Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PSA: How to Store Action Figures Like a Boss


I received a shipment from one of my favorite companies today.  No, not BBTS (but they're one of my favorite places to get shipments from, too).  It's the company I order action figure storage supplies from.  So I figured this would be a good opportunity to drop some knowledge and do a PSA.  Ready?  I'm going to teach you how to not ruin your action figures by storing them.  I'm going to teach you how to store action figures like a pro.  Like a boss.




If you're like me, you have a lot of action figures.  I mean a LOT of action figures.  It would be awesome if we could just have them all displayed on shelves at home all the time, but that's rarely practical.  Especially for those of us who value also having girlfriends/wives/significant others and/or kids.  When you've been in the action figure collecting game for as long as some of us, there comes a time where you have to start thinking about storage.

Believe it or not, there IS a wrong way to store our plastic men.  I learned this first hand a few years ago.  Many people, including myself, may assume that storing action figures in plastic ziploc-type bags is a good idea.  And it is.  As long as you don't use the vast majority of bags out there.

The vast majority of plastic zip-bags, especially those purchased in the grocery store, Target, Walmart, whatever, are not meant for long term storage.  The plastic these bags are made from is acidic.  For storing a sandwich in your fridge, this isn't a problem.  For storing an action figure and it's accessories for short periods of time, it's also not a problem.  But when you use these bags to store figures for years, like many do (and I used to), the acid in the plastic will eventually damage and destroy the paint and eventually the plastic of the figure itself.

About three years ago, I was going through bins of older Star Wars figures (POTF2 - POTJ era), deciding what I wanted to part with to thin out my collection.  I started un-bagging the figures to take photos, and discovered that many of them felt sticky.  The plastic had started to decompose thanks to the acid in the bags.  I had a couple hundred figures that were effectively destroyed thanks to this.  This event sent me on a quest, to discover a safer way to store plastic.



I found a company called GTZip, a wholesaler of storage bags in various shapes, sizes and materials. One of their lines of bags, the Ultra Clear line, are made of a material called polypropylene.  Polypropylene is an acid-free, archival-quality plastic, used by museums and other institutions to protect and store materials that should not be allowed to wear and tear.

GTZip offers their Ultra Clear bags in a variety of sizes, at affordable wholesale pricing (though the smallest quantity you can order of any size is 1,000 pieces).  I find that for the vast majority of my 3 3/4" figures, the 3" x 5" bags fit nicely, and allow plenty of room for accessories to be stored in the bag as well.  For some beefier figures, like Marvel Universe Thor, a 4" x 6" bad works better.  And for really beefy figures, like Hulk, you'll want to use a 5" x 7".  For Marvel Legends, or other 6" scale figure lines, you'll want to go with at least a 5" x 8".


I've been using these bags for a few years now, and have not had a single figure start to decompose on me.  These acid-free bags will protect your figures for years and years.  I've ordered from GTZip a few times now, and their service is always great.  Since they're here in California with me, I usually get my bags the day after I order them.


The 3" x 5" will hold a Zombie Viper and his accessories.
Or Renegades Storm Shadow...
...and his many, many weapons.

Once you've got your individual figure storage needs sorted out, what do you do with all those bagged figures?  I like to keep mine in 15-18 quart sized bins, which are easily found at Target or other department stores.  I organize my figures by line, series, etc, but organization is entirely up to you.  The surface that touches the figures directly (the bags) is the most important, but a few other points to remember:  Don't store your figures in extreme heat or cold, or extreme humidity.  I prefer to store mine in my home, but if you must store them in a garage, keep them out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.  Heat, cold, humidity, and ultra-violet light will all damage plastic over time (this is why so many white plastic figures turn yellow over time).


So there you go.   You now know how to store your toys properly.  The relatively small cost of buying a thousand (or several) polypropylene bags is nothing compared to the potential cost of replacing an entire collection when it degrades over time.

You're welcome.

-Zak.  I'm a real doctor.  From America.









25 comments:

  1. Very cool tip on the bags. For some reason, we (man children) think of "archival quality bags" for comics and cards and such, but not so much when it comes to the little plastic men.

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    1. Yeah, go figure. I was using polypropylene bags to store comics when I was 8. And I didn't think to apply that same concept to my action figures until I was 28.

