When I was a kid in the 70s, none of my friends kept their comic books. They read them, and then they tossed them. They became junk that their moms would throw out or that ended up in the next garage sale. Comics weren’t collectible then, they were disposable.
Later this would change. In the 80s I put my comics in custom poly bags, each book in a separate bag. I sealed each bag with a piece of tape to keep it closed. And I didn’t leave comics out of their bags to collect moisture or dirt. I also bought custom comic book boxes to store my books vertically. If you pile them up horizontally the staples curl the bindings and lower the resale value. But you knew that already, didn’t you? Of course you did, because comics are collectible now. Like Star Wars toys, Beanie Babies, and a million other collectible things.
But in the early 70s there hadn’t been a Star Wars or a comic collection craze. So comics were considered junk to most people. Not me though. I wanted to keep my comics because I kept going back to them over and over again. Why is another story altogether, but I read and reread my comics, so I wanted to make sure no one, my mom especially, thought they were junk. The safest way to do that was to box them up. I used the best quality cardboard boxes that I could scrounge from behind the Thrifty Drug Store for my magazines and comics. I even clearly labeled them with a Sharpie so everyone would leave them alone: “Jay’s Magazines”, “Jay’s Comics”
In the 70s my bedroom was a semi-converted garage. Not only did I sleep in the garage, but my dad kept his home office in there too. And it was the laundry room, where my mom had her avocado green Kenmore washer and drier. It was the Kenmore appliances that taught me the Modern Water Cycle and The Importance of Plastic Bags.
One day when I came home from school, I stepped down the 3 steps from the kitchen into my garage/office/laundry/bedroom and the floor went SQUISH!! There was water pouring out of the top of the Kenmore washer onto the floor and soaking up into the cardboard of one of my boxes. SHOCK! HORROR! All of my Scientific America and National Geographic magazines, cleverly salvaged from a neighbor’s garage sale, were now giant sponges, full of soapy water. A whole shelf of my dad’s tax records and books got ruined too, but that stuff didn’t really matter. My magazines were ruined!
Perched on top of the magazine box was my box of comics. I put them on top of my bed and did what any kid would do in a flood, I yelled, “MOM THERE’S WATER EVERYWHERE!!!” My comic books were saved from the flood, just by dumb luck or fate (or dumb fate). Later that night I sat on my bed staring at the Kenmore: the washer made no promises that it would not attack again. There were no appliance rainbows promising no future floods. So I knew I had to do something to protect my comic books.
My solution to the problem, since I had no gopher wood to build an ark, was plastic bags. I got two big black trash bags from the garage (not a long trip because my room was the garage). I opened up the bags and double lined the box, putting all my comics inside. A brilliant solution, if I do say so myself, that protected my comics from water and dust for years. And looking back in hindsight (is there any other way to look back?) I must admit that those black trash bags were a lot cheaper than the individual poly comic archive bags I started using later.
--Jay Bird's Comic Book Memories