SWAU Guide to Poster Collecting- Part 1
The following is Part 1 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 shipping and storing your posters, and which are the best to get signed.
POSTERS! You love them, you collect them, you get them signed. Let's talk posters...storage, shipping, framing, and the ever-present mystery of linen-backing.
Shipping: In my opinion, all posters should be shipped wrapped in acid-free brown paper and double-tubed. I have shipped hundreds of posters in my life, and the reason I've never had a single one damaged is this method. If the poster is especially valuable or being shipped overseas, I use 3” PVC pipe. Standard tube ends snap right in, and no matter how much the USPS tries to crush your item, it will not happen. Some people say PVC causes hang-ups in shipping. I've never had any issues, but minor customs delays are not worth major headaches. Why the paper wrap, you ask? Because no matter how carefully you pack the ends of a poster, you can crush it or cause edge wear. Paper takes that damage for you and keeps the poster stationary during shipping.
Storage: Most poster collectors would recommend two methods...tubes or flat storage. I personally do not recommend tubes. Damage and disintegration (especially to mylar) can occur, and no one wants a giant closet full of tubes that they are constantly digging through. They take up space and are hard to inventory.
I have a Baroque Portfolio for 27 x 41 posters, and it's changed my life. You can keep all of your posters stored in one place, flat, against acid free backing, and the whole unit slides conveniently under the bed. If you want to admire your posters, simply flip through like a giant Itoya. The large one allows you to store all size posters as well. This unit costs just under $200 on their website and is totally worth it. Now...in all honesty...I have not been brave enough to put my really valuable posters in this thing, nor do I recommend posters that are already linen-backed. For those, I use a flat box, with acid free paper in-between. These units can be purchased inexpensively on online. As a bit of a life hack, you can purchase big pieces of acid free mat for framing at any craft store and use those in-between your posters instead of the paper. They are heavier and keep your items flatter. I also have stored linen-backed posters in wide tubes, minimum of 5" wide, but only temporarily. Tubes are for temporary storage and flat storage is for long term. As an example, compare it to keeping an autograph in a toploader vs. an Itoya. It’s okay for a minute, but not recommended for long term storage.
See below for examples of Baroque Portfolios
What kind of posters are best for signing? One sheets are the go to for signing, I personally love Australian Daybills because they are easy to ship and the size makes them easy to display. I do NOT recommend High Gloss posters or Mylar posters (Mylar is plastic). They will not hold signatures well or long term. The signatures will easily scratch, smear, or be rubbed off. You can prep the signing area of some high gloss posters with baby powder or gently with an eraser to help the signature adhere better, but this is not for beginners. Ask someone familiar with the process to walk you through it.
Original vs. Reproduction? This is one of the great debates of signed poster collectors, but in my opinion, the numbers don’t lie. Original Star Wars posters are expensive and notoriously printed on crappy paper. They were printed quickly and cheaply. They do not hold up well being shipped, dragged in and out of cons, and constantly rolled and unrolled/folded and unfolded. The minute someone signs your poster, the value is no longer in the poster, but the signatures. Having an original poster signed adds no value. Why not get that image you’re craving on a more modern poster that is going to hold up better and cost a fraction of the original? Autographs are expensive, too, save that extra money for the signatures.
Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of our poster-focused series, where we take a deep dive to look at linen-backing- is it worth it, what does it really do, and what everyone needs to know!