last week. We watched a clip from the MTV-produced film I'm Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust (2005). I paused the film as the next vignette began to tell a story about the diary. One time at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, during one of my meetings with the Regional Education Corps of which I am a part, we were privileged to meet Mr. Peter Feigl. Peter is a child survivor of the Holocaust who wrote down the chain of events he experienced in a diary. Years later he donated the book to the USHMM; it has been featured in the aforementioned film, which is based on the book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust. We had assembled in one of the Museum's classrooms, located on the basement level. Mr. Feigl was present, as was one of the Museum's curators. She had his diary with her. It was in a large plastic bag, like a Ziploc bag. Inside the bag, the diary was wrapped in some kind of white cloth. The curator wore white gloves as she handled the bag. As Peter was addressing us, he asked if he could read a passage from the diary -- now if that wasn't thrilling! The curator gingerly removed the book from the bag and wrappings, exposing the cover we'd all seen pictured in I'm Still Here. The curator very gently laid it on a white towel in front of Peter, who then opened the diary rather roughly and began to rapidly leaf through it, looking for the spot he desired. The lady behind him lurched forward but stopped herself; a look of terror swept her face. Aware of this, Peter paused and looked over his shoulder. With a mischievous smile, he said, "Relax. It's my book... I wrote it!" Everyone laughed. Even the curator. A little.

18 comments:

Colin Bray said...

All my comics are placed in long and short boxes with the vast majority bagged'n'boarded. Nearly all are reading copies of varying grades because that's the reason we love 'em, right?

However, over the years I have picked up a few high grade non-CGC comics with real value - Iron Man #55; Marvel Super-Heroes #13; Hawkman #4 etc. I'm wary about handling those but won't make a call on whether to read them until they come up on my reading schedule.

Oh, and I also have about 20 CGC-graded Avengers comics. I won't be cracking open the cases - they are just for display and the pleasure of ownership.

Edo Bosnar said...

Ha! Doug, I love that story!

The sum total of actual comic books (floppies) I have now fit into two short boxes (which in my case are actually two copy-paper boxes). Unlike when I was a kid, I now put them in bags, although only a few are boarded as well - the boards take up more space. All of them were purchased cheaply, so many aren't in the best condition, and while I don't read them while eating like I used to as a kid, I don't treat them with kid-gloves either. And yes, I've had more than a few tape mishaps.
Everything else consists of reprint paperbacks or HCs which are on shelves like books, or in boxes like, also, many of my other books. And I treat them like I treat normal books: I carry them all around the house or yard when I'm reading them and I stuff them in my backpack so I can read them in public transport, so they do experience some wear and tear.

Comicsfan said...

I keep all of my comics on custom shelving, alphabetically sorted for the sake of convenience. Longboxes take up a great deal of room if you don't stack them--and if you do, you often have to move the heavy things in order to get to what you want. Shelves and a small step-ladder--it's comic book heaven. :)

As for preserving their condition, all of them are individually bagged and boarded--but I long ago stopped being concerned with maintaining their grade and thus their "value." Instead, I prefer a variation of Mr. Feigl's approach: "I bought 'em--I'll read 'em!" I have to regularly dive into these books for research purposes and some occasional scanning; and anyway, half the fun of collecting comics is not being hesitant to enjoy your collection. Besides, with the print quality of these old silver- and bronze-age books, they're going to degrade over time regardless (just like their owner!), so I find it much more enjoyable to enjoy my collection from a reading standpoint. Maybe I'll even roll one up and stick it in my back pocket, just for kicks. (Though maybe something from the Generation X run, so I don't feel too guilty...)

Redartz said...

Doug great story; I can almost see that curator's face in my head, color draining from her cheeks...
Comicsfan- quite right about the benefits of shelving vs. longboxes. I'm going to have to look into that.

