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Dennis W. Strasburg

Article: How to Manage a 60,000 Comic Collection...

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I liked Peter Bickford's article on managing a large comic collection.  I'm always curious what processes other people use for large collections.

  • Labeling and dividers - I should take advantage of these methods especially the dividers.  It would be a major time saver in finding a series instead of a "divide-and-conquer" approach.
  • Comic boxes - My back will thank me for transitioning to the Drawer style.  The cost of changing out some many short boxes is what keeps me from pulling the trigger.  I use short boxes since they are much easier on my back and they make storage easier as they can fit in smaller places, but it is a pain to get at comics on the bottom of a stack of boxes.  I'll start by buying a few drawer boxes each year (I'll be 120 years old by the time I finish).
  • Sorting - Originally, I did try sorting by title but when it came to adding new comics, the overflow would ripple down a few hundred boxes.  To limit the number of boxes impacted, I started grouping the comics by major publishers then sort by title.  The categories are: major publishers, active publishers, and non-active publishers.
    • Major publishers - the term is subjective and is mainly determined by the number of comics I owned of a particular publisher.  e.g. Is there enough to fill a couple short boxes?
    • 'Active' publisher - All other publishers that are still publishing comics and I own a small amount of their titles.
    • 'Inactive' publishers - Any publishers that are no longer publishing comics (Comico, First, Pacific, etc.)
  • Bagging - I use the standard comic bags sold at my local comic shop.  A while back, I bought a couple packages of the Mylar bags.  My plan is to slowly transition the more valuable comics in my collection (Dazzler #1 🙂 ) to Mylar.  It didn't make sense to replace all the bags due to the cost.  I don't know if anyone has thoughts on using the cheaper comic bags vs. Mylar.

It seems to work okay, although at times, I would like to go back to sort-by-title only just because I like keeping the sort simple instead of multiple layers.

-Dennis

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Since you posted this, I will add a bit about what order comics are stored in. It gives me a chance to address at least one problem with Pete's article (althogh it doesn't really change the final result he mentions).

There are basically only 3 (major) ways to sort comics. There are some variations (like you haveing an Active and Inactive publisher catagories) but I will leave those out.

1) Sort by Title, Issue number Or Publisher, Title, Issue number.
2) None. Just put issues after the last ones in the box and go to a new box when full.
3) Date, Title, Issue number
They all have good and bad points.

1) Sort by Title or Publisher Title:

The good point is it is very easy to get to any particular comic (assuming you are labeling the boxes and have Title dividers).

The bad point is if you are active collecting a Title (either new or back issues), you get to the end of a box and have to go to the next box, causing you to shift a Lot of comics as you go from box to box until you get to the end. (You can leave extra space for expansion but, depending on how active your collection is, you will eventually have to start shifting comics.

2 None.

The good points are there is never any shifting of comics and it is easy to file you comics. Just keep filling up the box until full and go to the next box.

The bad point is that you HAVE to have and List or Index that tells you what Box (and section, but more on that in a second) they are in. If that List every gets lost, you have a lot of comics and no idea where they are.

About sections and my point about Pete's article.  In it, he assumes all comics are put in to a long box which requires looking through 200 comics to find the one in the box.  However, all the times I have heard this method mentioned, what is actually done is the box is broken up into 6 (or so) sections with dividers. Doing this and recording the Box/Section a comic is located in will greatly reduce the 'search' time from 1 in 200 to 1 in 33. Using 8 to 10 sections would be even few comics per section.
While it is still probably slower that the Title or Publisher/Title sort, it is no where near as long to search as indicated.

My main problem with this method is one (catastrophic) point of failure (the List/Index).

3) Date/Title.  I saved this for last as this is what I use.

The good point is, while a list would be nice, CB already contains this for (almost all) the comics with Cover Date (or Street Date). I actually use a Custom Date column Publication Date to ensure all the Issues with out a Date have one I supply.
A bad point about this good point is to get to it quickly, you need to look this info up in CB then go to the correct box and find it.  You can still find it by guessing at the approximate date, checking that box and based on the numbers you find, estimate what box it really is in.
Another good point is you don't have to shift comics (much). If a box gets full, just add another box for that year and shift some from one box to the other. (this is a one time thing and it doesn't cascade down to other boxes as a Title sort would.)

