OOPS!

The scuff bugs me too pal.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Stay safe and stay positive and don’t forget to leave out the milk and cookies for Santa.

This week’s post was inspired by my good friend Mike Huddleston who popped in for a coffee recently. Mike and I somehow got on the topic of accidentally damaging comics and we had fun remembering the times we pulled some bonehead moves that damaged our comics.

Remember back in the old days when our better books were put into those very rigid Mylar bags. These old Mylars did not fold over at the top, they were just open-ended and back then we did not put our books in regular polypro bags before we put them in Mylars, the Mylars were open at the top and our good books were exposed to the air. I’m not sure why we did it this way but we did and for years and years. I remember at a con, it might have been the early 1990s, I was standing near the Mylar bins joking around with some guys when I mistimed taking a gulp of my Coke as a joke was told. I had one of those spraying Coke out my mouth and nostrils moments right onto a couple of bins of Mylars, the ones with the open tops. Oops! I think I damaged about 30 or 40 books, the hardest hit was the Batman bin. Back in early 1990 our Mylar bins of Batman would have contained nice copies of issues like #100, 155, 171 etc., nice copies. I did my best to clean the mess up, I had to remove every book and try to wipe off the wet ones and re-bag into new Mylars, in some cases the books were relegated to the regular bins. I’d say that joke cost me about maybe $1000 back then, I shudder to think what that same episode would have cost today with today’s values of those nice Batman issues.

Then there was the time I was in Chicago looking through the bins of this awesome dealer from Michigan, the guy was famous for having high-grade Bronze Age stuff at very affordable prices. I remember a very well to do collector standing beside me looking through the same bins, this collector and I knew each other as he’d been buying off me for years at the U.S. shows. The guy had amazing stuff in his personal collection, big key after big key and all in high grades. He was looking at a nice high-grade copy of Nova #1, I think the price tag on it was $10 but I can’t remember for sure, anyway, he didn’t take the tape off when he removed the book from the bag and when he was putting the book back in the tape caught the cover, he tried to slowly peel the tape off but a nice chunk of the cover came off. Oops! Then he quietly and discreetly puts the book back in the bag and slips it back into the bin. I caught all this out of the corner of my eye but to my disappointment, I did not call him on it. “Come on, give the guy his $10”! is what I should have said. That episode still bugs me.

I’ve been lazy and had tape catch many times over the years, I find that if it’s Scotch tape you still have a chance of peeling it off unscathed but you have to pull on the tape kind of perpendicular to the book and you have to go really really slow almost watching the cover free itself of the tape in ultra slow motion, the glossier the book the better your chances and the age of the tape is a factor as well with newer tape being easier to peel off. If you end up with that old really sticky tape then all bets are off and you just have to try to minimize the damage.

I once sent a nice copy of Flash #92 down to CGC. This was a nice book, the one with the Black Canary cover and I thought it had a chance at a CGC 7.0. A couple of weeks after I sent the book I got an email from CGC saying they had torn the back cover while encapsulating the book, Oops! I ended up getting back a CGC 5.5. To CGC’s credit they did own up to adding the tear and they did give me a monetary credit for the damage. I’ve heard stories of books getting damaged at CGC but my one experience so far was resolved professionally by them.

I’ve put a coffee cup on more than one comic, I’ve almost torn off a couple of back covers over the years not realizing the cover was hanging over and not in the bag as I slid the book into the bag, I’ve even dropped an un-bagged comic on a wet floor, oops, oops and more oops.

We all love our comics but stuff happens. I’d love to year your Ooops moments if you had any. The bigger the cringe the better!

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1589

21 Comments

  1. As antiquarian booksellers, we use lighter fuid for a number of things, including floating off price tags and cleaning general dirt. If I goof up with a comic and tape, thank goodness that is rare, I grab the lighter fluid. As long as I am careful and I am dealing with a glossy cover, it can be ok.

    Walter, I put my books in mylites and in boxes, but often leave the mylite open and untaped. I feel like this is a dumb question, but does yhat allow too much air to grt to the book on the top edge, even in a box. Should I tape those down?

