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Storing Comics - Part 2


Storing Comics - Part 2

by Ron Cloer

“Do you have natural chemistry?”

Let’s talk about a subject that everyone can get stoked about, chemistry.  Now, before you go plunging a rusty knife into your frontal lobe, please hear what I have to say.  In our hobby a big deal is made about acid free boards and archive quality bags.  But in the end it will be like the man who never leaves his house for fear of toxic chemicals only to be poisoned by Radon gas in his own home.  You see, the vast majority of comics are printed on acidic paper!  It is the kind of paper that discolors and becomes brittle naturally, with no help from you.  It wasn’t until the mid 80’s that paper companies started making any real changes to correct the acidic content in paper, thanks to the EPA.

During the paper making process lignin and other acidic additives are incorporated in the mixture.  To add to this acid fest, pollution can cause acid levels to rise.  Even the aging process of paper contributes to the increase in acid.  One of the worst things about acid and paper is that the acid feeds off of itself, like a snowball rolling down a hill.  While those acid free board won’t add to the rapidly growing acidic nature of your comics they are not stopping anything either.  So what is a diligent collector to do?

Buff up!  No, this doesn’t involve working out or pumping iron or getting a 6-pack of abs.  A buffer is something (for our application, an alkaline paper) that maintains an almost constant PH when in contact with strong acids.  Inserting a buffer paper can stabilize the ph value of a comic and that is a very good thing my friend.  There are buffer papers that contain a chemical (usually calcium carbonate) added to them that can neutralize acids.  Calcium carbonate is commonly used in antacids, which makes perfect sense.  Basically a buffer has an alkaline reserve that counteracts acids right now and in the future.  Buffer papers aren’t eternal though, there comes a time when the buffer has reached its limit of acid absorption and has to be changed.  That is why CGC suggests that the buffer enclosed inside comics that they grade be changed every 7 years.

I’ve also done some experiments with deacidification sprays that you can buy from any scrapbooking store.  They are extremely easy to use and contain no water that might warp your comic.  After spraying a couple worthless comic books I noticed a slight chalkiness where there was too much spray in certain areas.  It was easily removed but it made me uncomfortable.  Primarily because sprays will eventually have to be reapplied as the natural acidity of paper reestablishes itself.  So layer after layer of deacidification spray will eventually cloud the cover.

So unless you have access to a mass deacidification facility the only real option is buffer paper.  I would strongly suggest that you start taking steps to protect your collection from itself.  You can find buffer paper supplies at these 3 websites and probably many more.

Eclipse Paper

Conservation By Design

Comic Supply

Until next time and a journey through humidity, happy reading comic book fan.


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