Like Colin and Edo, many of my comics are in 'reader' condition. As implied above, I keep them in long and short boxes, about 9 currently. They are bagged and boarded, but many are inserted two-to-a-bag. There are a few higher end books and books in top condition; I've never slabbed any but do keep the 'goodies' in heavy mylar sleeves. Like everyone above, I like to read'em; so they are stored to be accessible (but as Comicsfan noted, moving those stacked boxes is a pain).
I've had a couple tape mishaps too, also have discovered a couple of times that a back cover got bent back on itself when inserted into a bag, leaving a nice crease on the back cover when I take it out months later. Very annoying.

One thing I've been doing recently: many books I picked up at flea mkts and as boxed lots, some of those books are in such poor condition that there's little point in keeping them. I've been cutting them up and using the images on gift boxes and ornaments and such. But before cutting, I check the book for any intact stories of interest, which I then scan and transfer to my tablet. Now I'm building a little library of comic stories digitally from books that otherwise would have been {and sometimes have been) insect fodder...

Colin Bray said...

To add, nice story Doug. As a librarian I do share the tension between respecting the object (in this case comics) and the knowledge they were originally created to be disposable. I quite like that tension actually :)

Doug said...

Thanks, Colin. And it's good to have you back today!

Doug

Anonymous said...

I know it's blasphemy, but a lot of my older comics aren't bagged/boarded; the ones I've gotten from comic stores or online are, but I've never gotten around to buying a bunch of empty bags/boards/boxes for the older stuff. Ah well, one of these days...

Mike Wilson

JJ said...

I've always been a big believer that comics are to be read and enjoyed. With a few exceptions I do not use boards and keep them in bags. I have a few signed comics and I've bagged those. Generally though I don't roll them up and put them in my back pocket, but I don't handle them with white gloves and tweezers either. I've never really had that collector mentality. I'm just a reader. After giving away half my collection to a birthday boy a few years back, I'm down to one box, and it's a actually a box that one held copier paper!

J.A. Morris said...

During my years of serious collecting, I bought most of my comics at a local shop that bagged every new issues before they were sold. So most of what I own is bagged. I handle some of them with care (I'll remove the scotch tape if I need to take a valuable comic out of its bag), but most of my comics are meant to be read, no better than "fine" condition. I own a few early issues of " the all new, all different" X-men and I own Woverine's 1st and 2nd appearances (Hulk 180-181, as if you didn't know). And a few other "valuable" comics, but most of what I own isn't worth much on its own. Of course the sentimental value is another matter entirely.

I'm in the process of figuring out what size bags are best for reprint books. Not because they have resale value, but because I want them to last a few years.

Related:I work in libraries too and I see lots of books in dire shape. My favorite recent case involved a book that was returned cover in kerosene. The patron paid the damage fees, I no idea how it wound up covered in kerosene. I'm probably better off not knowing.

JJ said...

I took a look at Aaron Meyers' Twitter feed and I'm green with envy. Not sure if I mentioned this to you guys, but I'm an American living in Scotland. There's a comic shop in Glasgow but I wouldn't know where to go around here to find the kinds of deals Aaron scoops up. What a great array of books he finds. He seems to go at it pretty steadily. He's even found some R. Crumb comics at very nice prices! Makes me long to go home and scour flea markets and shops for good deals. How I miss the joy of discovering hidden gems.

Colin Bray said...

JA - nice to meet a library colleague here.

JJ - I feel your pain. As a Brit (living in Devon) I would love to scour American flea markets for hidden gems too *sigh*

Martinex1 said...

I have some comics in all conditions. Most have been read numerous times over the years. You can tell when I started to value my collection by their condition as I treated them better. Most are in long boxes and bagged and boarded in my basement, but some of my key issues get moved upstairs gradually. I actually have some CGC issues as I tried to collect nice copies of my first and nostalgically favorite books...typically those are Avengers issues, but I picked up a couple CGC Ditko Shade the Changing Man mint issues for a buck on eBay. So those strange issues are in my protected pile also. Some years ago I started to catalog them on the computer but got kind of bored with it and stopped. I have a pretty good memory for what I have, but occasionally surprise myself when going through a box and find an issue I don't remember buying at all. I have some doubles because of that.

