Comic books: They’re as much about collecting as they are about reading. But how can one possibly be expected to amass a library of anything without it turning critical and exploding outward in an enormous mess? How can we be orderly and nerdy, all without breaking the bank?
Well good news. I, the reasonably priced Scandinavian furniture solution that is John Galati, have come to you flat-packed and ready to help with all your paper archiving needs. Read on!
Comic Book Storage Solutions:
The Budget Solution:
Cardboard magazine holders, short boxes, and long boxes
These are your entry level-solution to not keeping your collection in piles on the floor like an animal. They mostly come in just white or black, but you can sometimes find other hues. If you like the price point but hate the color, I’m here to tell you that cardboard is great for découpage (that’s french for “cut up your old comics and glue ‘em on the outside of the box”).
Magazine holders work great on a bookshelf, but only hold a few dozen single issues or a large handful of trades.
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Short boxes handle between 150-175 comics, while long can handle up to 300. You can buy both individually, but I strongly suggest buying in bulk for the discount. (And really, why not? Are you gonna stop collecting any time soon?):
These are just normal magazine/short/long boxes, only dressed in their Sunday best. These do look much more impressive on the shelf and can make sorting your collection far easier than if you’re just using a field of uniform white boxes. But they also cost a bit more for it
These are just like your normal long or short boxes, except they contain an inner layer that lets your collection slide out of the box the way a drawer might from a dresser. These are way easier to get in and out of, and their their extra construction makes them much safer to stack! If you’re doing boxes, I strongly recommend you go this route.
BCW sells long and short models that are perfect for comic book shops, but are priced to be financially ruinous for an only semi-professional collector
Instead, check out alternatives like The Collection Drawer Co or shopping around on Etsy for a solution that doesn’t feel like a second mortgage or car payment.
The Next Level
Plastic or PVC magazine holders, short or long boxes
These hold roughly the same amount as their cardboard equivalent, but with the added benefit of being way more sturdy and providing some level of water and damage resistance.
The downside is that using these things can be painful. The molding process can result in sharp plastic edges while the hinges can sound like a witch being burned alive each time you open and close the boxes. And if you buy a cheaper model, those hinges might fail from use after only a few years (mine started to turn to garbage after one move and two years of use).
Filing cabinets, dressers, chests, and other furniture
Buying furniture can cost more up front, but it often means saving money in the long run as those boxes add up.
If you keep a keen eye on your local craigslist postings, yard/garage sales, or liquidation auctions, you can get amazing deals on solutions that will last you a lifetime.
Legal file cabinet, for instance, have drawers meant to handle serious weight and constant use and are easily wide enough to hold between two and four rows of bagged and boarded floppies.
That said, non-custom furniture usually needs a bit of customization to work. For filing cabinets, you’ll want to put in a strip of wood, cardboard, foam core poster board, or just a cut-up shipping box between the rows so your comics stay neatly organized. You also might want to paint the exterior.
Storing and Arranging
- Bag’n’board. Loose issues really do not want to stand up in a storage box, and will absolutely slip down to be crushed and eaten by gravity, who’s going to be a constant nemesis here.
- Create dividers in your boxes: Grab a piece of cardboard, cut it just a little narrower than your box and taller than your comics (probably 7” x 11”, but measure, for crissakes). Drop these in between any important division. I know the X-Men are all about “unity” but I don’t think Batman is having any of that.
- When stacking boxes, use a wooden board between rows. These add stability and support to your stacks and prevent boxes from finding those seams between bottom row boxes.
- Use side bracing. It’s as important to keeping things on a bookshelf as it is to preventing stacks from falling over. Always make sure you have some kind of support at the ends of your stacks or shelves, be that walls, plywood, or just bookends.
- Stack things evenly, and with the heaviest on the bottom. Whether you’re putting boxes on top of one another or filling a cabinet, you want to make sure that your bottom layer is the heaviest of the bunch and that your upper levels are either flush with the bottom, or else smaller. Putting weight up crushes lighter levels and makes your stack unstable.
