Do You Cull Your Collection?

By | Friday, August 21, 2020 2 comments
Photo of comics overflowing throughout a room
The thing about comic book collectors is they collect comics. I mean, that sounds obvious on the face of it, but what that means is that they go out and obtain comics, and then keep them. Maybe they buy new comics every week at their local comic shop, or they only go to conventions to pick up back issues, or they just order trade paperbacks from Amazon, or they back a lot of Kickstarter projects. However they get them, the point is that there's an ongoing influx of comics being added to their collection. And with that comes storage.

When I was eleven, I had a subscription to The Fantastic Four and that was pretty much the extent of my collecting. I got one new comic each month, and very, very occasionally a handful of others if Mom had a little extra pocket change and I was being really whiney at the grocery store. Between the two, let's call it 20 comics a year. Storing 20 comics is not a big deal. You could drop those as a stack on the kitchen table and it wouldn't cause too much of an issue.

After five years of that, though, you've now got 100 comics. It's not impossible to find room for 100 comics, but that's probably enough that if you tried just dropping them on the kitchen table, you wouldn't be able to just slide them to side a bit to have lunch. They could still pretty easily fit in a short box, but you're now starting to consider their space and size, and how much room they take up.

But hey, we added five years to an 11-year-old. That's a sixteen-year-old now. One who can drive and works part-time at McDonald's. That single title subscription is now six titles. And instead of begging Mom for pocket change, McDonald's allows for discretionary income, meaning more purchasing power and more regular trips to the comic shop. So instead of 20 comics per year, we're looking at maybe 100 comics per year. Under the original premise, it would've taken fifteen years to fill a single long-box. Now, it's down to three years. Three years to figure out where you're going to put another long-box isn't a terrible endeavor, but it's certainly more thought-consuming in terms of storage logistics than a single long-box over a decade-plus.

Where I'm going with this is that the more comics you buy, the more storing them becomes a concern. Because not only do you have to consider where you're going to put all these new comics you just got, but that's in addition to the ones from before that you were already storing! If this keeps happening throughout your life -- you keep buying comics -- you eventually start run up against the financial constraints of storing them. You've bought as many bookshelves as you can fit in your home, the books on the shelves are all two or three deep, plus there's two or three more books lying horizontally across the tops of everything else too. You're now essentially running up against three options...
  1. Create additional storage space in your home
  2. Rent a storage unit at another location
  3. Get rid of some of your collection
Me, personally, I have yet to intentionally do #3. I lost a long-box full of comics in a flood back when I was in college, and I've gotten rid of some duplicate books I wound up with, but I've never sat down and thought, "I should sell some of my comics to make more space." The first one I did once basically by selling one house and buying another; I didn't do it in order to get more storage space for my comics, but I did take advantage of that opportunity. I have tried renting storage space, as well, but that was a consciously temporary endeavor while I was moving.

What I don't know, though, is which of those three methods might be more common than the others. When folks run out of space for their comics, how do most people handle that? I see some people selling their comics online, often with a distinct "I need to make more space" type of message, but I have no sense of how common that is against other options.

Please do me a favor, and in the comments, let me know if/when you found yourself running out of space to store your collection, and how you tackled it. One of the three options here, or maybe a combination? Or maybe something else entirely that I haven't thought of! I'm genuinely curious what might be more/less common.
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Matt K said...

Thinking about it, I actually did store comics "off site" for a while. Up through college, my collection was piling up in magazine files on the floor. (I have never stored in boxes.) During a two to three year period, repeated moves by me plus the sale of my childhood home after my parents' divorce, resulted iirc in a lot of my collection spending a little time at my father's house; as I never lived there, I guess it qualifies as off site storage.

After that, I began storing vertically. I eventually acquired two plastic storage shelves. I probably had both by 17 years ago, and they nine total levels of shelving hold nearly all of my comics and GNs to this day.

I have culled my collection a few times, including a big 2005 cull before I moved across country. I've got a photo, somewhere, but I believe I was parting with three stacks of comics each more than 2' deep.

My acquisition of new comics has been very slow for most of the time, since, too.

Marcel Munro said...

Thank you making this post, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
My collection is about 25000 individual issues, with about 25000 duplicates, and another 5000 in processing. For storage, I have kallax IKEA bookshelves, a lot of them. In a kallax, you can put a row of comics in the back and a row in front. In a 2x4 kallax, you can fit about 2400 comics. To prevent bending, as you pointed out, I use large wood blocks, not to crush the comics, but just enough to prevent the comics from slouching.
The room/kallax bookshelves holds Marvel and DC, while indys are in short boxes in the closet. Every bookcase, slot and short box is numbered, and my CLZ database references it all. Also, I use a wall rack for comics released over the last month, that holds about 500 comics.
For duplicates, I use short and long boxes in the garage packed in an earthquake unsafe tower. Every few months I clear them out, via garage sales, other collectors, or kids.
My new comic process involves bagging and boarding and databasing each comic. I’ve been collecting comics for 6 months... and my storage solution sssuuuucccckkkkkssss, but I think like most people, we’re doing the best we can.