Edo Bosnar said...

JJ, Colin, just do join in on your sob-fest for non-US residents and also to one-up you: I'm an American living in Croatia. So yeah, I not only really miss the flea markets (and garage sales for that matter) where you can score great deals on comics, I also - since this is a non-English-speaking country - really, really the used bookstores and thrift-shops with book sections.

William said...

Like Doug, I too put most of my collection of individual comics up for "adoption" a couple of years ago. So now, I just have a few choice items left (which includes a bunch of misc. Bronze and Silver Age Marvel and DC, as well as some Valiant comics). What books I do still have fit in about 4 or 5 long-boxes and are mostly just bagged (some are also boarded).

I remember for one of my birthdays (15th or 16th), my parents got me my first longbox and a couple hundred bags. That started my lifelong practice of bagging all my comics and properly storing them in official comicbook boxes. It was fun when I was young, but as my collection grew (and grew) it became more of a chore to keep up than a pleasure. I'm happy to say that I no longer buy new comics, so I don't have deal with it anymore. LOL

I also have an extensive TPB and Hardcover collection which I just keep on a regular book shelf (like any other fine literature). That's what I usually read these days, and just leave the individual comics stored in their boxes.

david_b said...

Let me ask an ignorant question.., I'm awfully good at that sometimes.

I've heard collectors mention bagging/boarding is not good for comics.., at least they haven't spoken like that's the preferred way to store comics.

Typically when I 'bag/board', I actually insert the cardboard in the middle of the comic (where the staples are, if it's bound that way and not like the old 'king-size' editions...), so as to reduce the 'flattening' of the comic slightly. This also allows me to see both the front and back of the comic when it's in the bag.

Sounds weird, I know, but I like to preserve floppies as best as I can.

Any thoughts on why collectors would look down on the bag/boarding idea for storing comics..?

Redartz said...

David_b- I haven't heard much negative about bagging/boarding. Other than some say it is best not to seal the bag shut but leave the flap open for air circulation. They (whoever "they"are) also say it is good to change the bags from time to time. I'm not good about that, have some comics in their original bags from 20 years ago.
They also recommend mylar for better books...

Dr. Oyola said...

I do bag and board some comics, but mostly just to keep them in reading condition. I usually keep two issues in a bag, and use a board when necessary to keep the books upright in the short boxes - that is, I don't need to board them all, just every 5 to 10 sets of two issues.

I don't wash my hands. I keep them unbagged on the coffee table days at a time. I don't own any very valuable comics (or in good enough condition to remain valuable). I never pay more than $5 for a comic new or old.


Speaking of caring for old books:
I have an acquaintance with the writer George Saunders (he was one of my wife's professors at Syracuse) and he told me the story of getting to hold a first edition of Huckleberry Finn that had actually belonged to Twain (he wrote an excellent intro to an edition that came out in 2000). He said he was really nervous, but the archivist was very easy-going and didn't insist on the white glove treatment. He explained that it can be easier to damage the book with gloves on b/c you don't have the same tactile facility and can crease/tear pages unintentionally.

Lastly, I have a new tumblr where I post pics of my My Little Comics Notebook, where I keep lists of back issues I am looking for and new issues on my pull list I need to confirm when I go to the comic shop every few weeks. There are also non-comics-related notes since I have on occasion used the little notebook for other things.

JJ said...

Colin and Edo, I raise my coffee cup of Bronze Brotherhood in your direction(s). I feel ya. Yesterday I went into town (Troon, a small coastal town) to poke around an Oxfam charity shop. Much to my surprise they had a stack of old comics! Most were 90s stuff (and quite overpriced), but I did manage to get my paws on a nice Batman book for 99p. It's a short TPB called Full Circle wherein Batman takes on the Grim Reaper. Art by Alan Davis. I was well chuffed, as the locals like to say.

Related Posts with Thumbnails