Proper Archival Framing to Protect Your Autograph

Being an active collector of autographs and in the archival framing industry for over 25 years, I am amazed at what I see when I remove autographs from most frames.  Framers should know better when framing autographs versus cheap posters.

My purpose in writing this is to inform collectors on what they need to tell their framer when having their items framed.

Truth be told, the incremental costs of framing it correctly is very little.  Yes, my wholesale costs to purchase true museum quality materials is negligible.  Anyone telling you otherwise is either a poor businessman or not stating the facts.

First, in a lot of cases, I notice the frame shop will indicate that UV glass or plexiglass was used, when actually it wasn't.  Though this is blatant dishonesty, this indicates that you must fully trust the framer and instill how important the correct materials are for framing applications.

Secondly, most framers inherently assume "acid free" matboards marketed as such are good for autographs.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Without question, every single time I have removed an "acid free" mat from the autograph I purchased or to reframe for someone else, I notice a mat burn stain where the matting was placed.  Only insist on 100% cotton cellulose rag mats.  Only these mats and similar backing should only come in contact with the document or autograph.

I have found many times that MOST framers mount the autograph directly on foamcore.....BAD!!! Foamcore, even the "acid-free" type will break down and outgas overtime.  If your framer makes the case FOR foamcore, do not walk, but RUN to the door!
Secondly, tell the framer you want archival corrugated board behind the rag backing. AGAIN, NO FOAMCORE.........PERIOD!!!!  The best material for outer backing is archival grade coroplast.  This is completely inert and rigid for stability and a great buffer.
For glazing (this is either glass or acrylic), you do NOT want non glare glass (this is made with lead!!). You want either Tru Vue Conservation Clear UV filtering glass, Tru Vue Museum Glass, Evonik OP3 AR plexiglass or Tru Vue Optium Museum Acrylic. All too often, I have seen framers not follow this rule to save money.....for them. PLEASE INSIST on this!!!
Light is a huge factor in fading and discoloration; and, you must also keep your item OUT OF DIRECT matter the glazing.
For mounting, use either mylar corners, strips, or archival hinging.......NO commercial tapes, glues or other over the counter materials. Restrict the use in archival grade tapes. Even Japanese paper.  These can add moisture which may cause irreversible buckling.
Tell the framer, you want the top and bottom mat BOOKHINGED! (this means that the top mat with the opening is attached to the bottom mat via linen tape on the top edge). 9 out of 10 times the framer will apply double sticky tape to keep mats attached. Should the item slip within the matting, it may get stuck in the tape....big problem!
A few rules to follow: NEVER, EVER allow the document or photograph to be sandwiched better two pieces of glass, coming in contact with the glass! Condensation will bleed onto the item and harming the document.
Finally, instruct the framer you want the ENTIRE framing process completely REVERSIBLE in case you or someone else in the future may decide to remove the framing to get to the autograph.

Views: 8926

Tags: frames, framing, mounting, preservation

Comment by john reznikoff on September 17, 2010 at 7:27pm
I use Rick for almost all my framing. Just got 4 in today. There is no one better who services our hobby. The second best is miles away.
Comment by scott on September 18, 2010 at 10:23am
Do you think it is appropriate for the framed memorabilia I purchased from Rock Star Gallery to be held in place by tape placed directly on the back of the signed albums??? I wish that you could look at exactly how all this stuff was framed so that you could give your professional opinion of the job Michael Dunn did framing this stuff. I had to tear it all apart to have the items examined for authenticity. I was surprised by what I found.
Comment by scott on September 18, 2010 at 12:28pm
Thank you for your quick and informative response.
Comment by Rick Badwey on September 18, 2010 at 1:10pm
Scott, if you wish to contact me, my information can be found at Any kind of tape, with the exception of japanese tissue is bad for mounting. Even "archival" linen tape! Case in point: When I started in business back in 1989, a client wanted me to frame a bunch of worthless stock certificates for his bar area. At his request, I kept the framing very cheap. I applied framers tape (which is still advertised as ph neutral acid free). When I later took it apart, the tape removed with some difficulty, but left a sticky residue on the back. I learned many years ago NEVER apply anything but mylar corners, japanese tissue or other fully reversible mounts to items being framed.

I won't go into their reputation of the authenticity of the autographs they sell, but I will tell you that framed items that people buy from these memorabilia shops are almost NEVER archivally framed. They are selling a "package" that may look good on the surface, but the framing has a lot to be desired. Over the years, I have removed some of these framing jobs at the request of the clients to fix or adjust an item, only to find issues within the frame which have compromised the article being framed. In some cases, I have evidenced screws being driven into record albums to hold them in place, which obviously decreases the value.
Comment by Rick Badwey on September 18, 2010 at 1:10pm
Sure Scott
Comment by Rich on February 17, 2014 at 9:29am

A few months back, I brought a framed autograph I'd purchased years earlier (that turned out to be a forgery) to a local framer so that they could replaced the forgery photo with an authentic one.  The photo had originally been framed at Hobby Lobby.  The place I brought it to for the reframing had been in business and run by the same family for a century.  While they re-used the frame, the new photo received a new matting.  They included the original photo in a sleeve and gave it to me when I picked up the item later.  I was shocked to see that Hobby lobby had taped the original photo to the matte.   Good thing it was a forgery.

Comment by Rick Badwey on February 17, 2014 at 9:38am

True.  Most frame shops should disclose how things are mounted and the materials used, if you can trust them.  I have seen too many autographs get ruined from improper framing.  This is why most collectors avoid framing.

Trust and knowledge are key components of preservation framing

Comment by michelle on February 21, 2014 at 10:16pm

Hi what an interesting & informative blog.  I am interested in purchasing a poster that  says it has been mounted onto foamcore.  I'm assuming after reading this excellent bog that this could cause potential problems  .  Does foamcore have a  different name in England?   Thanks for writing such useful article 

Comment by Rick Badwey on February 22, 2014 at 5:01am

Avoid purchasing fine art or autographs mounted on backing board that cannot be easily removed.  Depending on the backing and the adhesive used for mounting, acids in either can penetrate through the poster over time.  Of course, this depends on exposure to light, heat and humidity which will accelerate the process reacting to the acids.

Plus these boards, regardless of description, out gas over time to pollute the art.  This will alter the appearance subtly over time. 

This is why your so called "acid free" mat boards will discolor over time. Reaction to acids cause them to "stir up" and bleed from the matting or backing.

I am sure foam core goes by the same name in the UK.  

Comment by SuspiciousMatt on March 10, 2014 at 3:28am

I have a question about composed frames (picture+autograph beside)

For exemple a composition like this (from internet) makes me wonder:

To cover a document signed with a paper with a "small window" that let see the only signature is not dangerous? I think this could fade the squared area around the sign while the rest of the document retains the original colors.. I think that after few years the document could be ruined by an irregular wear color.. What do you think? Thank you


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