Kicking The Bagging and Boarding Habit

Somewhere along the way it all became untenable.

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped obsessively bagging and boarding and cataloguing my comic books but it was within the last five years and it signaled the end of an era for me that began some 15 years (or so) prior.

In 1989 I was 12 years old, Tim Burton’s Batman took the world by storm, and my family got its first computer. It was an Apple IIc and when I wasn’t playing Gold Rush!, Amnesia, or the American Revolution game whose name I can’t remember anymore, I used it to organize my comics for the first time. I had discovered the extremely rudimentary database program and figured out that I could catalogue all of my comics with obsessively minute detail. The slightly OCD lever was thrown in my brain and it hasn’t really looked back since.

I remember fondly taking over the library/computer room in our apartment for almost an entire year. On the floor I laid out all of my comics in stacks by title. I have no idea how many there were at the time, but in my memory the room is vast and the stacks are large. If I went back to that apartment now as a fully grown man I would probably see that the room is a lot smaller than I remember it being.

One thing that I definitely do remember about that year of my first comic book organization is that hardly any of my books were bagged and boarded. They were just thrown in big boxes and read, as they were intended to be, until they were ragged. It wasn’t even long boxes that they were held in; it was these big grey cube-shaped cardboard boxes. The boxes had these black metal handles on the sides that you were supposed to use to carry them with, but the engineers who designed the boxes apparently didn’t take the weight of a box full of comic books into account when designing the load bearing capabilities. Very often I would lift a box, take a few steps and find myself holding a handle in each hand and the comics that used to be in the box now all over the floor.

I don’t remember when exactly it was that I made the leap to bags and boards and long boxes, but I can’t imagine that it was too long after that first organization. I imagine that it was the initial thrill of ordering my collection that jump started me down that long, financially perilous road of bags, boards, long boxes, more bags, more boards, more long boxes, new bags to replace old ratty bags, new long boxes to replace yellowed and damages boxes… It was a never ending spiral of support purchases.

For a long time I was pretty hardcore about bagging and boarding. I don’t remember if I ever got to the point of having my entire collection bagged and boarded, but if I didn’t, I came pretty damned close. It was something that I enjoyed doing, the monthly (or so) bagging and boarding of comics. It was a very soothing activity, and the repetitive motion movements were almost meditative. I was zen when I was bagging and boarding. In college, I introduced my new meditative practice to my friend Michelle who at first was skeptical and thought I was using her for cheap labor but after a while she started to dig it and would even ask when I was going to be bagging and boarding again.

So what happened? When did I stop and why?

I don’t quite know. Like I said in the beginning, it was sometime in the last five years. Somewhere along the way I looked at a bunch of unbagged and boarded books and decided that I just didn’t need to do it anymore. I remember the decision being rather abrupt in my head and quite an easy one to make. It’s kind of like when you’re dating someone and one day you just look at that person and realize you really don’t want to be with them anymore. The world suddenly makes a lot more sense at that point.

There are a few factors that I’m sure played into my decision. One was the rise of the importance of trade paperbacks. I’ve always liked trades but in the past I was always an issues first kind of guy. As I’ve gotten older and my tastes have changed, I gravitate more towards collected editions and with that I see less of a need to preserve issues of books that I am probably not going to reread. And that leads to my second factor, which is the inaccessibility of my collection. Before I moved those 30 some odd long boxes to the storage unit in Red Hook, Brooklyn that they currently live in, I had long boxes stashed all over the apartment. Literally. If there was a longboxed size space somewhere that wasn’t too obtrusive you would find a long box. I didn’t know where anything was and more importantly, it was too much trouble to unwedge the box from wherever it had been crammed. New comics got stuffed in a new long box and that new long box would soon find itself in a dark corner somewhere. I guess I didn’t see much sense in spending more money on those books by bagging and boarding them — not to mention adding the additional thickness to the books when they were bagged, which necessitated buying even more long boxes.

It was a vicious circle that I wanted a part of no more.

