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- Australia Day Movie Poster Auction
- LINEN BACKING MOVIE POSTERS – Wallpaper Paste or Wheat Paste?
- Linen Backed Movie Posters – a word of Warning
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Linen Backed Movie Posters – a word of Warning
I have a large collection of linen backed Movie Posters. Linen Backing has always been the generally accepted way of restoring movie posters but there can be significant risks of deterioration that collectors need to be aware of.
Collecting of Movie Posters is a fairly young hobby. Over the years the major auction houses have often encouraged consignors to have posters linen backed prior to them placed in auctions. Linen backing became very popular amongst collectors. Many would have posters in mint condition backed purely because they looked more impressive on linen.
One thing that always concerned me was how linen backed posters would survive over time, particularly when there had been considerable restoration using paint, pencil work, etc. There have been many restorers over the years and the craft has been learned and modified through trial and error, but not always with any scientific expertise.
It is generally accepted that linen backing is reversible. This is partially true but the process of removing a poster from linen and re backing it can be very time consuming and fraught with danger when there has been extensive prior restoration. The process can be very costly and not always produce the desired result.
I am now finding that some posters that were backed years ago are developing significant problems. Back in the 90s I had a number of posters in my personal collection backed by a well known restorer. They looked fantastic after being backed and I stored them with the rest of my collection in a controlled dry environment.
Over the years, I noticed that faint spots were developing around the border areas and also on the back of the linen. The spots were not unlike foxing marks that you often see on old books. I have had hundreds of posters linen backed over the years, many of which were backed by different restorers. They are all stored in the same place but the faint spots were only evident on the posters that had been backed by one restorer.
It is now more than ten years since the posters were backed. The spots have gradually developed more noticeably on the posters and I am now considering having them all rebacked. A number of the posters are for rarely seen, highly sought after titles that should be very valuable under normal circumstances. The current value of the posters has significantly diminished because no one would want to buy a poster with foxing issues unless they could pick it up very cheaply. If they did purchase the poster they would probably look at having it rebacked.
In a recent major auction, I noticed that many linen backed posters were being sold with the following description “at some point after it was backed, it acquired some faint brown dot stains around the edges, mostly in the excess paper, but slightly in the borders of the poster.” As always, the seller of the posters is making the defects very clear to his customers so the buyer knows that the poster has issues. However, the thing that concerns me is that this auction highlights that there are many more linen backed movie posters out there that have developed these similar issues.
A theory on what causes foxing on linen backed movie posters
I have a theory about why the foxing marks are developing. Years ago, a linen backer sold a video which detailed the process of linen backing. He filmed the basic steps and materials that are used in a fairly simplistic way. For various reasons, the restorer was ridiculed on discussion boards. One of the main criticisms was that he advocated the use of Wallpaper paste to secure the poster to the Masa Paper and then to the linen.
The criticism came primarily from other dealers who were horrified that wallpaper paste could be used for a conservation process. They thought that the paste should be mixed/manufactured by the restorer using water soluble wheat paste. Well, the fact is that most of the highly respected linen backers have ALWAYS used Wallpaper paste.
When you think about it, it makes sense to use a paste that has been developed over time by an industry that is far larger that the movie poster restoration business. Wallpaper paste is manufactured professionally using certain chemicals that will inhibit mould and foxing but not interfere with the integrity of the poster.
The wheat paste that some restorers mixed themselves had no scientific basis and actually ATTRACTS issues like foxing. I believe that the paste that they mix has resulted in long term problems despite the best intentions of the linen backers.
I am convinced by my own personal experience and evidence, having stored posters in the same place for a similar length of time. They were backed by different restorers but the only ones to develop the foxing issues had been backed by the restorer who mixed his own paste.
Of course, it is impossible to definitively prove why the posters have deteriorated and I have no intention of naming the linen backer/s concerned. Linen backed movie posters will be subject to mould issues and insect damage if not stored in a cool dry place. I have seen horrific damage to linen backed posters that had been stored in a high humidity climate. When issues arise, the linen backer will usually say that the problems have occurred because of poor storage.
There is usually no guarantee provided when you have posters linen backed. In my case, the linen backer/s is aware of the foxing marks on all of the posters but it has taken so long for them to develop that there is no way they would take any responsibility.
However, I am left with many backed movie posters that have been basically ruined over time. They will cost a small fortune to reback but are worthless in their present form. I am now thinking that I should have left them “as is”.
I will still get movie posters linen backed but I will only use restorers I trust. I have to wonder how many others will find that their linen backed movie posters deteriorate over time.