- Don’t stack more than 4-high with cardboard boxes. The combined weight of comics and boxes will start crushing the bottom box after 4. You can do a little more with plastic options, but even then you want to be careful so they don’t slip out of alignment and topple from on-high.
- Don’t put anything on floor level. Putting your comics on the floor is like putting out an invitation to every bottle of beer, flood water, dog, child, or tiny Super-homunculus to just come on over and wreck stuff up. Seriously, just tell gravity that you give up at that point. Or use a shelf like you’re not an animal. It can be wall-mounted or freestanding, I don’t care. Just do something so you’re not one vindictive Roomba away from catastrophe.
- Don’t put things too close to a window. You don’t want your collection being blasted by the UV of direct sunlight, crinkling and warping from moisture, or being carried off by hand-fired Kryptonianettes. (Can we stop the entire article and just talk for several days about how Superman had a power where a doll shot out of his hand?)
Now, as promised, we’re gonna show off some of that hard work. And where better than the place that is sometimes awful, other times industrious, and still other times awful? Reddit’s /r/comicbooks!
It’s a smaller collection to be sure, but look how well Super_GoodAdvice uses the space available to integrate their books, artwork, statues/toys, and even a reading space! With a lamp! It may be modest, but it’s inviting to look at and to use!
Now we’re into integrated lighting and serious shelving (that off-set in the shelve on alternating rows is a nice touch). Note that the top rows mostly contain smaller, lighter books while that bottom row has most of the heavy omnibuses; keeping that weight down low is safer for the build and safer for retrieving books.
Ikea shelving is fairly reasonable in price, modular, and does a great job of visually separating all of your elements. The grey fabric boxes are a nice touch as well, and putting the books down in the bottom shelf isn’t so bad (as they’re at least an inch off the ground, buying them a little distance from a toppled glass of water or somethin) However, Ikea furniture is known to have a little wobble to it, so I’m not sure about those short boxes up top. They look great up there, but as they fill up and get heavier, you’ll want to consider moving them lower… especially since Ikea furniture is notoriously wobbly, and top heavy + wobble = no bueno.
Look at those integrated lights! They make those action figures look fantastic, don’t they? You can buy lighting solutions like that pretty cheap, and they come in plugin and battery operated varieties (depending on how many cords you want in your life).
This is another Ikea shelving and fabric basket solution, but here we get a great peek at the divider tab. I absolutely love that retro lamp in the back and the 90s toys. God, I just want to steal all of it.
This looks incredible, but it’s easily achievable with any shelving solution. Again, this uses Ikea, using three normal bookcases and one narrow model there holding ax-wielding Batman.
It looks like that narrow unit is turned at an angle to avoid a corner made by the walls the longer shelves are flush against. That’s a very clever solution, causing a seamless system that sorta curves around the room. Note how the shelves are arranges to create even rows that extend from unit to unit. Very nicely done.
The single issues are probably using a “display stand” like this
At the bottom are some lovely “art” boxes of the magazine display variety.
Best Practices for Comic Book Storage
- Use the right tools. Things like stud finders, levels, tape measures, and so on are cheap and easy to use. Use them and you’ll do a great job the first time as opposed to fixing things again and again.
- Make room for everything When setting up a display, you don’t have to be limited to your comics and boxes. You can include everything you collect, from action figures to lunch boxes, from vinyl records to gaming equipment. Doing this will not only keep things from sitting in cupboards or closets, it’ll also add some visual interest and keep your display from being just a monotony of book spines.
- Think about walls and shelves. If you’ve got prints or commissions, put them in frames and plan on them being close to your altar. It’ll really tie the room together. If you plan this too late, you might wind up having to put the posters too close to the ceiling, which means you get the least out of them.
- Build for use as well as display Turns out comics are more than just for looking at. Plan for how you’ll use the books, which ones you access most often, where the light will be to pick them and read them… even where to house and charge your tablet for your digital collection!
