Welcome back to Hammer Drops! We use a lot of terms of art in our auctions. It comes with the territory of professional expertise, but we acknowledge it may be a bit confusing for newcomers. And not having the right words to describe what you have? That can cost you money! So today we’re looking at how we define the different categories of Moisture Damages.
What Is Humidity Damage?
Ok, first the basics: moisture damages paper collectibles. It doesn’t matter if that moisture is a liquid on the table or a vapor in the air, it can harm the paper. At its mildest, that means wavy or otherwise uneven spots on the cover or pages. That’s the sort of damage we’d label “Humidity Damage”.
Naturally, not all humidity damage is created equal. Nor is it all necessarily from humidity! The amount of moisture that a comic will absorb just existing unbagged in Florida is different from reading it while you enjoy a steam bath. And a small spot of moisture damage, like the kind you’d pick up from being set down on a damp counter (the peril of any bathroom reader), can be hard to distinguish from being mildly affected by humidity.
In short, we’d call humidity damage any damage that comes from being exposed to a lil bit of moisture. This means no discoloration or stuck pages. You can tell that the issue has been exposed, in some way, to more moisture than is ideal (read: any) but it doesn’t necessarily break the grade. It’s a defect, to be sure, but with very minor impact on the book, it can still be up in the VF range.
What Is Water Damage?
Water Damage is a descriptor we reserve for the more severe moisture damage to paper collectibles. It describes something that pretty obviously came in prolonged contact with liquid water. Something that, no matter how dry it is now, carries the memory of a soaking like a Tupperware carries the memory of pasta sauce.
It doesn’t even have to affect the entire comic to be a major hurt to the value. Very often, just a corner will be victim of Water Damage. Even on that small scale, it stands out. Stains, stuck pages, and paper loss (usually from prying apart stuck pages) are left in its wake. For more thoroughly soaked specimens, every inch of every page will be wavy rather than smooth. The pages will also feel more brittle, even if they aren’t really falling apart. That is function of the various waves and depressions that have worked their way into the paper while it was wet. Once dry, it now has a whole bunch of little areas that need to (harmlessly, for the most part) pop and shift for pages to turn or lay flat.
What’s The Damage?
Well, true humidity damage definitely counts as a knock against an item’s grade. That said, it’s not a deal-breaker. Recent auction lots with true humidity damage, single issues that still sold for $30-80, illustrate that. More serious water damage is obviously a bigger knock, but as you can see a water damaged Silver Age Daredevil comic still sold for a decent sum.
But the truly trash, soaked through-and-through specimens, those end up being filler copies. So called because they’re only good for “filling in” your collection, they’re the lowest grade of comic on our scale. That includes comics with missing pages, detached or torn covers, et al. And honestly, if the issue’s of proper significance, even a Filler copy can be worth some money.
Deciding what damage is or isn’t catastrophic, or what comics are able to hold value in spite of catastrophic damage, requires a certain amount of evaluation expertise. Expertise that, wouldn’t you know it, we have in spades at Back to the Past! If you have a collection you want to get the best value for without having to do a ton of work yourself, we’re the perfect partner for you. And if you’re determined to get the absolute top dollar by doing it yourself, keep reading Hammer Drops every Wednesday to share in our experience.