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Subject: Comic books in plastic wrappers

Comic books in plastic wrappers

From: Alice Cannon <acannon>
Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2007
On behalf of a colleague, Paul Sillitoe <paul [at] sillitoe-uk__net>

>[He] owns a
>home-stored collection of some 300-400 comics, unopened in their
>original "plastic" wrappers.
>He is seeking advice about their best means of long-term storage and
>preservation, in home conditions. ...

I know that in the US market, comic book collectors have some fairly
firm ideas about what adds and detracts from the monetary value of a
comic book. If your comics really are in their original packaging,
it might be worth leaving them there--even if the bags aren't so
fabulous from a long term preservation perspective. It would be
worth checking with a dealer before making a decision to remove them
from the packaging, in case this does have a significant impact on
their market value. Or you could contact a specialist comic book
restorer, like Susan Cicconi (The Restoration Lab) or Tracey Heft
(Eclipse Paper), who both work in the US, and ask their advice--you
should be able to google their details.

If you do decide to remove the original wrappers, the comic-book
industry seems to prefer Mylar bags for storage of individual
comics, as they are very clear (for optimum viewing conditions!) and
appear to last longer than polyethylene and polypropylene (which are
much cheaper). Mylar is good but expensive; also it has quite sharp
edges which could catch on the paper of the comic book as you take
it in and out. A polypropylene or polyethylene bag with an archival
card insert, stored together inside a polypropylene or archival
cardboard box would be a good way of storing the collection, but may
not be cheap.

In the meantime, I think stacking your books as they are inside
well-fitting alkaline-buffered cardboard boxes from one of the
conservation suppliers would be your best bet; if you can afford it,
putting some sheets of Microchamber paper or similar inside might
help to "catch" some of the acidic vapours coming out of the comics.
(Comic books often have an odour a bit similar to film with vinegar
syndrome). This should help minimise the effect of any pollutant
"microclimates"; using cardboard boxes will also help buffer the
contents from environmental conditions.

And just out of interest--I don't have any hard and fast scientific
evidence for this, but from what I have seen of paper things stored
in plastic bags, often the plastic bag seems to come off worse. Just
like printing inks can cause offset staining on an adjacent page, so
too do they seem to cause yellowing of polypropylene and
polyethylene. (Mylar seems to be more resistant). Of course it is
very likely that something is going the other way; also plastics
like PVC are another kettle of fish entirely. Perhaps it is just
that the effects of oxidation etc on an already discoloured paper
aren't as easily and immediately visible as they are on a
transparent, colourless pristine plastic bag.

This is not a perfect storage solution of course, but given that
(for a home collection) the market value of the comic books is very
important, it might be worthwhile to give concerns other than their
immediate preservation equal billing. Hope this is useful,

Alice Cannon
Conservator, Paper and Photographs
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
+61 3 8664 7331
Fax: +61 3 9639 0723

                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:25
                 Distributed: Saturday, October 6, 2007
                       Message Id: cdl-21-25-011
Received on Tuesday, 2 October, 2007

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