Monday, February 13, 2006


Part III - Bagging Daily Comics

Daily comic strips come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so I keep a supply of a lot of different sizes of plastic bags on hand. For bagging daily runs I keep all the following sizes:

2" x 18"
3" x 18"
4" x 18"
5" x 18"
6" x 18"
7" x 18"
8" x 18"

I buy the longest bags I can (18"), then just snip off the extra that I don't need. That allows me to use the same limited assortment of bags to store newer small dailies and the gargantuan ones from the 1910s. I can also store panel comics, which can be as small as the one column variety at less than 2", to giant 4 and 5 column panel cartoons.

There are many companies that sell plastic bags. Some specialize in servicing collectors and they charge a premium. I buy mine from one of the many bag companies that caters to businesses. Businesses, especially manufacturers, buy polyethylene bags in bulk for packaging their products. The bags are made out of the same material as the ones you would buy from a collectors' supply house. There are three differences between a 'manufacturer' bag and a collector's bag. A manufacturer bag typically does not have a flap at the top - the two sides are cut flush. This makes no difference to me because I will be cutting off one end anyway, so I'd lose the flap if it was there. Second, manufacturer bags often have a short plastic tail below the bottom seal. Collector bags are usually cut flush to the seal. A meaningless difference in my opinion. Third, manufacturer bags are most readily available in 2 millimeter and 4 millimeter thicknesses, whereas collector bags are typically 3 millimeter. I actually prefer the 2 mil to the 3 mil because of the way I seal my bags (more on that shortly). The 4 mil thickness, while it may offer more protection and perhaps durability (?), I find too stiff to work with using my method for daily strip storage.

I buy my storage bags from Uline ( and from Bradley's Plastic Bag Company (, but there are plenty of other suppliers. Just to give you an idea of how cheap the bags are priced, the latest Bradley's catalog lists the 2 mil 4" x 18" size at $1.87 per hundred. Obviously keeping yourself supplied with bags will not break the bank.

In figure 1 you see an assortment of the storage bags and other materials I use for bagging dailies. Nothing exotic or expensive here. One item of special note is the sheet of labels. I label every bagged daily run with the title, the dates, the count and the source newspaper. Figure 2 shows a close-up. The labels I use are 2 5/8" x 1" and come in sheets of 30 labels. The sheets come blank, of course, and I just run them through my printer to add the text to all the labels on the sheet. Then I hand write the specifics about each daily run as I bag it. Of course, there's no need to use a special label, you can just write the information on a scrap of paper and insert it in the bags with the strips.

Okay - let's bag a typical run of dailies. Here I have a run that I bought from another collector, a 2 month run of Jane Arden dailies. I start by counting them (figure 3) - even if the previous owner provided a count, I always verify it. You'll find when counting newspaper dailies that your fingers will quickly get loaded up with gunk, which makes it hard to separate the sheets. I put a little bit of SortKwik, available at office supply stores, on my fingers (figure 4). It makes them a bit tacky and separating the sheets is much easier. I admit that I worry about the residue, minute though it might be, that I may be leaving on the tearsheets. However, I find that I just can't be sure of an accurate count without it. A safer alternative are the little rubber 'condom' things that you can put on your fingers - these would be safe, but with my big ham hands they don't fit very well.

One quick aside before we go on. Notice that the strips I'm bagging in the photo are cut so that there is a reasonable gutter area outside the strip itself (kind of chintzy along the bottom, actually). If you are clipping strips yourself, be sure to leave some room around the strips - never clip them right to the panel borders. Many collectors, myself included, won't buy strips that have been clipped without a gutter. This is not just because of our delicate aesthetic sensibilities. Paper, as noted earlier, ages most quickly along the edges, so if a strip is clipped right at the panel borders aging results in the edges of the strip turning brown, and eventually brittle. With a gutter around the clips, even if they age badly we will still have the strips themselves in decent condition - the gutters will bear the brunt of the aging process. Okay, back to bagging...

Once the strips are counted and I've filled out the label, I next determine which bag they'll best fit in (figure 5). A simple matter of checking sizes and picking the smallest size. I try to get a tight fit (remember - we're trying to get as little air in there as possible), but if I can't get a good tight fit with the bag sizes I have, I may actually go up one extra size over the minimum. I'll expand on this point in part 4. The Jane Arden strips fit snugly in a 2" bag.

Once I put the strips in the bag I cut off all the excess plastic except for about an inch or so (figure 6). I then press out as much air from the bag as possible, and fold over the cut edge. I do a 'Christmas present' fold (figure 7) because I find that this seems to seal the bag better and keep air from seeping back in. Note that I have a piece of tape at the ready on the end of a finger. This way I can immediately seal the bag, not giving that darn air any chance at re-entry (figure 8).

Here's the final product, from the front (figure 9) and the back (figure 10). I always put the label on the back so I can see the whole top strip.

Tomorrow: Part 4 - More About Bagging Dailies

I'm loving the posts at this time on how to bag your strips. this is awesome information, thank you so much. As for the bags, what do you by from uline, I have never purchased anything from them and don't know much about them. Also another thing have you ever been to I bought book sleeves from them about 5 years ago and have not seen what they offer for comics. Keep up the awesome work.
Bags Unlimited has good products, but they're much more expensive since they are serving the collector market. They also have a very limited selection of bag sizes. I do buy from them, but only items I can't get at Uline or Bradley's (specifically, acid-free backer boards, which I can't find elsewhere).

As to what I buy from Uline, that's covered in the post. 2 mil polyethylene bags in the sizes listed.

