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Nothing makes it so clear that good organization is pro-active, not retro-active, as a large pile of comic books.

Which I have.

I buy about ten to twelve dollars' worth a week -- an average of four comics a week, at today's prices. (Some weeks I do go over -- DC's been doing too much interesting stuff this past year.)

That translates slightly over one "Short Box" a year. (A Short Box is a standard white-cardboard box for storing comics upright, which is about sixteen inches deep, and holds about 150-170 comic books.)

One year's worth isn't a lot, but after a few years, they can start to pile up.

I don't feel the need to keep all of these comics -- I'm a reader (and re-reader), not a collector. I do want to save some -- maybe 25%? -- for re-re-reading (or replace them with the less space-consuming trade book collection, if it weren't for the cost), but the rest, I'm prepared to part with.

Ideally, I want to de-own most of these comics by selling them. I don't expect to get a lot of money for them -- less than what I paid, to be sure. But that's OK; I've already gotten my money's worth -- by reading them. I expect they'll go to people who want to read them, and either can't get them in collected form, or prefer them as comics.

I'll be more interested in minimizing the number of transactions. (Also, if I'm doing any of this by mail, selling in batches keeps the overall shipping cost down, especially since the U.S. Post Office now offers all-that-fits-inside flat-rate-shipping boxes.)

That means selling them in organized groups, not individual back issues, e.g. Superman xxx through yyy, or all eight issues of the just-finished METAL MEN mini-series.

And since I've simply been letting them pile up, rather than filing them in an organized fashion, that means it's comic sorting time again.

I could simply start filling USPS flat-rate boxes, which hold about 70 to 80 comics, and hawk them as random lots, like , like "75 DC superhero comics from the past four years." It would save me a lot of time, but I wouldn't get a great price. Or feel I'd done the right thing. Or had fun.

Finding Time And Space

I don't know how other comic owners do it, but for me, it's a multi-step, multi-pass, multi-session process -- even an hour is enough to get a fair amount done. It's easier when I've got a fair amount of flat space available, like a sofa, bed, or table, to sort onto.

First, find as many of the comics to be sorted as you can, from the piles laying around. Some will still be hiding.

Second, start sorting, into piles based on how much flat space is easily available. E.g. I start with a pile for each title; as empty flat space runs short, I either start a "sort these titles later" pile or box, or have some combination pile, like "mini-series" or "other characters/titles, e.g. Hawkman, Green Arrow."

Then, for each title, sort by age. (Generally, that means volume/issue number.) That's pretty easy, most of the comics have a number on the cover.

Repeat until done. Depending on how many more piles you find, you may do this again, and then have to merge the title piles.

This is a lot more work than putting them in a box, in accumulating sorted order as I go. Pity I didn't think this through at any point in the past.

Then, generate (write) a list of what's there, e.g. Justice League 1-10, 12-15, 18-25... It's possible that a portable bar code scanner, and matching software, would handle much of this, but I don't have one. Hopefully, I'll have mostly full runs, but it's important to determine if there's any gaps in the sequences.

Of course, the sorting also takes longer because some of these you can't just sort, you have to page through to decide whether it's a keeper or not. (Well, maybe you could. I can't. If nothing else, I often set out a "read us later today" pile.)

And some comics bear re-reading before being let go.

Then, decide what to keep, what to sell, and what to still brood about.

Then, put the sorted-by-title-and-sequence piles (back) into boxes. Fortunately, since I'm not planning to keep them, I don't have to worry about philosophical/taxonomical storage issues, like "Do I file DC, Marvel, et cetera comics together, e.g. Action, Adventure, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, or by publisher, separating DC from Marvel," not to mention, do I file by title (Action, Adventure, Batman, Detective) or by character (Superman titles, Batman titles, etc.)

Then, start selling.

And start putting all new issues into a box -- sorting as they go in.

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