    At a Seattle show once, I goofed with the tape and a cover of an issue, maybe a $50 or $75 book. My buddy who owned the book immediately said, “Hey, no problem at all, let me handle this”. He grabs his lighter fluid (or maybe Bestine) and pours it on. Too much, to quick. He gets the tape off, but left a “water mark” on either the cover or inside on the pages (they will do this if they are regular pulp paper, I never try this on pulp). But he just moved on and wasn’t at all concerned. I was still mortified, but there was no talk anout me buying the book. I tried to make it buying others….

    As a dealer, I am afraid I have had my share of “mystery” tape pulls, but no big book horror stories. I was saddened once when I found a terrible one on a handsome but not major Big Little Book, front cover, paper still on the tape. Really, anyone should own up. Karma!!

  2. My biggest regret was pulling out a copy of Amazing Spider-man Annual #2 for a woman who said she was a huge fan. She opened the front cover, slammed her palm down on it and rubbed it flat from top to bottom leaving an incredible crease down the whole cover. When I regained consciousness…I gently removed the book from in front of her and slipped it back into the sleeve and put it away and promptly changed the subject. Lesson learned!

    I don’t have tape problems because, despite the cost, I have been putting my books in those lovely Ultra-pro sleeves with the sticky stuff on the back of the bag (not on the flap like some bonehead bags I’ve seen) and the cardboard actually enclosed inside so the comic never even touches it. At a buck a piece you really have to love your average book to pay this much. but it is worth every penny. They look great too!

    As an aside, one comic pro I know (who shall remain nameless) seems incapable of rebagging a book (well, mine anyway) without either creasing or tearing off the back cover. The guy has collected comics all of his life and spent years creating them too, but he still treats them like toilet paper. I have learned never to assume that somebody in the business has any regard for the end product. The upshot is that I simply don’t let people handle any of my books anymore. If they want to see the interior, I simply hold the book and turn the pages myself. No more boo-boos for this guy!

    cheers, mel

  3. Yes, I pulled a price tag (75c) off a Werewolf By Night 32, you can guess the rest.

    I also recently bagged my many books, adding a single tape to each bag. The only time the tape got caught, it had to be on Detective 400s cover. I left the partial cover on the tape and stuck it on.

    We used to drive to Florida for a few weeks in the winter. I shut the water off to help prevent freezing pipes and brought a pail of water up to the main floor so the house checkers could water the plants. I placed the pail on a carpet on the hardwood and completed packing. My wife asks if I made sure the basement door was locked….I go to check and I hear dripping. There was a hole in the bucket and it had leaked through the carpet, hardwood, plywood and on to a full comic box soaking the end of it. Inside the comics were bagged and folded. Dodged that one.

    The worst was my few hundred coverless to good condition comics from 1950 to 1970 that I had as a kid. Squeak the cat decided to pee all over the open box full of them. They made it to the garbage real quick. What a smell.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  4. Thanks for sharing these fellas.

    I think if you are going to keep them you should seal them Bud, if you are selling them and won’t have them in your possession for too long then leaving them open shouldn’t be that big a worry. And I agree with you wholeheartedly, Karma to those that don’t own up to the tape damage!

    Mel, I feel for you with that Spidey Annual story. The same thing happened to me at a Montreal, I brought a Dime Comics so Jack Tremblay could sign it and as soon as I gave him the book he started licking his finger as he turned the pages, then when he found the pages that he drew he threw the book on the table and ran his palm up and down the spine so the book would stay flat to look at. The best part is I had to crack the book open out of a CGC 5.0 case, when I sent it down for the Signature Series label it came back a CGC 5.5. The old Tremblay pressing service !!!

    Alex, cat pee comics is a tough one, damn. I had a puppy poop on top of a closed comic box before, luckily all I had to do was get a new lid.

  5. I’ve saved a couple comics from the dreaded tape… I have now trained myself to remove the tape entirely before removing a book from a bag. i have also dropped a couple books slightly dinging their corners despite bag and board. The worst thing that happened was a plumber cut a pipe too short when doing a kitchen repair and it leaked down and destroyed a stack of my comics… I know Silver Surfer#1 was one and Avengers Annual #1 was another in the stack…this was 1972 and they looked at me like I had two heads complaining about some wet comics!

