Vinyl: Full Circle

As the Digital Age gains an ever increasing momentum, a segment of audiophiles have chosen to embrace the Analog Era in numbers that find old and young alike, enjoying what was once to be cast aside and left as a footnote for music history.

Digital, at that time, was the superior way to go, offering clean, precise sound that fans had hoped for with the premium virgin vinyl issues and half-speed masters released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. The delicate nature of the vinyl medium had its limitations with static, scratches and impure raw vinyl, used to further degrade the sound. To satisfy the demand for clarity and storage concerns, the compact disc filled that need rather well. Compact discs were the cure for the ailments of the Vinyl Era, but they came with a stiffness and sterility of sound. Analog, by comparison, had a warmth and genuine feel that helped to make the music a true experience. And as time continues, collectors still seem to enjoy that charm of the procedure…disc to platter, needle to groove.

A recent visit to a high profile pop culture retailer in the Indianapolis shopping district, found an interesting blend of new vinyl issues of past best-selling titles carried alongside the retro players that help transfer those vinyl issues to CD duplication for convenience. The 60’s and 70’s have come full circle and showcase the fact that there are a fantastic amount of well written songs and melodies from those decades, just waiting to be heard again by a new generation.

Baby boomers have plenty of favorites to choose from during that era and are still wanting to embrace the memories of their youth. New audiophiles are just discovering the authenticity of vinyl recordings, not to mention the spectacular array of album covers and additional art inside the gatefold sleeves.

As the re-introduction to albums continues to grow, the need for storage and preservation has timely merits. BCW has added product lines to aid every discerning collector. They offer jackets, sleeves, toploads and storage boxes for media, 45’s and LP’s, with their cause for business, to… “Protect, Store and Display”.

Jimi Hendrix Stamps

Music Icons US Postal Stamps featuring Jimi Hendrix

Even the US Postal Service recognizes the efforts of past musicians in 2013’s Music Icons series of commemorative stamp issues. The likenesses of Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Lydia Mendoza and most recently new series member Jimi Hendrix, are part of this series. The fifth issuance in this series will be Janis Joplin, scheduled for later this year.

It’s great to see a special day, Record Store Day, reserved for the hobby that has molded pop culture to what it is today and will continue to be as the future unfolds.

An overview by Stephen and Joy Butler

How to Protect Your Cards and Sports Memorabilia from UV Light

BCW Products with UV ProtectionVirtually the entire spectrum of solar light can contribute to the fading of colors and the deterioration of collectibles. To keep sports cards and memorabilia in mint condition, it’s recommended to keep them in a place that limits exposure to direct and indirect sunlight. The ultraviolet range of solar radiation, or UV light, is of high concern to collectors. According to the US Library of Congress, “ultraviolet rays can break down the chemical bonds and thus fade the color(s) in an object – it is a bleaching effect.”

To protect valuable trading cards from UV light, BCW offers the popular Pro-Mold Card Holders. All Pro-Mold items offer UV protection, except the plastic boxes and the legacy card holders that include the snap-tite and four screw screwdown. The card holders with UV protection are rated to block 98.5% to 99% of UV rays for 5 years or more. Pro-Mold also makes Baseball Squares rated for 5 years or more of UV protection and another Square rated for an amazing 25 years. The card holders and the 5-Year Baseball Squares are made from polystyrene with a UV absorbing additive, while the 25-Year Baseball Squares are made of acrylic with a UV absorbing additive. To confirm the shielding qualities of this UV protection, the Atlas Weathering Testing Group of DSET Laboratories reviewed the Pro-Mold products. See the results.

To protect collectible baseballs, footballs, basketballs and helmets from UV rays, BCW offers a line of BallQube display cases made from polystyrene with UV stabilizers. According to a K & N Labs analysis, BallQube cases with UV stabilizers block 98% of UV light in the 200 to 380 nanometer range.


What’s Behind BCW Comic Book Backing Boards?

BCW Comic Book Backing BoardsIf your goal is to preserve your comics for years to come or if you want to keep your comics in mint condition as an investment, BCW offers several methods to protect, store and display comic books. While there are more elaborate methods of storing comics, let’s focus on the most common method – bagging and boarding. The combination of bags and boards is a trusted method by collectors of comics and is a cost effective way to protect an entire collection. BCW offers bags made of polypropylene and mylar, both are acid free, archival quality materials. Let’s narrow our discussion even further to backing boards. To keep your comic books in mint condition, you don’t want any old cardboard stored with your comics. BCW backing boards have special qualities that make them ideal for preserving comics.

First, BCW offers backing boards sized for Current, Silver Age and Golden Age comics. In each case, the boards are slightly larger than the comics to protect the comics’ edges, but the boards fit in the bags with the comic appropriately.

