Experienced Presser Brings Comics Back to Life
With the explosion of the comic book collectable market in recent years, many have turned to pressing as an option to maximize the value of their investments.
Gary Kendra, who has been pressing books for six years, explained that pressing offers the opportunity to restore some of the appeal of the book that might have been lost to age or mishandling.
Pressing represents non-restorative methods of improving the overall appearance of the comic. Defects that an experienced “presser” can repair include bends, folds, indentations and creases that do not “break the color” of the book. Oftentimes books that are wrinkled due to water damage can also be repaired.
“The fact I can take a book that someone cares about and is a real treasure or childhood memory and restore it to the condition that it was in when it came off of the shelf is why I spent time learning the craft,” he said.
Kendra’s interest in pressing occurred following the submission of one of his precious books to another presser.
“I had a Captain Marvel #33 (1974) 9.0 pressed by a guy in California and it came back a 9.6. After I got that book back from him I had to learn for myself.”
Kendra learned his techniques through researching traditional methods; however, it was through experimenting with comic books from different eras and of different paper types that he mastered his own unique technique.
“My own specific process developed as time went on and I adjusted it to my own liking,” he said. “It was a lot of trial and error.”
He admits the biggest challenge of pressing is managing customers’ expectations.
While he always works to improve the overall condition of the books that he receives, not every book ultimately benefits and not every book is worth the pressing fee unless customers wants them for their own collection.
“Grading companies have a specific criteria for scoring books,” he said. “Not every defect can be fixed.”
Chief among these defects is damage that breaks through the color and what are known in the industry as “spine ticks.”
Kendra explained that a “color break” is when the paper is so creased or bent that the ink is lost in the fibers of the paper when it is damaged.
Glued spine, thick stock covers and square-bound covers where the staples are too close to the edge of the book also prove problematic.
“There's always a case where I get lucky sometimes and can fix the unfixable,” he said.
Some of these “miracles” have come from his technique of dry cleaning books, which dramatically cleans up the white areas of comics that have become dingy or a little soiled.
“In some cases, I can even remove writing on books,” he said.
He says he gets as excited as his customers do when their books come back from grading companies with higher scores. (He also submits books to CGC and CBCS on customer’s behalf.)
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