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How do I Care for Antique Posters?

Henry Gaudet
Henry Gaudet

Without proper care, your antique posters will lose value, eventually becoming little more than colorful scrap paper. Your antique posters might become damaged by creasing or folding, sunlight, humidity, moisture, spills and acid. Whether stored or displayed, your posters will need protection to keep their value and beauty. You can care for antique posters by applying alkaline-based solutions to them, by using acid-free products for things such as mounting and framing, by displaying them in frames with ultraviolet-filtered glass and away from direct sunlight and by storing them properly in a dry place.

Antique posters were never made with durability in mind. They were intended to be disposable advertisements, and they typically were made with thin, low grade paper, most of it highly acidic. Time, effort and expense will be required to overcome these limitations and preserve your posters.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Alkaline-based solutions are available for treating antique posters and similar documents. These solutions are available either as sprays or liquids to be brushed onto the surface. Applying these solutions can help to reduce the effects of acid in the paper.

You can reduce the risk of tears to your posters by adhering them to acid-free linen. For the best results, this should be done by a professional. Simply gluing the poster to a stiff backing can cause damage rather than prevent damage, and it is likely to devalue the poster.

Folding is, of course, a sure fire way of causing damage to your posters. If you do not intend to display your antique posters, they should be stored properly to preserve their beauty and value. If storage space is an issue, posters can be rolled and stored in acid-free tubes in a dry room. For collectors who prefer to store posters flat, acid-free sleeves are available. Keep the posters in a dark area to minimize fading.

If you prefer to display your antique posters, framing is the best option. Use ultraviolet-filtered glass to shield the poster from fading, and do not display the poster in direct sunlight. Acid-free backing and mounting are recommended, and if you decide to display antique posters without matting, a molding should be used instead to provide a gap between the poster and the glass.

Some experts offer retouching services to restore damaged posters. Creases can be concealed with paint, and holes can be filled in or patched. Opinions are divided on the value of restoration. Some people oppose making any deliberate changes, maintaining that any alteration, even ones intended to make the poster appear new, reduce the poster’s value, but other collectors are more interested in making their collections look as good as possible. Any restoration work should be disclosed to potential buyers before any transactions are completed.

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