These days I find myself, every now and then, missing the bagging and boarding process. I don’t miss it enough that I would ever consider starting up again, but I do miss knowing exactly what books I have in my collection. I would love to conduct another massive reorganization of my collection, if only so it don’t have to go through almost every single box when I need books to make graphics for the video show. And I’m not saying I’m against bagging and boarding in all cases. If something is truly rare and or valuable I’m all for protecting it. I just don’t think I need to worry about keeping Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man safe from the elements for all time.

Not any more, anyway.



  1. It doesn’t really sound like you want all them comics to start with.  Why not sell all the ones you will never read again?  If they are not worth the time to keep ‘safe’ then are they worth the rent of a storage unit?  You could use the money for some kick ass new trades.  Think of all the hardback-leather bound-oversized trades you could be rolling in… well not rolling in… they are kind of hard and pointy. 

  2. You guys are the ones that broke me, actually. I was letting books pile up on my desk and then, about four times a year, having these massive assembly line, envy-the-dead evenings where I would bag and board hunched over my desk until my back began wailing at me. All the while, I was listening to you guys talk about how you didn’t do it anymore, and the more I heard it the more I started looking around and thinking, "What am I doing? What am I doing with my life? Am I going to ever open this book again? These bags aren’t free." You knocked the scales from my eyes, brother.

    Of course, from there it was a slippery slope. After I stopped bagging and boarding, I started throwing away mediocre comics by the pound.

  3. What about binding some of your full runs?

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought bagging and boarding comics is a relaxing activity.

  5. I also enjoy the meditation of bagging and boring my comics, but recently i am feeling as though i want to make the hard move to converting some into trades. I dont think i can stop B&B my books each week, especially if they will eventually be put on ebay. I have begun looking over my long boxes and finding books, which are most viable for conversion. Of course some titles i will keep in issues as well as get in trades (walking dead is the best example). My goal is to start by reducing 30% of my issues into trades, we will see how ambitious an undertaking this will be.

  6. I used to shop at a store that would bag and board every comic they sold.  Eventually I got tired of having to unwrap them every time to re-read them, so I now shop at a store that does’nt bag and board.

    The comics that I read and I knew I would never read again I just gave them away to anybody that would have them.

  7. I’m a bagger. I do it because if I spend money on something, I like to have it stay as nice as possible and will take steps to do so. I don’t do it for future profit or anything – in nearly 25 years (off and on) of collecting comics, I’ve never sold one and, barring some unforseen financial disaster, don’t plan on doing so.

  8. I don’t nuy that many comics so b&bing isn’t too pricey. I b&b for posterity.

  9. I’m lucky enough to not have to buy bags and boards. I get all my comics through online subscriptions (there just aren’t many comic shops in Mississippi…), sepcifically Impulse Creations. They’re nice enough to ship all comics in good bags and boards for no extra charge. It almost makes up for having to wait for the shipments and never being able to review my comics on time 🙁

  10. Conor, I’m right there with ya, brother. I’ve been collecting for a while, and I spent many years diving in quarter bins. I’d say I have over 50 longboxes, and not only are they not organized, but I haven’t bagged and boarded in… I dunno, 8 years or so? I realized that I wasn’t saving them for value. I was a reader. And i could get trade paperbacks for the books i really loved. So, bagging and boarding seemed a pointless activity. I gave it up and have never looked back.

  11. I bag and board for two reasons.

    My comic book store includes them for free and once I’ve read them I put them in my classroom for my students.

    They will simply last longer this way.

  12. I used to, but stopped bagging and boarding simply because, like Conor said, they make the single comic thicker and therefore less fit into the box.  Actually, when I randomly go through my old boxes, I tend to take out the bags and boards of yore and if they are in decent shape, donate them to my comic store. to use for their back issues. I tend to beg books fromt he 70s and 60s but mostly because they can use the support.

  13. I don’t board every comic I have, just the sepcial ones (I can’t bare to think of the full Miracleman run without them, after all the bloody effort of completing it). However I do bag every comic (2 comics per bag) and dare to say it… find that monthly activity of updating my collection very relaxing and special. 

    My LCS gives free bags for every comic bought, so the only real expense it’s the long boxes, and I only have 6, so it’s very little harm to the wallet. I’m more of a TPB guy, my problem it’s the lack of the shelve space for the absolutes and omnibuses (I’ve become an addict to those editions).

