As my very own budding collection of comic books just hit one hundred issues this week, I took some time today to stop and think about how it got started. It was by accident, actually.

I had an amazing middle school science teacher who led a summer camp for us young, naïve kids to see the real wonders of the awesome Southern California in which we lived. It was a simpler time, one in which a band of summer campers strolled into the convention center on the opening Friday of SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) and got badges right there.  What I wouldn’t give to return to those days… But I digress.

On our drive home we stopped at an incredibly hole-in-the-wall comic book store, shelves teeming with the most current comics.  Our teacher said if anyone wanted to go in really quickly they could. I had been sleeping and woke up just in time to hear his suggestion. Already on a comic book high, I spied Bart Simpson on a comic book cover in the store window and decided I had to scramble in and get one.  It was my first comic book purchase, and I had almost slept through it.

Throughout the years, I have encountered yard sales with cardboard longboxes packed full of the plastic-protected issues, used book stores with piles of dusty yellowed comics, and friends and family whose collections came out of hiding when I asked about them.  With the opening of a new one within the last few months, I actually found myself surrounded by three local comic stores for me to frequent, which has helped balloon my collection from one or two issues picked purely for the image on their covers to a collection of one hundred assorted books from Marvel and DC, the oldest of which dates back to 1971, the newest, May 22, 2013.

So! What’s my point in all this?  I’m going to give you some suggestions based on my experience on growing and maintaining your own comic book collection, starting from the bare basics.

  • First of all, look for local comic stores in your area!  Check it out.  Some comic stores specialize in stocking the newest issues each month, while other stores boast a plethora of old issues and fun collectibles.  If you can, read some reviews online about their selection and their customer service before paying them a visit.  Ladies, if you think it may be a problem, be sure to find a store with a female-friendly environment that values all customers of any gender and any experience equally, from comic newbies to veterans.
  • If you can’t find an actual store that specializes in comics, regular book stores, used book stores and collectibles stores may have a few comics stashed somewhere.  The magazine section of bookstores such as Barnes and Noble also usually carry a small sampling of comics each month.
  • Decide which serials you want to collect! Do a little research, and find heroes and story arcs that interest you.
  • Look for online retailers! Lots of websites sell new issues, and sites like Amazon and eBay have back issues you can use to round off your collections.
  • Digital comics are great if there are no stores near you with comics. Purchase comics in digital download form to preserve paper and keep current on your stories without the run to the store in between.
  • Find some comic book conventions in your area, if there are any.  These are great places to search for an out of print issue you haven’t been able to find anywhere else.  Be prepared, though, for the chance that you might have to shell out a little more money for these older copies.
  • Be open to making fun discoveries! You never know what you’ll find and what you’ll love until you give it a read.

And once you’ve started your collection, be sure to preserve the comics with these helpful suggestions!

  • Be kind to your comics.  Don’t use them as drinking coasters or leave them somewhere where they can get damaged by heat, water, the sun, animals, or people with grubby fingers.
  • If you get the opportunity, get plastic slip covers and board backs for your comics.  If you can’t find many of them or you don’t need all those plastic covers, pick at least your favorite or oldest issues that need protection and keep them safe inside.
  • Keep your comics organized! It will help you keep them neat and orderly, and that way you don’t have to defile your whole collection looking for one comic book in the middle of the pile.
  • Put your comics in binders or boxes to protect them and help keep them all in one place.  Binders are a great way to store them if you get page pockets and put the comics in.  Binders are also a cool way to display them on a shelf or keep them in storage.  Plastic storage bins are another useful way of storing and protecting the comics.
  • Take care with extra old issues, as their staples may have rusted, resulting in the covers falling apart.  If you want, you can, with extreme caution, remove the rusted staples from the book and then restaple the pages together.
  • Dust off old issues with a soft cloth and then flatten the pages under something heavy to keep the issue all smooth.
  • You can gently remove smudges with a soft white eraser. Be sure to dust off the shavings afterwards.
  • If the book is becoming separated from the cover along the spine, carefully use a toothpick and a little bit of white glue along the inside of the spine between the cover and the book.  Let it dry completely, and don’t use enough glue to saturate the cover, or else it will ruin the colors.
  • Keep them somewhere safe that people won’t mistake them for old things to be thrown out.  Learn from my dad’s misfortunes- his mother threw out his collection on trash day while he was at school as a young boy.  Make it clear to others that this collection is to be treated well!

If you follow these guidelines, you should be well on your way to starting your own comic book collection.  Remember, if you’re just starting up, most new monthly issues cost either $3-4, so put aside an allowance and check online schedules to see when the next stories are released.  Good luck and have fun! Happy collecting! 

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