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    2. how good does this work in preventing clone troopers from yellowing?

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    3. In the few years that I've been using these bags, I haven't had any clone troopers noticeably yellow on me (thought I had several that had already yellowed by the time I discovered these bags), but I don't honestly know if the bags can take credit for that, or if it's just higher quality plastic used in the figures these last few years. One trick that you may want to look into though is hydrogen peroxide. I haven't tried it myself yet, but many people online have reported success in restoring clone troopers (and other white plastic action figures) to their original whiteness after letting the figures sit in a 30% hydrogen peroxide solution left in sun light for a day or two. Do it at your own risk, of course, but might be something you want to look into. I think Adam Pawlus at GalacticHunter.com had a good tutorial on it a few years ago.

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    4. Hi there,

      I just found this article today
      I'm also a collector and I have a a lot of figures that have been stored in Ziploc bags for about 6 years now, I'm afraid of digging in those boxes, (I have approximately 3000 figures to look up for damage!!!)

      And my question is how long it takes for the decomposing process to begin?

      Thanks

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    5. That can really depend on several factors: The quality of the plastic and paint used on the figures, as well as the environment the figures are stored in (heat, cold, humidity, direct sunlight, etc). There's no set timeframe for how long decomposition can take, but if I were you, I'd pull my figures out of those Ziploc bags ASAP. If they've been in them for 6 years now, chances are you may already see some damage to some, but you may not. My figures that were ruined had all been in ziploc bags for 8 years or longer (they were Star Wars figures from between 1995 and 2001, and it was about mid-2009 that I discovered they were decomposing). Good luck.

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  2. The bags are a great idea. I'm getting to re-organize my collection and one of my major concerns is piling all these figures into a box or crate. Is weight an issue for the figure that is at the bottom of the pile? I think that it could be. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    One of my ideas to address this comes from the collectors cases from the original Star Wars line and also collectors cases for Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars. If you remember the Star Wars cases had specific compartments that you would place the figure in. And the Hot Wheels case my brother had was similar, but the collection of plastic compartments could be removed from the overall case.

    I'm curious if anyone sells these compartments that you could place action figures in. And you could stack these compartments within your box.

    I feel like this could be great for organization and the ability to locate a figure when needed.

    Any thoughts on this?

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    1. I've personally never had an issue with weight damaging figures on the bottom of the pile. I use 15-18 qt. bins for my different 3.75" figure lines, and they're all fine. Figures of this size generally only weight about an ounce, maybe a little more for some, and the plastic is generally pretty sturdy, so I wouldn't be too concerned about it. The only thing to watch out for would be softer, or parts that could potentially bend, like lightsabers, but even then, with the back keeping pieces from protruding at haphazard angles,there's not much risk.

      If you do want something a little more structured like the cases you mention, though, some collectors use fishing tackle boxes with adjustable compartments. I've seen them at places like Walmart for fairly inexpensive prices. Some guys just get a bunch of those and stack them on top of each other. I think it's less cost efficient than using the bins and bags that I use, but may be worth it to you.

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  3. I have a question, I have a collection of both Star Trek and Star Wars figures. I think the largest I have is the 6" figures from the First Contact line. What size bags would you recommend? I really just want to make one purchase to try them out so I'll purchase whatever the largest size would work for my collection. I also have a collection of Micro Machines from ST and SW - I assume those bags would work well for those as well? I just stumbled across this article after spending two days going through my collection and bagging it in zip lock bags :D

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    1. I think the 5x7" bags would probably work best for those figures, but I don't have any 6" Star Trek in my collection, so I'm not 100% positive. I would measure the tallest figure, and add about an inch to the height to figure out what the bag length should be (you'll want there to be a little extra room so the figure fits comfortably inside). Also account for any accessories you'll want to include in the bags. And yes, these should work just as well for Micro Machines.

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    2. What do you think about acid free comic bags with backing boards?

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  5. I have the entire line of Marvel Select Toys and in an effort to save space, I am tempted to open them up and place them in bags. However, do you feel they would dimish the value if I did so or just say forget it and keep them sealed?

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    1. Opening the figures will absolutely diminish their future value, so if you're in it for the money, I'd advise against it. However, DST has been making a habit recently of re-releasing older figures, so take that into your considerations as well. Some of those figures may never be worth much more than their original price. If you do decide to open them up, you'll want to order a pretty large size bag. I have some of the bigger Select figures open, and those things can be freakin massive.

