Protecting Your Investment: The Real Story Behind Conservation Framing
By Sue Heim
Sue is owner of hollywoodposterframes.com
Over the past several years, antique paper collecting, especially movie posters, has become one of the hottest investment opportunities in the market. However, for most of us who collect because we love the movies, the fact that our poster collections have increased in value, is an added bonus. Displaying our collections can be costly and if not done properly can damage the posters. A lot of information has been disseminated to collectors on how best to frame their movie posters, some beneficial and accurate, but most erroneous. In all fairness to retail frame shops, many are not experienced in framing museum quality pieces. Others, however, tell customers they need frame components that are truly unnecessary to increase the price of the overall frame job. Often, they play on the customer’s lack of knowledge and desire to preserve their posters by suggesting that by adding this component or that component they will preserve and even increase the value of their poster. There is generally some truth to the suggestions but remember, these are posters, not original works of art and they do not need to be framed in gold to preserve the archival integrity for many lifetimes. I receive phone calls, emails and letters daily from customers all over the country telling me that they were told they had to do this or that in the framing to preserve their poster often telling them if they did not follow the suggestions, the framing establishment could not be responsible if the poster deteriorated. Well, this is enough to make any serious collector submit to consumer blackmail since for most of us our poster collections are one of the most important things we own and treasure. So in an attempt to clear up some misconceptions and hopefully educate the collector, here are some tips on framing.
First of all, the actual frame you choose has little, if any, impact on the preservation of the poster. The frame is, for the most part, purely aesthetic. Now this is assuming that you are choosing custom frame quality materials specifically designed for picture framing. If someone tears the side of a barn off and makes a frame for you, it may look great, but it might also have some friendly little termites living in it.
The most important components of the frame job is what’s in front of the poster and what is behind the poster. Let’s begin with what’s in front. First off, glass is a no-no! Not only does it break, but it is loaded with impurities and absorbs heat and anything else that is floating around in the air, thus creating an environment for fading and decay. Glass has one other very negative aspect: moisture entrapment. Framers often recommend spacers, but then do not dissuade customers from using glass. Also, even if you use spacers, movie posters are so large that they often touch the glass anyway nearer the center, thus defeating the purpose. Framers often recommend conservation glass, which does have some archival qualities except for one thing, it still breaks. Conservation glass is also extremely expensive since it is very much a specialty product. Glass, of any kind, is also extremely heavy for a piece the size of a movie poster. When glass breaks it can shatter or just have a clean break in half. Either way, the likelihood is moderate to severe damage to your poster. Often times with a such a large piece of glass, when it breaks, the top half of the glass slides behind the bottom half and scrapes the face of the poster which is extremely difficult to repair. Thus, plexiglass is the recommended covering for your movie poster. I have had customers who say they don’t like the look of plexiglass, that it scratches, turns yellow or gets an opaque film over it with time. This is not high grade plexiglass. Just as some people call all tissues Kleenex, many people call all plastics, plexiglass and it is not. There are Lucite, styrene, low grade acrylics and many other forms of plastic sheeting, most of which have no archival qualities and least of all have no UV filtering which is the most important component of plexiglass for movie poster preservation purposes. Plexiglass also does not absorb dirt and grime from the air since typically it has been polished with an anti-static cream before it is installed in the frame and it actually repels dirt and dust and very rarely even needs cleaning or repolishing. Just an added note, if you currently have something framed in your home in plexiglass or any form of plastic, never use any ammonia based cleaner on it as the chemical reaction with the plastic is what causes clouding. One of the other complaints I hear about plexiglass is that it warps and gives the poster a distorted look. Again, this is typical of the lower grades of plastics that are very thin and don’t lay flat in the frame. A good piece of plexiglass should be the same thickness as glass, about one eighth of an inch thick. One other note regarding the differences between glass and plexiglass that definitely is not crucial to the preservation of the poster, is that glass has a green tint to it and a good grade of plexiglass is crystal clear. Lower grades of plastics have been made with inferior materials and are not acid-free. Remember, the most important element of framing anything you want to preserve is that it be framed in an acid-free environment. Plexiglass with extremely high levels of UV protection often has a yellow tint to it and this type of plexiglass would be used on extremely valuable items and perhaps items that are hung near high exposure areas. Plexiglass is available in clear and non-glare. For many years I had customers who preferred a non-glare covering over their artwork. Non-glare glass was available, but there are inherent problems with this product. By nature of it’s design, non-glare glass is glass that has been acid etched on one side to achieve the non-glare effect. When placed over the artwork, it has a tendency to dissipate color and take the art slightly out of focus, especially if you are using a mat over your artwork, and of course, most importantly, it still breaks. A few years back, non-glare plexiglass became available that was as near true-view perfect as you can get, while still maintaining the high quality of UV. I immediately switched all of my posters that hung in highly lit areas into this non-glare plexiglass product and have been thrilled with the look ever since. Whichever type of plexiglass you choose, as long as you select high quality material with UV filtering, you will be helping to preserve the integrity of your own collectables.
The last component and probably the most important is the backing. Whether your poster is linen-backed or not, it is still important never to put a non acid-free product behind your it. Movie poster paper is very absorbent and will absorb the acid out of cardboard backings very quickly and you will be left with a yellowing and brittle poster. Many people, including picture framers, believe that foamcore is the best product to use as backing for valuable items. However, regular foamcore, which is what most people use, is not acid-free. They assume because it is white in color it must be acid-free. IT IS NOT. I have had customers bring me very valuable movie posters that had been framed elsewhere, believing they had paid for a museum quality frame job, and when we removed the foamcore behind the poster it began to disintegrate in our hands. In addition, the side of the foamcore that faced the poster was yellowing. Remember, most movie poster paper is not acid-free either, so in order to stop it from yellowing and disintegrating away, it must be housed in an acid-free environment. There are several companies that make an acid-free foamcore or artboard. One of the best is the Artcare Archival System by Bainbridge. Artcare is the only foamboard that actively protects artwork from the ravages of pollution, paper degradation and the by products of the artwork’s own aging. It traps and actually neutralizes harmful pollutants that cause fading, discoloration and damage. For my customers who frame a $100 movie poster to a $100,000 movie poster, this product preserves their condition from the day they are put in the frame. The amazing thing is, this acid-free foamboard only costs a few dollars more than the plain non acid-free foamcore, but many framers cut corners and assume the customer will never know.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to frame your movie posters in an archival way for display. You also don’t have to fall prey to custom frame shops where the only thing that’s free is expensive advice.
We are a wholesale picture framer, located in the heart of Hollywood. Each month we do hundreds of frames for the studios: film, television and recording. We do picture framing for the sets of some of your favorite film and t.v. shows, including their actors and crew members. In addition, the Motion Picture Academy, the television academy, the Motion Picture Producers Guild and many more studio affiliates have our company supply the quality custom frames needed for the valuable movie memorabilia they display. More importantly, our company is owned and operated by two movie poster collectors who understand the framing dilemma faced by most collectors.
For over 16 years, we have framed thousands of movie posters for most of the top collectors in the country. Word of mouth has made us the number one choice of studios and collectors alike. Please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions regarding movie posters and framing. My website is at www.hollywoodpostereframes.com
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Last read on 10/8/2015 12:43:30 PM