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FRAMING QUESTIONS
AND ANSWERS
By Sue Heim

 

Dear Fellow Collector,

Every day I receive phone calls and emails from many of you all over the country. Many are from newer collectors that have come into the hobby at a time when so much conflicting information is out there, they don't know what to believe. Many seasoned collectors are just now dealing with the archival framing issue, as they have watched the price of their posters go up dramatically in the last few years. Wanting to protect and preserve their movie poster investment, all collectors are re-evaluating posters they have already had framed or are about to frame. As a wholesale picture framer and a movie poster collector myself, I deal with these issues daily. Here are some of the questions most frequently asked of me regarding framing of movie posters along with answers and suggestions to assist you.

PLEASE REMEMBER, MY ANSWERS ARE BASED ON MY OWN EXPERIENCES IN FRAMING ORIGINAL MOVIE POSTERS FOR 25 YEARS. OTHER FRAMERS MAY TELL YOU DIFFERENT. MY BEST ADVICE IS TO USE YOUR OWN COMMON SENSE.


Why does it cost so much to frame a movie poster?

This is the most commonly asked question of me. My answer is that it doesn't have to. You can frame a movie poster in quality materials without paying an arm and a leg. Having said that, I explain that some retail frame shops work on a large markup. Obviously, many retail stores have a large overhead and all that has to be built into the cost of your frame. In addition, many retail frame shops are not use to framing collectible movie posters. To them, it is nothing more than an oversize poster and often gets framed accordingly. This is where we run into problems. I have people who call me everyday to say, they paid $250 and up to frame a one sheet and it's not even in archival materials. Often the framer had glued their poster to cardboard, trimmed the poster down to fit some standard size materials on hand, or the customer was told they had to use spacers and that would be about $50-$75 more. I have had customers tell me of frame shops they went to where they were told if they did not frame their poster in the manner suggested, the establishment could not be responsible for future damage to the poster. Well that's enough to scare any collector. In my opinion, that is a bit of consumer blackmail at work. Framing anything is a basic exercise. As long as you use high quality, acid free materials, you don't have to frame your movie poster in solid gold to protect it. Obviously, there is a way that we at www.hollywoodposterframes.com can sell a totally archival, custom cut frame for a one sheet, whether linenbacked or not, for $79. Remember, though, I am selling it to you for wholesale cost. I have retail shops who buy these frames from me and mark them up 3-4 times before they sell them in their stores. Because I do the framing for the studio's here in Los Angeles and ship custom frames for movie posters to customers all over the country, I buy very large quantities of materials. The UV filtered plexiglass is the most expensive component in the frame job. Many retail frame stores don't even carry UV filtered plexiglass and have to special order it when needed. Special orders and small quantity means high price. If you pick up a phone in your own area and call a retail frame store or a plexiglass dealer and ask how much it would cost for a 27"x41" piece of 1/8" UV filtered plexiglass, the prices will start at about $150 per piece. It's the same with archival backing materials. Once the frame store, who orders very small quantities of these archival materials, adds their markup to those materials, the price of your frame job just went through the roof. We at www.hollywoodposterframes.com make the archival framing available to you at wholesale, because as collectors ourselves, that leaves more money available to buy another movie poster!!


What is necessary in a frame to protect my movie poster?

The most important components in framing your movie posters to protect them and preserve their longevity are what's in front of the poster and what's behind the poster. The frame itself is mostly for aesthetics and has little, if any, bearing on the preservation of your poster. In my opinion, glass, whether regular or conservation, is not recommended for value appreciating items. Glass can break and for that reason alone, it should not be used. Moreso, regular glass has no conservation aspects at all. Regular glass accelerates fading having no UV or light filtering agents. While conservation glass does implement those filters, it is extremely costly and it can still break. Remember, the most common size movie poster collected is still the one sheet and at 27x41 or 27x40, it is large and the risk of glass breakage is high. Also, the weight factor in glass adds to the risk. I see it all the time as customers bring in movie posters framed in glass that have fallen. Usually glass breaks from one corner to the opposite corner and often, due to the weight, the top half of the broken glass slides behind the bottom half and scrapes the face of the poster. Therefore, a high grade acrylic, preferably a UV filtered plexiglass is recommended. A good grade of this type of plexiglass should be about 1/8" thick. Another problem with glass is moisture entrapment. I get movie posters in all the time that have gotten moisture inside the frame and they are now stuck to the glass. Unfortunately, they have to be scraped off the glass and restored. I have dealt with UV filtered plexiglass for over twenty years and have never had a piece stick to it. Archival, 100% acid free backing board should be placed behind your movie poster, whether linenbacked or not. If you use ¼" archival foamcore, not regular white foamcore which is not 100% acid free, you not only have an acid free environment, but the rigidity to keep your poster as flat as possible. The Archival Frame and Deluxe Frame available for wholesale on my website, www.hollywoodposterframes.com includes all the components you would need to frame and display your collectible movie posters.