  14. Yeah I do two per bag also.

    How much is a long box typically?

    And what are some alternatives to long boxes?

  15. @Conor, you should have a sale.

  16. Yes, he should have a sale. And he should videotape it for a show. I’d watch someone attempt to try and haggle with Conner. 2 bucks? 10. 3.50? Pow! (out cold)

    Money for storage is money no longer spent for new comics. That would be my bottom line to dump the stored comics in some way. If you can’t live in the same place with your all of comics, then you need to send them to a relative. Some place where there is no cost you. Just think about all that money for a storage space over time. Unless of course, you are storing so much more than just comics.

  17. It’s interesting that poeple think that

    1. Not bagging and boarding means I don’t want my comics.

    2. My storage unit is only full of comics.

  18. I still (and will probably always) bag and board for 2 reasons. 1. I like my stuff to stay nice. Not so I can sell it for profit later, but just because they stand in the long boxes better and don’t get all bent, ripped and messed up as I flip through them. 2. There’s something relaxing and enjoyable about it to me.

    I too am trying to read stuff in trade more but when I go to my LCS every week it’s hard to resist the newest issue of a title that I enjoy or am looking forward to. My general rule right now is if I can’t easily track down the first few back issues of a current story or it’s already in trade I buy the trade. Otherwise it’s still issues for me. 

  19. I guess I am the only person who goes back re-reads single issues.  I love re-reading my first Fantastic Four story arc, the individual and the ads have powerful memories attached.

  20. Let’s face it, 99% of comics published after the 60s are not worth enough that it would be worth bagging and boarding them. The only comics worthy would be silver age or golden age stuff that’s worth money. And you’d probably want to at least use a Mylar bag for those, or get them hermetically sealed.


  21. I have never been a mad bagger & boarder, I have only a few books in my whole collection with boards, & they are older more valuable single issues I have bought that came with the boards. I have never bought a packet of boards, I have always just bagged the comics I thought might be valuable some day (1st issues etc) and the rest are just in long boxes. 

    It must end up costing a lot of money to bag & board EVERY single comic you buy. 


  22. I bag comics, but don’t board them. Like others have mentioned, it’s more of a "keep things nice in case I want to reread them” thing than a "these will be worth big bucks someday" thing. I don’t really mind bagging since I can do it while I watch TV, but I loath filing my comics. With 36 longboxes, it’s literally a back breaking endeavor to integrate new comics into the existing ones. The only downside to bagging for me is that the bags eventually degrade and have to be replaced which I really don’t have the energy to mess with.

  23. The LCS I work at and get my books from bags and boards the books before they’re put on the racks and in subscriber boxes.

  24. @astoriajohnstons – I bet that costs you guys some off the rack sales.

  25. I will never stop bagging and boarding my comics.  Just sayin’

  26. @astoriajohnstons – My old LCS would bag and board for I think 25 cents a comic.  A lot of people would do take them up on it too.  I’m sure they made some good money that way.


    @Conor – I don’t think you only have comics in your storage unit but you made it sound like half your house was being taken up by long boxes so I’m guessing the unit is pretty full of them.

    I think you still want them but I don’t think your really getting much from them so I just figured if you sold them for nice trades you would get more enjoyment out of what you get.

  27. I only bag and board only because My LCS B&B’s my books for free. but after i get a run i bind my books into thick hardcover books from LibaryBinding. Tades are great but they don’t always have all the issues you want. I go back and read by old back issues all the time. Reading my old issues of The Flash are like comfort food for me.

  28. I love love bagging and boarding my books.  It’s cathartic.  Yeah my back is a little sore after hunching down for hours but going over all my books is a lot of fun, and my OCD is satisfied after seeing a nice pile of plastic, good looking neat books.

    I bag EVERYTHING. I recently went through all my collection and B&B’d them.  Including the 2 issues of "Learn to draw ROBOTECH" I bought from a five and dime 15 years ago.

    It’s not that I think they’ll be worth something, or even that I’m going to re-read them.  It’s just that a damaged comic makes me weep inside. It’s like seeing roadkill, and I won’t have that in my house. 

