Protect your collection

on Saturday, 15 January 2011. Posted in Collecting and Protecting autographs

basic rules of protecting your collection

It is such a shame to see the hard work of many collectors go to waste because they did not observe some of the most basic rules of protecting their collections.

Here are some tips that will help to protect your collection from irreversable damage:

  • Keep your collection in the dark in a cool dry place. Heat and humidity contribute to the destruction of paper, especially paper containing acid from wood pulp. Light fades many inks (especially felt-tip) and browns the paper.
  • Do not store autographs in a fireproof safe. The humidity level in the safe is high in order to protect documents in a fire. Unfortunatelly that level is too high, and it will eventually damage your autographs.
  • Store autographs only in Mylar “D” polyester or cellulose acetate folders, and put them in an archival acid-free box. Never use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) folders. They can be identified by their strong “plastic” odor. Use only acid-free paper insert; the black paper inserts included with some sheet protectors are highly acidic and will destroy your autographs.
  • Avoid repairing paper will cellophane (“Scotch”) or masking tape. The adhesive will damage and eventually destroy the paper. If a repair is necessary, use only archival paper mending tissue. Better yet, seek expert help
  • Remove paper clips and staples from multipage documents, because they cause rust stains.
  • You can usually remove old paper documents glued down to album pages by soaking them in lukewarm water, but don’t use this method on vellum or parchment documents, documents written in aniline ink, or modern documents
  • Avoid framing valuable autographs. But if you insists on framing an autograph, use only acid-free matting materials and UF3 Plexiglas or museum glass. The autograph should never be pasted or taped down in any way. Mylar “D” or other acid-free mounting corners should be used to keep the item from shifting in the frame
  • Display them away from direct sunlight, fluorescent lighting, and sources of heat (such as radiators)


Even if you observe the above preauctions your collection is still vulnerable to other risks, such as theft, fire, storms, and other acts of God. Your homeowner’S insurance sets a special limit (usually $1000) on the amount it will pay for a loss insolving manuscripts. However, you can increase this limit by getting a “fine art rider.” Invoices or an appraisal is generally required to set the value of the items insured under a fine arts rider.

Bob Erickson (IADA)

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