Second, our boards are cut from 24 point stock. This heavy board weight provides a firm backing which resists warping and protects your comics while handling and storing these floppy collectibles.

Third, BCW backing boards are acid free. They get their white appearance from a bleached sulfate process which does not interact with your comics. We have confirmed our boards are of archival quality by getting them tested by an independent lab, Chicago Paper Testing Laboratories of Northbrook, IL. They ran a number of tests on our boards, including a pH balance test (Acidity/Alkalinity, Hot Extraction Method, TAPPI T-435), an alkaline reserve test (ASTM D-4988, % of CaCO3), artificial aging test (Dry Heat Method, ASTM D-776) and a Fiber Analysis Test (TAPPI T-401 Using Graff “C” Strain). As you would expect from the scientists at Chicago Paper Testing, the results get technical, but BCW backing boards received good marks from the lab. If you want to see the technical results, learn more here.

Lastly, the backing boards help preserve the comics by absorbing the residual acid that migrates from the comics. Most comic books have been printed on newsprint. This includes all comics printed prior to Modern Age, as well as some Modern Age comic books. This newsprint paper has been bleached with acid prior to printing, and some of the acid remains in the paper. As time passes, this acid will degrade the newsprint, affecting the quality of the paper and the inks. BCW boards have been buffered with calcium carbonate which neutralizes the acid that migrates from the comic. The coated side may be on one or both sides of the backing board. You can identify the coated side by the glossy finish of the board. When you insert your comic and board inside the bag, you’ll want the coated side of the board facing the comic. If the board is coated on both sides, either side will work great. It is recommended to replace the backing boards in your comic collection every three to five years to rid the acids that have migrated from the comics into the boards.

Of course there are other important considerations for preserving your comics. You will want to store them away from sunlight and in a cool dry place because sunlight, heat, and moisture can directly damage the comics and accelerate the acid migration process, further damaging the comics. BCW offers several boxes and box dividers to help keep your comics safe and organized.

Learn more about BCW comic book products:
BCW Comic Book Backing Boards
BCW Comic Book Bags
BCW Comic Book Bag and Board Combo Packs
BCW Comic Book Boxes
BCW Comic Book Displays
BCW Comic Book Accessories

Are BCW Backing Boards Really “Acid Free”?

Comic book collectors are serious about keeping their comics in mint condition. Protecting their comics by bagging and boarding is common practice. So when BCW Supplies claims our backing boards are “acid free”, collectors say “prove it”. BCW welcomes the challenge.

Originally posted by BCW Supplies on a Collectors Society forum on June 9th, 2011, the article below shows the results of an independent test performed by the Chicago Paper Testing Laboratory. The “SBS” boards mentioned below are solid bleached sulphate, a virgin fiber grade of paperboard.

Once again we would like to thank mschmidt for his thought provoking study which you can find here;

Based on Mike’s data and conclusions we decided to have the products that are represented in his experiment tested at an independent laboratory. Mike had concluded “that [SBS] boards will actively contribute, on a molecular level, to the decay of your comic book from the moment they’re placed inside the bag” based on the results of his testing using a pHydrion pH pencil. Mike stated that the calcium carbonate coating of the SBS board was absorbing only the acid from the board itself and that over time the SBS board would become completely acidic. However, we at BCW stated that we believe Mike’s conclusion is in error. We suggested that the fact that the coated side of the BCW board became more acidic with use over a two year period indicates that some of the residual acid from the comic book is being absorbed by the calcium carbonate coating on the board. Further, we suggested that the fact that the uncoated side of the BCW board did not change in pH over a period of two years of use meant that acid was not migrating from the SBS board to the comic book. As you will see, the data below supports our position.

We submitted samples to Chicago Paper Testing Laboratories, Inc. on 20 July 2011 and I was present in the laboratory on Tuesday 2 August 2011 for some of the testing. We had the lab perform TAPPI T-435 (pH) on a comic book (Marvel Comics Presents #61), E. Gerber Half-Back, BCW Comic Backing Board, Bill Cole Thin X-Tender, Miller Hobby Comic Backing Board, and an Ultra Pro Comic Backing Board. We also had them perform ASTM D-4988 (Alkaline Reserve) on an E. Gerber Half-Back, BCW Comic Backing Board, Bill Cole Thin X-Tender, Miller Hobby Comic Backing Board, and an Ultra Pro Comic Backing Board. In addition, we had them perform TAPPI T-401 (Fiber Analysis) on an E. Gerber Half-Back, BCW Comic Backing Board, and Bill Cole Thin X-Tender. And finally, we had the laboratory perform ASTM D-776 (Artificial Ageing) on a comic book (Marvel Comics Presents #61) and backing boards from both E. Gerber and BCW for 10 and 20 years.