  29. I’m with you TheKZA. I’m not bothered about the longer term protection the bag provides. For me it’s about the board protecting the comic from accidental damage – keeping them flat and crease-free really.

  30. My LCS does free bagging and boarding for all members as part of the deal, but they charge 20 bucks a year for membership.  Either way, members still come out ahead.  Just like Astoriajohnstons store, they also bag and board everything not sold when it goes from the new release wall to the main racks.  Hobo Joe off the street isn’t allowed to pop the tape and check things out, but any regulars or anyone that asks politely is.  

    Man, I’m feeling pretty lucky right about now.  I had no idea how frustrating and expensive a process it could otherwise be.  Someone gets a hug next Wednesday! 

  31. @AMuldowney – I feel bad for any new people who come into your store looking for comics to read.

  32. So i bag and box but no boarding. i mean i have fun bagging and it just makes me feel complete wiht the comic process. no boards yet though. idk if i should or not…anyone? too many boxes though…

  33. I’d personally love it if my books came pre-B&B’d.  Only the ones in the folder though.  I’d be pissed if I couldn’t flip through the shelf stock.

  34. @Conor- Not a bad point.  I’ll mention it to the owners when I deliver my "I don’t have to bag and board my own crap" hug on Wednesday. 

  35. I bag n’ board because I thought that was what you were supposed to do with comics.

    Can’t stop now.  OCD says so.

  36. Good article.  This seems like an issue we can all relate to.  I agree that paying $$$ to store comics seems excessive (unless you already rent a storage unit for other items, as in Conor’s case).  The dilemna becomes how to best dispose of them.  None of the options seem great.

    1.  You could try selling to your LCS.  My experience has been that the LCS owners are either disinterested because their present back issue inventory is already too large (and slow moving); or based on the tiny amount of money (or store credit) they may offer you, it really amounts to more of a donation than a sale.  If anything they may be willing to cherry pick the few valuable gems out of your longbox.  I don’t fault them for this (they are businessmen) but that’s just how it is.

    2.  Ebay at least pulls more of the "free market supply & demand" into the process, which in theory would result in greater $$$.  However, there seem to downsides here as well.  Most of us are not selling old, rare issues (e.g., Action Comics #1) and are just trying to clear out accumulated (bulk) issues from this decade and last.  Most single issues are not worth the time to list.  Large lots of continous issues (runs) may be more attractive, but also more expensive to ship.  And is anyone really out there looking for a 50 issue run of Nightwing?.  Plus, packaging/shipping can be a hassle & Ebay always involves some degree of risk.

    3. Donation may not be a bad idea; and should probably be our first option.  I’m just not sure which IRS approved charities, if any, accept comic books; and then there is the dilema of trying to value the charitable deduction.  IRS aside, given the mature nature and adult themes of many modern comic books, I have mixed feelings about just lugging one random, unsorted box over to my local public school.

    4. The last resort seems to be the dumpster.  Seinfeld once did a bit about how people never throw books away, and inexplicably save them to display like trophies.  Why is it so difficult to just throw a comic book which you’ll proably never read again (and with negligible future value) in the trash?  Is it because they contain art; or give us fond memories of good stories?  Perhaps its the lingering effects of as kids (with little cash) we valued and treasured the comics we got.  We have no problem tossing magazines and newspapers, but for comics it almost seems sacrilegious.  Maybe its because as comic collectors we are an OCD crowd to begin with.

    5.  Bonfire.  This just seems too Farenheit 451.

    Perhaps this longbox adieu can be the topic of another iFanboy article … Parting is such sweet sorrow.

  37. As I’ve said before about the dumpster, zenman, pretend they weren’t comics. If you were backing, bagging, and storing every issue of, say, TV Guide you ever bought, your family would put you in a home. Social workers would get involved.

  38. @zenman

    there is a 6th option…kinda, i plan on giving all my comics to my kids one day

  39. @Jimski Don’t tell Ron that.