The bad points are, if you want to get a complete run on a title, you need to go to several different boxes (All the one in box 1973, then 1974, then 1975, etc.) Since I hardly ever need to access all Issues in a Title, this is not a problem for me. (and we are talking about find a single issue, most times).

Sorting by Date/Title is a compromise between the other two that eliminates (or at least lessens) the bad points of each.
With this method, you eliminate (most) of the shifting Option 1 has and also the critical list weak point (the critical list) that Option 2 has.
It may not be perfect (If you can have a bit of empty space in each year (set of) box which can add up over all the years (but this also allows expansion with less shifting)) but, for me, it works out well. But, as they say, 'your mileage may vary'.

PS About Mylar.  Yes they are expensive but keep this in mind. Regular comic bags are NOT long term storage. They break down over time. 'Experts' say you should replace them every X years (the X varies per expert and I haven't looked it up in awhile but I think it is about 3 years). When I used bags, I found that they 'stuck' to my comics. Not so they damaged them (more like static electricity) but it can't be good for them.  If you take in this replacement cost, then Mylar (which IS used for long term storage as it is inert and shouldn't have to be replace) isn't that much more.  Yes, it is more of an 'up front' cost but long term it is probably cheaper.  But with your 60,000, that is a very large cost (I have around 20,000).

 

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To both Dennis and Steven, thanks for a lot of valuable information. I am going to add my two cents worth. As a collector that just passed 50k+ issues (and believe me there are still about 2,000+ to be inventoried), I started buying drawer boxes about 5 years ago. Truth be told, you better be sure of what is in each one because I stack no higher than 5 at a time and have at least 8-10 'rows' across. As great as they are, they are still hard to handle if you do not start off on the right foot. With regard to mylars, I have spent the last 3+ years buying a lot of silver age/bronze age books and that type of bag is well worth it if you want to keep them in better shape than they were in when they first arrived in your hands. Leave the current bags and even those that are a bit wider for current comics and going back about 10-15 years. By the way, don't forget about the boards, these can make a big difference no matter how new or old your books are. Last but not least, rent an air conditioned storage unit if you are able to. Yes, this can get a bit pricey but my local facility turned me on to having two 10 x 10 units instead of one 10 x 20 and I am actually saving about $125/month. Sadly, I know the time will come when all of this will stop but better to take good care of what I have now so that someone (or many) can enjoy these down the road.

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I had been sorting by title and issue number.  But, as I'm actively collecting Silver Age Action Comics and Superman as well as the current issues, it is a hassle to shift everything.  I've recently started pulling all Superman related comics into separate boxes.  That should, hopefully, reduce the amount of shifting that needs to happen.  I also agree on the comments about mylar, I'm slowly replacing all may bags with mylar, as well as making sure the boards are true acid free.

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I bought heavy duty storage wracks at Sam's Club that can fit 5 longboxes per shelf and each unit has 4 shelves (plus a top shelf for light stuff - don't recommend loading that with longboxes, though).

I initially started ordering everything alphabetically, but I acquired many longboxes worth of comics after that so keeping things alphabetical no longer worked well. So I went to a numbered box format. When I am ready to inventory new acquisitions, I document them in ComicBase and assign a box number in the Grading Notes field. That way, when someone buys, the box number appears on the invoice, I can print the invoice and use it to find the book in the numbered box. I organize the books in each numbered box alphabetically so its easy for me to find each book in each box. I also have show stock (i.e. longboxes I take to shows) and I notate that show stock indicator in ComicBase as well in the Grading Notes field so if I sell one of those books online I can go to my show stock and find it. All of my show stock is alphabetized with the exception of some books broken out by cover artist or author.

I also assign a grade to every book I list on Atomic Avenue, so most of my books have an actual 10 point number grade (using Overstreet and CGC as my general guide). Those grades are stored on the Grading Notes of ComicBase and on a little sticker on each bagged/boarded comic. Assigning grades is totally a personal decision and I do it because I love grading comics and I want my customers to get what they are expecting. 

Best of luck!

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