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  6. So I've got a large percentage of my Star Wars action figures in bags thanks to this page. However, there are a few figures that won't fit into the 3x5. Examples would include the most recently created Wookies and Talz figures. Ephant Mon is gigantic. Because the bags come in packs of 1,000, I was wondering if you could give a suggested size for the oversized Star Wars figures.

    Also, I've been able to store my smaller vehicles and beasts in the Walmart tubs, but for some of the bigger vehicles, I think it would be important to add some padding in between the vehicles. Do you have any suggestions on that?

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    1. The wookiees should fit in a 4x6" bag, but something as big as Ephant Mon probably needs a 5x7". I no longer have that figure in my collection, so can't tell you for sure. As for vehicles, I would still suggest sticking with polypropelene or another acid free material. GTZip makes bags up to 12x15, which should fit some of the starfighter sized vehicles. For anything bigger than that, I think you'll be on your own. I don't keep my vehicles in storage for long periods of time, so I haven't found a good material to store them in yet.

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  7. Thanks for the article. I have a comprehensive vintage G1 Transformers collection stored in Ziploc bags within the last 3 years and I ended up purchasing almost $300 worth of various bag sizes from GTZip.

    $300 may seem like a lot of money upfront, but the would be a drop in the bucket if I had to replace my entire collection due to degrading plastic on my vintage Transformers.

    One thing I noticed is that if toys have rubber (ex: tires, weapon parts, etc.), then it's good to have some small holes cut into the bags for some ventilation. Rubber needs to breathe and without being able to do so, will end up drying up and cracking. I take scissors and cut small slits on the sides of the ziploc bags to allow some ventilation but small enough to protect the item from dust or parts falling out.

    I'm really glad these are Polypropylene and acid free. Thanks again for the link to GTZip. I wish I knew about them earlier.

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    1. Glad you found this helpful. Good call on the vents for softer materials like rubber.

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  8. Should the regular plastic / non rubber parts be in bags that also have ventilation? Or are those non-rubber parts fine to be air-tight?

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  9. Hey Zak, I have been trying to find out what temp ranges I should be worried about? I am looking at storing my action figures in my garage and want to make sure that they will be ok. The highest I have seen my garage get is 100 degrees F. Very little to no humidity with that as I live in AZ and its a dry heat. :)

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    1. I know Zak will support this comment. I claim that it is Zak-friend approved!

      For older figures, heat is very bad for discoloration and turning the plastic brittle. I considered heat anything that makes me uncomfortable, being 85 degrees plus.

      Newer figures heat mainly will allow the plastic to become pliable and cool into terrible uncomfortable positions.

      We always suggest keeping your figures in a climate controlled environment to ensure their happiness.

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  10. Hey i have 2 questions.

    1, do you know anything about comic bags and backer boards? in the mid 90s when i was collecting comics i bought plastic bags for all of them and back boards. i have a few hundred comics. im wondering if i should replace all of those bags even though they look fine its been a good 20 years what do you think?

    2. recently i bought a few carded sealed gi joes for myself for christmas and within 2 weeks of having them our temperature went from 60 to -15 back up to 50 on and off. at one point my room was freezing so badly i was under 5 blankets. looking at my new figures today they seem sort of warped. i even have one graded figure i bought for 50 bucks and the bottom where the hairline opening is for air the card seems to of warped. im not sure if im being paranoid and these were already slightly warped or could they have warped within a few days from that dramatic temperature? i worked at a toy store and we would get boxes in the winter and sometimes the cardboard would be warped.

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  11. Any advice on bag size and type for figures that havent been removed from packaging?

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  12. What temperature should plastic toys be stored at? Obviously no extremes of heat or they might melt, but how about extremes of cold? Would cold storage harm them, as long as the temp is above freezing (let's say 40 degrees F)? Any advice appreciated. I am not a member of this forum so please reply to JonHeitland@gmail.com. Thank you.

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  13. What about polyethylene bags that are advertised as acid free? Are they as good? Aren't polypropylene bags crinkly (like candy bags)? Are GTZip's ultra clear bags crinkly or more flexible (like sandwich bags)?

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