Best, Allan
Hi there,

I just thought it may be of some interest to you to know, a while back i came across a british labels company who sold me a batch of plain labels at a really low price. If you are at all interested then it may be worth visiting their website so see if you could save some money on your labels.
Hello. Awesome series. I have 2,250 clipped strips of Calvin and Hobbes. I’d like to protect and preserve them while having them be accessible to flip through somewhat easily.
Any suggestions?
Rob -- I have never encountered an archivally safe method for turning strips into a 'booklet' of any sort. Since C&H has been reprinted in a good format, I'd stick with reading it in the reprint books.

Fair point. I am sorta down the path though. (Sunk cost fallacy, I know)
I have found currency protectors and stamp stock pages. Both say they are archival safe. They are open at one edge so the item can be loaded. Would that need to be sealed for best archive quality?
As I do the math on how many I’d need for the dailies it gets pricey.
I am starting to wonder if I can use a hot tool to seal the top edge or just tape them shut.
Do you use special tape or regular scotch tape?
Hi Rob --
Don't get me wrong -- I think it is GREAT that you wanted the tearsheets -- that is normally the way to read strips at their best ... or at least how they were MEANT to be read. I just don't want you to ruin them in pursuit of enjoying them.

That said, I checked out these currency protectors which I'd not heard of. For your small dailies I think you may actually have a great solution there. If you put them back to back in the four holers (the insert size is big enough I assume?) you're looking at less than 40 pages per year of dailies. In Canada that'll cost about $30, so I'm guessing $20 in US? For the entire 10 year run of C&H that's just $200, which is more than you'd pay for the collection, but infinitely cooler.


Well that is good to hear. I worried I was COVID crazy.
Your math is right on.
I am wavering on 3up or 4up pages.
I’m leaning toward 3up currently.

3up ($0.26pp) would mean each sheet holds 6 contiguous days, Monday-Saturday.
Using 4up pages would be ~$50 less ($0.23pp), and ~124 less total pages.

The stamp stock pages are really nice but at $0.63pp it is just too much. Maybe when I redo them in 10 years (or whenever it would be needed).

As for protection from airflow, should I be concerned about the top loader edge being open? If so, here are some ideas so far...
1. Archival tape. I worry this will be time intensive and could appear sloppy, especially the top pocket.
2. Get a 3-ring binder with a zipper closure to reduce airflow. Definitely the easiest option, I’m not sure how truly protected this is though.
3. Use a 12” heat sealer, (a la your recommendation in section 4.) I don’t plan to ever remove the strips since they will be viewable. The strips measure 2.25” high at most. The 3up pockets measure 3.5”x8” so I figure there’s be enough room to avoid burning the paper. Did I make you cringe? Is it too risky? The sealer’s width is 0.08” and has variable temp so it won’t burn through, just weld.

What are your thoughts?
Two more cents worth...

I'm guessing those currency sleeves are very tight, so no tape needed. After all, currency collectors don't want their $1000 bills wafting out when they take the book off the shelf.

Tape on an open edge would be very bad -- not from outgassing or anything, but if the strips shifted over they would get stuck on it. Bad news.

I think airflow in sleeves like that is a pretty minor concern, but if you can get zippered binders, that would help with blocking both light and air.

Update on my project.
I am close to complete on the full run of Calvin and Hobbes. ~3,160 strips. 11 letter-sized binders of Daily strips in currency sleeves. 11 presentation cases of 11x14” pages for Sundays.
Is it ok to store the binders in Pelican cases? Plastic totes?
While your desire for an airtight container may be valid, If it were me, I would worry about condensation inside from temperature and humidity changes. That would be SERIOUS bad news. I prefer that my newspapers live in a more equalized environment that they get from being in cardboard boxes. I am less worried about fluctuating humidity (in moderation) as long as it doesn't get trapped next to the paper. I suppose a perfectly sealed carton, closed and opened only when humidity is extremeley low, could be a good environment.

So in short, I don't have a great answer for you.

Hello Allan,
Apologies if you've covered this elsewhere--I couldn't find the subject discussed.

Do you have any guidance for buying a scanner to make high-quality scans of newspaper strips? Either specific models, or just basic criteria to look for? Thanks, and thank you for your wonderful blog.
Carson Hall
Hi Carson--
If you want to scan Sundays, the main hurdle is you'll want a scanner with a tabloid size platen. Anything smaller will waste a lot of your time on stitching scans together. My scanner is an Epson Expression 1640xl that I got from NASA surplus for a song, but if you're not that lucky you're probably looking at a significant investment. Don't worry about resolution much, I never scan at anything greater than 600 dpi, and pretty much any decent scanner can do that very well. Beware though of off brands -- read reviews, because most of them are junk.

If your interest is only in scanning dailies of no more than 6 column width, you can get away with a legal size platen, which will reduce your cost substantially. Same rule applies, though -- beware of junk.

Best, Allan
Thanks Allan,
Great. That's just what I wanted to know. A couple more questions:

First, I gather from your reply that, for scanning large, pre-war Sunday broadsheets, everyone is stitching together at least two scans--even with a large format scanner?

And, you mention not worrying too much about resolution beyond 600 dpi. Is this resolution high enough to use for reproduction/publication? (just curious, not considering launching a comics publishing program just yet.) Thanks again for your generous advice!
Regarding stitching, yes that will be necessary on full broadsheets. Maybe some have tried these newly affordable overhead scanners to do full broadsheet in one pass, but I bought one and wasn't impressed with the quality of the scans. Maybe I just got a dud. I'd be interested to hear what others have experienced.

As for going beyond 600 dpi, I am assured by folks in the printing world that anything more than that is just a waste as far as what will be discernible on the printed page. In fact I've even been told that for process colour printing, pretty much anything beyond 300 dpi is overkill. On the other hand, some editors are resolution nuts. I have been requested to provide 1200 dpi scans on occasion. I shrug and give 'em what they want.

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