Saturday, January 19, 2013

Comic-book storage and display

One of the most consistently difficult challenges of the comic-book collecting hobby is dealing with the accumulation of physical objects that are fragile, valuable, and eventually (after you have enough of them) bulky.  There are no easy solutions to this, and all represent a compromise.  A nice summary of the options is available here.

One of the fundamental sources of tension for the collector is between compactness and display.  Having hundreds (or thousands) of comic-books in one's collection takes up a great deal of space. The most compact way to store them is in so-called "comic boxes" like this. However, these boxes are not very attractive, and they hide the artistic content that makes comic-books so wonderful -- the full-color drawings of superheroes and supervillains that grace every comic-book cover and the pages within.  Additionally, if you get enough boxes of comics filled up, you end up looking like you are perpetually packing to move.

On the other hand, the only practical way to actually display the artistic content of the comic-books is to arrange them so the covers are showing. And although this will display the comic-book art in all its glory, it takes up a huge amount of space.  For example, this wonderful Dr. Strange display in a very expensive curio looks fantastic, but is only capable of displaying about 20 comic-books.  One could store thousands of comic-books in the same space by using comic boxes.

And therein lies the conundrum that has plagued comic-book collectors since the hobby first began.  You can either store massive quantities in a relatively compact space, but in a way that is unattractive and hides the beauty of your collectibles, or you can show off a few collectibles.  But finding a way to both store and show-off a comic-book collection has been very difficult to achieve.

Today, I think I might have hit on a possible (partial) solution.  There's no real way to completely solve this problem, because display is the opposite of compaction. But I have managed to find some relatively inexpensive options at Office Depot that I might be able to eventually use when, after I get a house and the proper display furniture, it is time for me to find a permanent resting home for my collectibles.

First, I tried a clear plastic storage box from Office Depot (it cost about $7 with instant in-store rebate, $14 normally) that holds about 90 bagged-and-boarded comic-books.
Plastic storage box from Office Depot

This is slightly less than a typical comic-book cardboard "short box," but I think the result is much more attractive.  The clear plastic also lets you see what's inside, which I like. On the other hand, if you stack 10 of these against a wall, I'm not convinced it will be any more attractive than a stack of comic boxes.
The storage box with lid attached
I will also note that the Mylar bags are a tad snug (being slightly larger than regular polypropylene ones), and this box is probably not ideal for comics protected in Mylar.

A slightly better option, for portions of the collection you want to display (obviously you couldn't do this with thousands of comics) was two display stands I found in the area of Office Depot devoted to pencil holders and desktop organizers.  These were referred to as "document holders" and were meant to hold a few magazines or flyers, but they work quite well for comics.
Document holders from Office Depot

The holder depicted on the left has a single repository, and is able to hold about 12 comic-books wrapped in plastic and protected by backing boards (or 9 comics in 4-mil Mylar bags with boards), or a couple of graphic novels.  The holder on the right has a step-riser design, and can hold about 36 bagged/boarded comics total -- 12 per "step."  These two options work well for both storage and display, I think. The face-front design allows the collector to show off the covers he likes best, but there is enough storage here that many issues can be retained.  And if you are like me, and you re-read your comic-books from time to time, these options allow easy access to the issues you want to peruse.

I'm not sure how well these will work in my eventual display area, so I am not going to buy any more for right now. But I can easily imagine putting the holders you see above, in just about that arrangement, into a curio and placing a couple of Hawk and Dove statues or action figures in between them. It would make a great display that also enables me to store 30+ comics and a graphic novel in a reasonably compact space.


  1. Nice article. The triple display holder looks good. I tend to have only a few comics out at a time that I am looking through, say for grading, so a couple of these would work very well indeed.

  2. I like the triples a lot, but the total height can be prohibitive if you put it on any normal-sized shelving. On a table top it would be fine, however.

  3. The real question is why do you have so many hawk and Dove comics?

  4. The 1989-1991 Hawk and Dove series is one of the best written comic-book series of all time. It wasn't very well known, and wasn't very popular, mostly because comic-book fans often go for flashy art rather than good writing, and although the artist, Greg Guler, was competent, he wasn't flashy, and he didn't have the Leifeld/Lee style that was becoming popular at the time. Without a "hot artist," many a book languished despite quality, and this is one of them.

    However, the writing is among the best in any comic-book, ever. You won't find better-written dialogue, better developed characters, or more fun and interesting plotlines, than you can find in Hawk and Dove.

    That's why I still have all of them. In fact, my original collection was destroyed in a flood and I had to re-buy all of them. I considered the expense well worth it, and still do. Hawk and Dove is one of the most treasured series of my collection, and I consider it to be up there in quality with Walt Simonson's Thor and George Perez's Wonder Woman.

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  6. Thank you for the post. The shorter clear lidded box lessens the weight, being able to see what is inside is huge.

  7. Great post! I'm curious about the plastic box exactly?
    Thank you

  8. What is it that you want to know about the plastic box? I am not sure the brand, but they carry them in Office Depot/Max, and if you just measure your comics you should be able to get one that fits nicely.