  40. Put the truly unwanted books in a box and put the box on a street corner, possibly near a school. Someone will pick them up and maybe, just maybe, enjoy them. I know I first got into comics in a big way when I found a copy of Uncanny X-Men 122 on a trash heap. That kicked-to-shit book is still in my collection.

    Apropos of nothing, someone did this with a box of old sci-fi paperbacks a while back and it was discovered by one of The Onion A/V Club writers. This has led to a lenghty and very informative and fun series of columns over on that site (, check the blog over on the left of the page).

    And Conor, good to hear you kicked the B/B habit. I thought you may have had a problem when you did an "It came from the storage unit" episode featuring a quarter bin-level comic that was falling apart, bagged and boarded. Nice to know you’ve moved on.

  41. My old LCS offered B&B for 10 cents.  I used to take them up on it b/c the subscription discount more than made up for it.

    Now I just bag my books, and only because I like to leave them in the bathroom and the mist from shower turns them all brittle.  Plus, I think the bags help reduce that old book smell you get after 5 or 10 years.

  42. @Jimski:  Good point.  I agree and am definitely leaning towards the dumpster option, save for those very few issues which may have some real value.  My inner-minimalist is coming out; and this is the quickest, easiest, no-hassle choice.  As an owner of an already too cluttered house, I’m starting to fantasize about a zen-like dwelling with only a pillow to sit on and a candle to read by.  To paraphrase Tyler Durden (Fight Club), "the things you own, end up owning you in the end". Seriously, if your house was on fire, and you could only grab a few personal items, would you go back in for your longboxes of comics?  I may be preaching to the choir, but I know the dumpster option is still easier said than done for most (myself included).

    @TonyStark4prez:  Also a good point.  That is an excellent 6th option; and if I had kids, I’d probably be doing the same.  Storage space may still be an issue, but at least you have some future use that makes them worth saving.  I know I’ll probably never go back and re-read old issues.  I barely have time to read the new comics that come out each week (not to mention the stack of unread trade paperbacks).

  43. I bag, board, and catalogue my books because I very often sell chunks of my collection (or story arcs) on eBay.  It also makes me feel like the money I spent isn’t being destroyed by gravity  or some weird placement in a box.  Oh, and I have OCD. 🙂

  44. In 1989 I was 1 year old.  Just thought you’d like to feel old.

    I sit down every Sunday night listening to your podcast while I bag and board.  I totally get what you mean about it being meditative. 

  45. I love my issues B&B, keeps them nice and just makes more of a reading experience for me; the scotch tape etc. I’m probably deluding myself that I need it, but I like it. Plus all my issues come pre-B&B’d at no extra charge, so why not?

    Because I’ve never B&B’d my own (well, a few, but not many) I can only relate to Conor’s story of it being meditative in another way; Every year I make a New Year’s CD for my friends (usually 2 discs) and print covers, cut them out, burn the discs, place each one in a slip case, etc… Man, put on some good music while you’re doing that, or podcast, and those cares of the world just slip away.

    BTW, I love the image I have of young Conor lifting those boxes only to have the handles left. That’s comedy fried gold!

  46. I guess Conor wouldnt like it that when I pick up my issues I just throw them on the floor and disregard them until I feel like reading them again….Just let them be dusty and torn up a bit. I hate the grading system for comics, I dont wanna waste time screwing around with plastic…and I know I will get OCD when I wanna try and conserve this useless issue of Detective Comics…

  47. Why wouldn’t I like that?  Do what you want with your comics.

  48. @conor: Well I just ment with the old you, or that more of Ron…I heard he needs some interventions sometimes with his X-Men issues. lol

  49. It’s late in the thread, so forgive me if it’s already been said (tried to read everything, but who knows what I’ve missed), but a tip for you OCD types: Bagging, boarding and forgetting about your comics is bad. The plastic eventually degrades, acid builds up, and it’s more harmful to the paper than letting it breathe.

    I love my comics, so I’ve taken them out of their bags (expect for those pre 60’s ones, which lack structural intergrity). Now I keep them all on bookshelves in alphabetical order, so that I can read and reference them easily. I think that they appreciate being free to the air, and I can live out my OCD tendencies by putting all the new stuff into the alphabetical order.