  6. I love reading all these stories. I can’t think of one tape incident in particular, but I’m sure there are a few.

    My one big OOPS was at a big show in Chicago. I was really getting into golden age books at the time and had decided to purchase Exciting Comics #53, the first appearance of Miss Masque with a good cover by Schomberg. Well, I was chatting with some artists and decided to show them my new purchase and one of them asked to see the inside of the book. So we all did and appreciated it. Then the artist was putting the book back and didn’t see the small nick on the spine, that turned into a giant tear when pushing the book into the mylar. Ugh. I its finally worth what I paid for it, now only 15 years later.

    Alex, your story reminded me of when I bought a collection once and found cat food inside some of the books. Shudder…

  7. Chris, that’s why I swore off regular mylar and when I replace old mylar or bags, I use the slightly heavier 2 mil mylites. Too many of my books have those kind of defects and even with care, occasionally something will catch on the slide in… I appreciate dealers who bag the comic, then put it in mylar, which it sounds like Walter does.

    Tape tears up on mylites realy easy trying to unseal the flap. It really sticks like glue to mylar. So I put on just one small piece and fold the end back to make a pull-tab. I tried using price stickers to close the flap, like Harley Yee does, but the adhesive goes bad too quickly.

    I’m afraid of self-seal bags, But Mel, I see the logic in your choice. The self-sealant on the flaps, indeed, a catastrophe waiting to happen. I toss them all. I will stick with my mylites…. and ok, Walt, guess I better go back to closing them. Thanks.

  8. A few years ago, a dealer in the city decided to encase all his mint Dell Giants in those stiff open-ended mylars, for display in his store.

    What he failed to realize was that those books were way too thick to fit in them and, as he attempted to push each book in with his thumbs, the bottoms of the covers were tearing off the books and wrinkling up the front, really destroying the comics.

    He wiped out about 40 of the mint books doing so. He literally had tears in his eyes when he was telling some customers what he did. I overheard the conversation and shuttered when I saw the damage on the books.

    I think he placed them upside down on the counter as he did each one and didn’t notice the damage until he flipped the stack over to admire his work.

  9. Usually, I tuck in the flap rather than tape though I’m experimenting with green painter’s tape. Not that aesthetic but I find the Scotch invisible tape sticks too well and damages the bags when I want to open them. I’ll have to look into the mylites, are they called that on the packaging? At one time I thought those stiff mylars were the cat’s meow but not now, and they go greyish.

    In the light of full disclosure, I admit to committing the despicable crime of double-comic-bagging on my long series (ie Astro City) to save some space.

  10. Don’t feel bad, Tim.

    When I used to buy new comics for awhile about 15 years ago, I used to be able to fit 25 nicely into a gusseted plastic bag. The gusset allowed for a squared bottom, much like paper bags, and saved a lot individual bagging.

    Of course, they didn’t require boarding, as the block of comics offered good support to the bundle, as they fit snuggly in the bag and the bags lie flat in box, allowing for free pressing, something needed, as new comics’ spines had a bit of a puff to them.

    Kept cold and dark in a cellar, the comics show no signs of deterioration being put in with 24 other comics.

  11. Sad but great story, Klaus. Check your work, all those teachers used to tell us. Fortunately high grade Dell Giants are not uncommon.

    I keep a supply of the slightly larger Super Gold mylites handy, so I am not cramming those extra wide books in Silver/Gold bags. It’s tempting to squeeze if you don’t keep the slightly larger size handy. Dealer Steve Ritter, and I think highly of him, does this, squeezes every book into the smallest possible bag, and I just don’t understand it. That’s the danger zone, when you make it hard to extract and reinsert a book!!

    Tim, E. Gerber makes Mylites2, well marked on each package of 50 sleeves.

    Diamond sells E. Gerber products, but they do a terrible job of keeping them available. I buy mine mostly from my local supplies guy, Charles Abar, who still runs a truck delivery service to west coast comic stores, out of southern Oregon.

    I sell them in my catalogs and on my website, in case you can’t find a local source, but I think most good comic shops handle them. Stay away from Mylites1 (1 mil), they are crinkly and too thin, in my eyes. I dislike them. The 2 mil is about half the thickness of a standard mylar, and has some stability and strength to it.

