Comic collecting is great, it really is. It gives you an interesting point of conversation with people that collect and people that don’t, and for those that do there’s always a great variation in how people go about it. There are many these days that go purely down the digital route, opting to use a platform such as Comixology as a way of saving soace and money, especially with the deals they’re always running on various back issues. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that comics are becoming more accessible for more people, and a digital platform is a genuinely brilliant idea for getting more people into the medium, it’s just not for me. I’m one of those with boxes and boxes of comics, with shelves constantly being filled with trades and graphic novels. The funny thing about how I started though is that I always considered myself a reader of comics, but not necessarily a collector. In my mind, these were two completely different mindsets, the reader being the one who picks up comics specifically to read, some of these people may sell their comics on after reading them and some may not. I didn’t like the idea of selling mine on when I was finished, but I was still essentially a reader. Those that, back then anyway, I defined as collectors were those that chased down rare comics, key issues and first appearances. Comics that you’d tend to need to drop a fair wedge on sometimes.
The funny thing is that as my collection grew in size, quite rapidly to be honest, the almost hoarding mentality I’d developed started to change the way I viewed the hobby, especially as I started to grow strong attachments to specific characters. The line between reader and collector I had drawn in my head started to blur, and before I knew it I was one of those people hunting down first appearances and key issues. It’s a game some play for profit only, but one I play partly for the thrill and partly for the pride of ownership. Where’s the relevance to the title with all this? Well, now that I have several comics I’m genuinely proud to own, I thought I’d share my display method for those special issues.
Now, the first things I’m going to look at are a couple of options that were obvious, but options I didn’t feel were right for me or really worthwhile. The first would be CGC. CGC is an indepedent group of experts that take delivery of your comics and, for a fee of course, grade it, encase it in plastic and send it back to you. You’ll find CGC at the big conventions too, usually with creators nearby so that signed comics can be verified by them too. The full information for their grading process can be found over here if you’re interested.
The thing with CGC grading is it’s always struck me as something worth doing if you’re looking to sell on any comics you’ve picked up, I personally don’t think the plastic casing the comics are held in look all that great, they’re also a bit of a pain if you’re looking to display them on a wall. If you’re looking to buy comics online and are unsure about the seller, a CGC copy is usually a fairly safe bet since the comic will have been graded by these pros and you know exactly what you’re buying. I prefer to buy these types of comics in a face to face situation, one that allows me to check the issue out myself and make my own judgement call on it unless it’s from a seller that I know is totally reliable. As someone that buys comics that haven’t been CGC graded, I don’t want to go through the ridiculous hassle of sending these comics off to a US based company, not knowing how they’ve been treated on this long journey, just to have them sent back in a piece of plastic. It seems completely wasteful to me, top that off with the fact that there isn’t a comic shop near to me that will serve as a middle man in the situation and it becomes far more hassle than it’s realistically worth. So that option was off the table immediately.
There was a second option which had presented itself to me too, that being specially made comic framing kits. These are frames specifically built to be the perfect size and shape to hold and display comics. I’d seen them at my local, Nostalgia & Comics, and I’d seen them at my preferred online destination Disposable Heroes. There was one huge downside to these though; they’re bloody expensive! Right now, on my walls, I have ten choice comics framed and hanging with another ten waiting in the wings ready to go. That’s basically £140 for the ones up and £280 to get the remaining ones up. Insanity. I can’t be dropping that kind of cash on frames for these comics, the total price for all twenty books could get me a copy of Detective Comics #359 with some cash left over. It’s over half way to me finally owning Action Comics #252.
So what, then? Enter the brilliance that is Ikea. For this work around, I used their Mahult frame found here in 21 x 30cm. The frame itself has a really nice silver finish, a glass front and most importantly of all is a mere £4 per frame. So all of a sudden, the cost of me framing and protecting these ten comics has gone from £140 down to £40. Much more agreeable. Something that had concerned me was the possibility of the Sun fading these comics any time the frames fell into direct sunlight, something I thought I’d combat by dropping the comics into UV shielded mylar bags before framing. This brings the cost per comic right back up though as these bags are not cheap, and the reality is if these comics faded so much under a reletively short amount of exposure to sun through the windows, I should most likely be more concerned about my own health than that of the comics. If I’m safe in here, then so are they. So these frames are absolutely perfect, which I will show you now. Oh, in fact before we do, for anyone in the USA reading this then the equivalent of these frames would be the Mahult here in 7¾ x 9¾”. The sizing is slightly smaller than their UK counterparts, but will still be great for holding comics and at $6.99 a frame they’re still very good value for money.
So, for this demonstration I’ll be using the following comic, Amazing Spider-Man #194:
And I’ll be placing it in this Mahult photo frame:
The way I found easiest to get this placed right was to open up the back of the frame by pulling the metal clips back and taking everything except for the glass out. One thing you’ll notice is that the frame also comes with a mounting board, but you don’t want to use this like you normally would. Since the comic is still in a bag and board it doesn’t matter if it comes in direct contact with the glass, so that board comes out too. Once it’s all out, place the frame face down and the bagged and boarded comic face down onto the glass. Position it correctly so all the sides are even and you should be left with this:
This is where your mounting board comes in handy, since just replacing the back of the frame at this point would leave the comic a little loose inside and allow it to potentially slip down. This is also why the glass is so useful, not just as protection but as another layer to effectively sandwich your comics and stop them from moving around. So, let’s replace the mounting board and get to this stage:
The next part will now be replacing the back of the frame itself and clipping that in place. You might think that the clips are a little tough to fold in place, but the resistance is absolutely normal and you are not doing any damage to either the frame or the comic inside, it’s merely sercuring everything in place for you. What you’re left with is a wonderfully displayed comic in a really nice looking frame, easy to hang up on the wall but also easy to get access to should you ever need to take it out in the future. And that’s where the real advantage to this method over CGC comes in. If I’d had my copy of ASM #194 CGC’d then when it came to July and my final chance to meet Stan Lee, I couldn’t have taken this with me to be signed. Now all I have to do is remove, get it signed then replace when I get home.
And that’s the finished product, perfectly safe and sound and incredibly easy to display. They look great up on the wall and provide a nice talking point for any visitors you have round. The silver frame adds a bit of an eye catching factor as the light bounces off them too, all in all they’re purchases I’m genuinely thrilled with and I will be heading back there later this month for more of the same. Just so you can see an example of how they look up on the wall, here are some I did earlier:
I hope this helps some of you guys out, now I’ve figured my perfect way of doing this I wanted to share the love. This is one of those objective things where you’ll get a different answer from different people, but for an effective and inexpensive way to display comics that either hold value or importance to you this is a great way to go. If you need any more info on anything I’ve discussed here feel free to ask me in the comments or on Twitter, I’m available most of the time and will always get back to you. I got all the time in the world for people that need help with things like this and for those of you that follow my blog! Happy Monday everyone!