In which I close things with a regrettable hashtag
Our top scientists have done the math to know that you’re gonna spend more time looking at any given comic than you will reading the thing. But you don’t have to live in shame about that. All you need is the proper boxes, the right tools, and a free weekend and you too can turn your burgeoning stacks into a true collection that’s worthy of a #shelfie.
Sam vellines says
So I’m just starting out with my comic book collecting and I’m under 100 and I won’t break 1,000 anytime soon. My organization is limited to a Murphy bed bookshelf’s on both sided’s. Right now it only takes up half of one bookshelf witch I have six of. The problem is in terms of trying to separate different series is hard because the traditional dividers always come out on top and they would be hard to see that way. Are there any dividers that protrude out on the side?
Christopher Rob says
I have a collection of about 2500 comics. I just finishing do the change over from the acid free bags and boards and went to the mylar bags and boards. This hobby is not cheap, but I think it is worth it. I also use the Collection drawers to store my comics.
My question is, I put my comics back to back with board between and in 1 bag. It is not too tight, if it is, I just put 1. The spines are on opposite sides. Should I not do this? Can this cause damage to the comics? I heard it was good to do this but I wanted to hear from others. Thanks.
You can imagine my surprise to find my own picture in an article on the first page of google, but I’ve got three little things:
1. The Ikea Kallax is actually super rigid; of every shelf in my apartment, it’s the one I’m least worried about tipping. That said, I don’t keep short boxes up there anymore because I’m more concerned about the weight (25 lbs per box) and I’ve added several more. Pushing 200 lbs on the top shelf isn’t too bad of a wobble/tip risk, but I did grow concerned about over-loading the shelf and the relatively thin pieces supporting it. That shelf now has various figures and collectibles that cumulatively weigh less than even two boxes, and spread that weight better. This is also why all the trades are on the bottom: the coated paper in comics trades is really heavy compared to other books. The short boxes are now stacked on the floor. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Flood risk flatly isn’t a concern in my apartment. I live on the third floor of a wood-framed building. If we get that much flooding, the building has probably washed away. Like you said, keeping things from a spilled drink is really all I need. When I (hopefully) eventually move into a house, then I’m going to be looking for something with at least a few more inches of clearance in general, or a full foot if I end up keeping things in the basement.
3. The grey boxes are actually there because this is also my guest room. So while one of them has my extra bags and boards and other assorted doo-dads, another has extra blankets for the bed (it gets cold in Minnesota and I don’t have a thermostat keeping a stable temperature on winter nights).
Gideon Faulconer says
Great article John, I loved a lot of the ideas here. I do have a question. In the last photo that you pulled from Reddit by u/JBDX, it looks like on the bottom shelves that they have binders for their books. I could be wrong and those could be omnibuses of some sort, but I’ve been looking for binders to hold my single issues together so I could hold an event or run in one easy to grab way, and my hopes were sparked when I saw those. Do you have any idea if they are binders or where I could look for something like that?
I’ve been loving your contributions to the site, thanks for being a part of Comic Book Herald!
John Galati says
Good question, Gideon, and thanks for the kind words.
I’m pretty sure that those are actually magazine/periodical holders, mechanically similar to these https://amzn.to/2Twuzhf . Either JBDX has found ones that came wrapped with graphics — maybe from etsy, ebay, or their LCS — or they bought blank ones and then wrapped them with their own graphics using an adhesive.
It sounds like you might want something similar to this “folio” — https://amzn.to/2RENS6w
I like this one does NOT have slide in plastic page, as it’s really hard to put issues into pages or take them out without running the issue. I also like the closing mechanism, as there don’t seem to be many pinch points for hurting the comics.
That said, I do wish that it had a way to keep the issues from flopping around. That sucks for traveling and it also means the folio might be off-balance when sitting on a shelf, meaning it might fall over a bunch.
Also, a handle would be nice, but probably not a deal breaker.
Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help.