  12. Mylites 2 it is, I’ll check it out when next I go to the local. Even though I mostly buy coppers to modern, I bag with silvers for that bit of extra room. Items I buy online are sometimes bagged tightly so immediately replace them with fresher silver bags and when they’re all wrinkled or dingy, plus new backing boards.

    Is that E. Gerber the Ernest Gerber who did the Photo Journals? I just finally caved and bought the first two books – they’re huge and beautiful.

  13. Yes, that’s Ernie Gerber. He was a bigger-than-life guy. Imagine traveling all over the country, visiting collectors and photographing their best books. If he found a higher grade copy, he would shoot it again. And again. I think he outlined the journey in his introduction. What a game-changer for our hobby. He passed away far too young. Really outgoing, high energy guy. I think he patented the process to bind mylar into sleeves, and then sold the license to others.

    He lived a couple hours from here, up in the mountains out of Lake Tahoe. After he passed away, a buddy of mine went up for a visit to see Ernie’s his wife, and came home with, literally, a lifetime supply of the BEADED mylars, with a rounded edge instead of the comic slicing flaps. He swears by them! But as far as I know, no one makes them any more.

    Diamond Comics eventualy bought all the backstock of Photo-Journals, probably along with the E. Gerber business. They made me a deal at one point, so I was able to sell them for half price, and I went thru zillions until I had thoroughly saturated my market. Ernie printed too many, probably to get his per-copy cost down. Several years after he had done it, he told me he still had 12,000 copies left. That’s a lot of dollars tied up! I would not be surprised if Diamond still has a big supply. At one point they declared them out of print. I called Bill Schanes and reminded him they still had stock in Tahoe that they owned, but had never shipped back east to their warehouse due to the trucking expense…

  14. Thanks for the commentary, Bud, such a major undertaking in all ways. I’ve only seen copies once in a comic shop but didn’t pick them up. Seen lots on Amazon and eBay at varying prices when I started thinking about them again, scored them on Ebay from a seller next city up the road for a very good price. Used, but in great shape and they had been mylar protected (which needed replacing). I always thought they were out of print too so never asked a shop to bring them in.

    Great books, it’s gonna take months to look through them. And the pictures aren’t too small, hurray!, a concern I had from seeing stamp catalogs but never seeing the inside of these.

  15. I found a fantastic copy of the Canadian comic Unusual Comics No. 1 with a terrific Sci Fi cover by Fred Kelly. It was inside a box of old photos in a warehouse of old magazine stock that had been untouched for many decades. Delighted, and having paid a very reasonable price for it, I took the said comic home to add to my collection. On sliding it into a mylar bag, a tiny tear on the top corner of the cover caught on the edge of the bag and rrriiiiippp – took off about an triangle of the cover.

  16. Oh, srew, that is so tough. I sympathize… I feel so bad just catching the occasional loose cover bit and making thing just a little worse. Hope it wasn’t to big a triangle…As I mentioned above, that is why I fear regular Mylar sleeves.

    But thanks for the post, I am going to go see what the Fred Kelly cover looks like. I scored his Mr. Monster in Super Dooper #3, VG-, just a few years ago, before Canadian comics exploded in price, and hardly anyone knew of it, outside fans of Michael Gilbert’s Mr. Monster. $85! My favorite find, hands down, at an Emerald City show in Seattle, and from a well-known dealer. I’d love to upgrade it, but haven’t seen one since. So I am grateful to have ANY copy!

  17. The other week I opened up some nice black-suited Amazing Spider-man comics and the seller had sent them bagged and boarded, the bags were the resealable type with the adhesive strip on the back…what I didn’t see on the 3rd one I read was the adhesive strip transferred onto the flap when I opened it up. The flap touched the cover as I slid it out and it was stuck. I squealed like a Homer Simpson!!!!

    Unfortunately there is one less Near Mint black-suited spider-man comic in our midst after this.

  18. Srew2 and Spider, we need some sort of nincompoop badges of honor so when we walk around cons we can spot all those who have helped make high grade comics so scarce.

  19. I had a Green Lantern #76 for over ten years before I realized that a tape pull had taken a chunk out of the cover right on the exploding lantern and left a white spot. Perfectly camouflaged – I just thought it was supposed to look like that. Had to do a major downgrade once I saw it, though…

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