How to Care for Valuable Paper Collectibles

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If you collect fine art, antique books, or other paper collectibles like photographs, posters or postcards, you most likely have a lot of money invested in your collection. But paper is a very fragile material, and if damaged in any way, the value of those collectibles decreases dramatically. Keep your paper collectibles safe and happy so they will be around for many more generations to admire.

Follow these guidelines to make sure items stay safe, clean, undamaged and just as valuable as when you purchased them.

Keep Books and Papers out of Damp Environments

Never store items in the basement or garage, as these locations tend to be damp, humid, cold, and unpredictable in their conditions. Mold will easily take hold in your first editions given the slightest opportunity, and cause large dark blemishes on the pages known as foxing. There is no easy way to clean pages once foxed, so prevention is the best method.

Store Properly

Because of their fragile nature, paper items can easily be damaged by improper storage conditions. Keep books upright on strong shelves, never in boxes; pages and covers bend and warp if sitting on their spines or if jumbled up against books and items of different sizes. Posters and prints should be kept flat, preferably in protective folders or portfolios, never upright in case their edges bend or tear. Items should not be stored in cardboard boxes, as cardboard is highly acidic and damaging acids will leach into the paper causing it to become yellow and brittle.

Frame in Conservation Quality Materials

The safest way to store a print or other image on paper is by having it framed using conservation quality materials. A knowledgeable picture-framer will be able to help you choose matting and framing to match your taste, and direct you to those materials that are high quality and safe for valuables. Make sure you use acid-free matte board and foam core backer, and make sure the picture is hinged using acid-free Japanese paper tape. Using non-acid free materials can severely damage your piece causing it to become discolored and brittle – cardboard and scotch tape are the absolute worst materials to have touching your item for a long period of time. Make sure the frame is properly sealed so that dirt and insects don’t slip inside the backer.

Keep out of Direct Sunlight

Sunlight can be extremely damaging to sensitive materials,so never hang items close to a window where they would be in direct sun for even half an hour of the day. Even if non-glare or UV protective glass is uses, light can still damage the piece over time, and the chance of that is not worth the risk. Hang artwork well away from widows where it will be lighted either with electric lights or ambient reflected daylight. Colored inks, watercolor, gouache and even some acrylics can easily fade, and each colour will fade at a different rate, leaving the picture blotchy and discordant.

If you follow these procedures carefully, your paper collectibles should remain safe and intact for years to come, and continue to increase in monetary value and viewing pleasure.


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