01st Mar2021

eBuying Comics: Week 52

by Ian Wells

This week I bring you an interview with Richard of RJC Pressing. For hardcore collectors grades and appearances of comics is everything. Nowadays before sending your prized issue of to get the slabbing treatment you can send them away to be cleaned and repaired. I have heard the pharse ‘pressing’ heard many a time on many a Youtube video about collecting comics. I always just smiled and nodded along like I knew what they were talking about. In one of my very first eBuying Comics segments I confessed to not really understading the whys of getting comics slabbed. I’m a reader. Now I will confess in the last year I am open to getting some very specific comics on my collection slabbed. Maybe I will want to get them cleaned and repaired first too. So I put on my investigative journalists blazer and set to work. Right off the bat I can say RJC Pressing comes with the Ryan of Only Comic Fans high grade seal of approval. I interviewed Ryan back in Week 43 if you want to check that out and it was him who put me into contact with Richard via Instagram and email, so thank you for that Ryan.

Lets start with Richard the comics fan. What was your first exposure to comics? Where were you buying from? What was the first series you really collected?

Unlike a lot of comic collectors, I didn’t have much involvement in the hobby as a young boy .I only got into comics in my adult hood, drawn in by my interest in things like the MCU and video games. In a way, comics have been a way for me to retain a sense of my younger self. I tend to buy mostly online, although I do maintain a growing standing order with my local comic shop. I’m very much a Marvel fan, rather than DC (nothing against DC, but I find Marvel is enough for my wallet and I’ve always enjoyed the classic characters & teams – X-men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil etc.

What are the prized pieces of your collection?

I try to maintain a small collection – for me personally, I find trying to maintain a large collection quite stressful, so I have a small collection of key books (mostly Marvel first appearances). I wouldn’t want to put a price on it, but for me part of my enjoyment is consolidating several smaller key books into one larger key book. I tend to collect Omnibus books rather than individual books, but that is more for space considerations.

Whats The Secret Origin of RJC Pressing? How did you go from comics fan to comics business man?

Very much unplanned. I think ultimately I sensed a growing demand for pressing services within the comic community that I felt I could help to meet. Also, another factor is the fanastic comic community that exists – offering a pressing service allows me to meet and interact with other comic enthusiasts, which helps to fuel my enjoyment of the hobby. Being able to improve the appearance or condition of someone’s comic, which often has a sentimental attachment for them, is a great feeling and very much part of the reason why I wanted to start to offer a pressing service.

In the simplest terms what does pressing and cleaning a comic entail?

It depends on the age and condition of the book (each book is unique), but usually a book is cleaned first – this is done using non-invasive dry techniques, to address anything on the book that can be cleaned off, from fingerprints, pencil marks to bits of food. The book may then be put into a humidity chamber for a number of hours, to loosen up the paper fibers so that they become more responsive to the press. The book is then subjected to heat and pressure in a pressing machine (think t-shirt press). Any or all of these stages may need to be repeated depending on the book. It can often take days for one book to go through the whole cycle, longer if more advanced techniques are employed also.

So not being a massive comics fan to begin with and the origin of your pressing career being unplanned are you self taught in all the skills and lingo? What were some of the resources you used to learn the trade?

Yep, I self-taught myself in the pressing and cleaning skills required, largely by reaching out to other pressers (mainly based in the US) to draw upon their knowledge and experience. By investing lots of time in upskilling myself in the craft, and many hours practicising and refining those skills, I was able over time to improve the results I was seeing.

What are the benefits of cleaning/pressing? How many grades can it jump up an issue?

The first benefit would be that the book gains greater eye appeal – for the owner, the book now presents much nicer, which is a key consideration if the book is on display. Another major benefit would be that the book would likely grade higher when reviewed by a third party grading company. This then means that the book has a higher monetary value, and will sell for more. In simplest terms, cleaning & pressing adds value to that book, often meaning that the cost of cleaning & pressing is recouped and more by the resultant rise in value of the book. Having a book cleaned & pressed, prior to being graded, can help to preserve the longevity of the book also. How high a grade a book can jump is hard to say since it varies a lot, but it’s fair to say that lots of books would rise in grade.

Is there a grade where a comic is beyond cleaning/pressing? Or are there issues so old and rare you would be apprehensive about touching them?

Absolutely – for some books the cleaning & pressing process is too risky. For example, a book with brittle pages is likely to be worsened by exposure to the heat & temperature involved. When books are sent in for pressing & cleaning, all books are prescreened before any work is done. This allows any risks to be identified and discussed with the owner – often the advice given is not to proceed with the process. Proceeding with grading that book will help to preserve it from further deterioration.

Is it a perk of the job having iconic, highly desirable comics come across you desk? What have been some of the highlights?

Very much so – it’s one of the perks of the job! Seeing and working with some of the major key books in comic history is a real pleasure and privilige, and I consider myself very fortunate to see these often. Just the past week I worked on a TMNT#1 (3rd print) which was great to work on. Not just the oldies either – just today an Ice-Cream Man #1 came in, which is one of my favourite series in recent years.

Having customers submitting comics to you on a daily basis you must be able to spot trends in market, does anything stand out from the last year?

That’s another perk of the job. Star War books come in at quite a pace at the moment, following on from the Disney annoucements at the end of last year. Riri Williams (Iron Heart) keys are very common as well at the moment. Miles Morales books are also very popular (these are another personal favourite of mine – there are some classic Morales covers already – #8 is just fantastic in my opinion, so seeing these come in is always a good day :)  I expect X-Men books to trickle and then flood in over the next 12 months.

Has the pandemic had an affect on business positive or negative?

I think the hobby as a whole has grown over the past 12 months, which has increased demand for pressing & grading so I’d say it’s been a positive most definitely. One of the challenges however is that I find little time to press and clean my own books!

Do you table at conventions to offer your services?

I don’t no – it may be something to consider perhaps going forward – will be good to see conventions up and running again soon hopefully.

Where can people find you online? Social media?

At the moment, I have a website (rjcpressing.co.uk) and I’m on Facebook also (facebook.com/rjcpressing). One of the things towards the top of my agenda is to have an Instagram profile, so watch this space!

I would like to end by thanking Richard for his time and providing an informative insight into the world of cleaning/pressing. the self taught part is just amazing. I think last year I mentioned giving self comic book binding ago so really there is no excuse now! I 100% agree with his setiment that it will be very cool to see the return of conventions later this year! Speaking to Richard has definitely piqued my interest in the area more and like he says the comics community is so open and welcoming. Perhaps when we have the all clear I will be able to dig further in person.


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