SWAU Guide to Poster Collecting- Part 2
The following is Part 2 of a series of articles written by SWAU moderator Annie Lavinsky. Annie is a renowned poster collector and one of the experts on poster collecting in the SWAU circles. This week we will look at linen-backing your posters- what to know, how to do it safely, and how it affects value. Read Part 1 of the guide HERE.
The ever intriguing mystery of linen-backing…
What is linen-backing? When do you need it? When do you do it? Is it reversible? Does it affect the value? How much does it cost? What are some good tips when I’m ready to frame? All good questions. Here are some answers.
What is linen-backing?
Linen-backing is a conservation method used to mount and preserve vintage posters to quality linen canvas so they can be displayed or framed without compromising value. Linen-backing holds the poster flat and smooth allowing it to be easily handled, stored or framed. Linen-backing can repair handling wear up to paper loss and water damage.
When do you need it? For signed posters, the first step is to complete your project. All those actors signing and handling your poster, the shipping back in forth, dragging it in and out of cons, no matter how you cut it your poster will have taken some damage. A magic paper guy (or gal) can turn that poster into a masterpiece ready to frame and display. But only AFTER YOU ARE DONE. Linen-backing a poster while you are still getting signatures is unnecessary and it causes hassle. They are harder/more expensive to ship and harder to haul around. Wait till the end.
When your project is done, ask yourself, do you want to display it? If the answer is yes, linen-backing. I do not recommend framing any poster without linen-backing. Even the best framer, that can “float” your image, will tell you that eventually that poster will wave. Depending on your climate, it can be one year to twenty, but eventually it will wave. Then, your poster will need linen-backing, so why delay a step you will eventually need anyway? Linen-backing Formula #1: Framing = Needs linen-backing.
Maybe you aren’t ready to display your project, but you want your finished, signed poster to look perfect and be protected. Most people want the folds of a folded/tri-folded poster removed. All those tiny tears and blemishes erased. The right paper person can make a folded poster look absolutely perfect. All of those times you damaged the edges or Peter Mayhew leaned on your poster will be a thing of the past. Personally, I just want to protect my investment. Linen-backing Formula #2: Perfection = Needs Linen-backing.
Now, if neither of those things matter to you, feel free to slide that finished project into flat storage and be happy. Just be sure to follow the aforementioned storage advice.
Is it reversible? Yes. If it’s done correctly, linen-backing can be reversed, but not cheaply. Make sure you hire a reputable Restoration Company to do the work. Most linen-backing is only reversed if the item is damaged and needs repair.
Does it affect value? No, it doesn't. One more time for the people in the back…NO, IT DOESN’T. Remember when I said most original posters are printed on crap paper? Printed cheaply? Linen-backing brings posters to a level of perfection that wasn’t present even in the original. Have you ever paid less for an item that looks perfect? Yeah, me neither.
Now, there are purists out there who only collect original posters in original condition and would look snidely down their nose at a linen-backed poster. It’s safe to say they are not going to be getting any of their mint, original posters signed, so none of this applies. But I want to be clear, I’ve collected Star Wars posters since I was a little girl and have many in my collection that are appraised at $10,000 or more. Some are linen backed and it did not lower the value. It is widely accepted, even industry standard, that linen-backing a poster is a standard practice and even increases the value of a piece.
If the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pritzker Military Library, The Yale Center for British Art, The Chicago History Museum, The Polish Museum of America, The Library of Congress, and the Tibbals Learning Center of the Ringling Museum has priceless works of art linen backed, I’m pretty sure the value of your signed poster will be fine.
How much does it cost? A fair price range for Linen-backing is $200 to $400 per poster, but it depends on size and damage. I've heard amazing things about Studio C and Lumieres in California. I personally use Vince Newkirk of Chicago Poster Restoration. I know of some amazing restoration companies in Canada, New York, Houston…moral of the story, there is one near you. A good paper person is worth their weight in beskar as far as I'm concerned. Take your time finding the right company. Be particular, ask for recommendations, read reviews, and find the company that works the best for you. And remember, you get what you pay for. Price is always a consideration, but do not pick a company for price alone. You will regret it.
Be sure to check back next week for Part 3 of our poster-focused series, where we finish the series and disuss framing your posters properly!