Let’s look at the results of TAPPI T-435 (pH) from the samples submitted;

Comic Book pH 5.4
E. Gerber Half-Back pH 8.52
BCW Comic Backing Board pH 8.47
Bill Cole Thin X-Tender pH 8.57
Miller Hobby Comic Backing Board pH 9.36
Ultra Pro Comic Backing Board pH 7.94

As you can see, the comic book is acidic as expected. The boards all have relatively the same pH with Miller Hobby at the top of the scale and Ultra Pro at the bottom.

Now let’s look at the results of ASTM D-4988 (Alkaline Reserve);

E. Gerber Half-Back 7.69%
BCW Comic Backing Board 3.64%
Bill Cole Thin X-Tender 6.57%
Miller Hobby Comic Backing Board 4.45%
Ultra Pro Comic Backing Board 4.72%

From the data we can see that the E. Gerber Half-Backs and Bill Cole Thin X-Tenders actually have more than twice the Alkaline Reserve as advertised. The SBS boards all have about the same Alkaline Reserve with Ultra Pro at the top of the scale and BCW Supplies on the bottom.

Let’s take a look at the results of ASTM D-776 (Artificial Ageing);

Aged 10 years

Comic Book pH 5.45
E Gerber Half-Back pH 8.07

Comic Book pH 5.44
BCW Comic Backing Board pH 7.62

Aged 20 years

Comic Book pH 5.27
E Gerber Half-Back pH 8.07

Comic Book pH 5.26
BCW Comic Backing Board pH 7.34

From the data we can see that the E. Gerber Half-Back’s pH level does not change over a 10 year period which suggests that the E. Gerber Half-Back does not absorb any residual acid from the comic book. This is the conclusion that we drew from Mike’s data originally, and it is also the position of E. Gerber that their product does not absorb any residual acid from a comic book. It only acts as a stiffener. As the BCW Comic Backing Board absorbs some of the phenolic acid that migrates from the pages of a comic book the pH level of the board naturally decreases as the buffer reaches the saturation point (which is why we recommend that you change your boards every 3 to 5 years). Phenolic acid is released as lignin breaks down in the pages of a comic book and exhibits itself as the yellow residue that you see on a comic backing board after several years of use.

Please note that ASTM D-776 does not allow for the micro-environment that is created when sealing a comic book in a bag with a backing board. Therefore, we were not able to confirm our hypothesis that a comic book will deteriorate more quickly if the phenolic acid is not absorbed.

Now let’s look at the results of TAPPI T-401 (Fiber Analysis);

E. Gerber Half-Back

Bleached Kraft Softwood 12.1%
Bleached Kraft Hardwood 55.9%
Groundwood 32%
Unbleached Kraft Hardwood 0%

BCW Comic Backing Board

Bleached Kraft Softwood 9.6%
Bleached Kraft Hardwood 90.4%
Groundwood 0%
Unbleached Kraft Hardwood Trace

Bill Cole Thin X-Tender

Bleached Kraft Softwood 17.2%
Bleached Kraft Hardwood 61.1%
Groundwood 21.7%
Unbleached Kraft Hardwood 0%

SBS is stabilized paper board, meaning that it is made using a chemical process (also known as bleaching) where the lignin is removed from the pulp. This process does leave some residual acid in the SBS from bleaching and a buffer of calcium carbonate is added to stabilize the sheet. The paper mills have a target pH level of between 6.5 and 7.2 which means that the lower the buffer the less residual acid that remains in the paper. Bill Cole Thin X-Tenders and E. Gerber Half-Backs and Full-Backs are made of VAT board which has a coating on both sides that is bleached, but the core of the VAT board is made using mechanical pulp and contains lignin. The reason that this is important is that the lignin will eventually break down and the board could become acidic depending on how much calcium carbonate is in the board and how much phenolic acid is released.

There is between 32% and 21.7% Groundwood in the E. Gerber Half-Backs and Bill Cole Thin X-Tenders respectively. Because Groundwood contains lignin, the VAT board requires a greater Alkaline Reserve to remain stable. Note that the Alkaline Reserve of the E. Gerber Half-Back is greater than that of the Bill Cole Thin X-Tenders. This is because there is more Groundwood in the E. Gerber Half-Back and therefore requires more calcium carbonate to achieve roughly the same pH level as the Bill Cole Thin X-Tender.

Attached are copies of the documentation that we received from the laboratory for your reference.

Chicago Paper Testing Laboratory – Report 45892

Chicago Paper Testing Laboratory – Report 45892- DATA