Should I use spacers?

If you are using high quality acrylic or UV filtered plexiglass, there is no need to use spacers. In fact with most items as large as movie posters, they are ineffective. Spacers are typically small acrylic rods that sit out on the perimeter of your glass or plexiglass, in theory, to hold the glass or plexiglass above the media. However, if you look closely, the only place the spacers are holding the glass or plexiglass above the poster is out on the perimeter. In actuality, the glass or plexiglass is touching the poster in most of the middle of it. Since we don't typically mount movie posters to boards anymore, when we install them in a frame, it is usually just the poster or the linenbacked poster. One of the downsides of spacers in this situation, is that if there is any space in front of the poster, the paper, whether linenbacked or not, will move forward into that space, usually causing major rippling and buckling. Paper has a memory and often that buckling is permanent, so that if you remove the buckled poster from the frame, you have to have it linenbacked or re-linenbacked to get it to be flat again.


Can I use corrugated cardboard behind my movie poster?

No. You shouldn't put regular corrugated cardboard behind anything in a frame that you care about. Standard cardboard, whether corrugated or not, is basically junk paper. It is loaded with acid and is the fastest way to paper decay. Not only does it turn your poster yellow, it depletes the moisture in your paper that gave it any suppleness it might have and cause the paper to become brittle and break and tear easily. I have taken framed posters apart to reframe that had cardboard behind them. Not only had they turned yellow, but the corrugation lines of the cardboard were now on the back of the poster. Older vintage posters were printed on flat paper stock which is much more absorbent than the glossy stock used for current movie posters. They will absorb the acid from the cardboard faster than anything and since it is typically the vintage posters that are more valuable, standard cardboard would not be a viable product. Acid free cardboard is available, but my recommendation is acid free foamcore, preferably Artcare conservation foam board.


Why can't I buy a ready made frame for my movie poster at my local Walmart?

Movie posters are not standard sizes in the readymade framing world. Readymade frames are typically based on photographic sizes. However, with movie poster collecting becoming so popular over the last few years, there are a few larger chain stores and even a couple of internet sites that offer one sheet sized frames, mostly for current 27x40 movie posters. However, these are mass produced and usually made of inferior products for display only, not for protecting your posters from harmful acid decay. At www.hollywoodposterframes.com we sell an Economy Frame in a one sheet size for $49 wholesale, which includes the UV filtered plexiglass and ¼" white foamcore and a custom quality aluminum frame available in several colors. Since we custom cut every frame, we have each customer hand measure the poster they will be installing in the frame before we cut it. That way if you have an odd poster, for example a reproduction movie poster, that is under 27x41, we cut it to it's actual size so your poster fits perfectly. No having to center the poster in the frame or uneven borders showing.


Do all my frames need to match?

That is a question only you can answer. For most of my studio accounts and many of my collectors across the country, satin black is the most popularly ordered color. Many of my customers feel the need for consistency, since the posters themselves are already somewhat busy. However, I do have many collectors who frame according to the poster itself. For instance, many of my customers who collect western posters use the satin bronze color for their frame of choice.


Is a wood frame better than a metal frame?

The frame is strictly for looks. A metal frame is less expensive than a wood frame, assuming you are using custom materials. Also, when framing a large movie poster, you can use a small metal frame, but if you choose wood, it must be wide enough to hold the weight and flexibility of the frame. A metal frame is assembled with an L-shaped metal corner, whereas, a wood frame is put together with glue and nails. So you can't frame a one sheet in a ¼" wood frame, but you can in a ¼" metal frame, and they still look great. In the end, it all boils down to the look and how much it costs to get it. Custom quality metal frames are much less expensive when you get up to that size of frame.


Do I frame a paperbacked or linenbacked poster differently?

No, not at all. Again, if your poster is sandwiched in between the plexiglass and the acid free archival backing, you are safe. Depending on the frame you choose, the poster is secured in the frame to reduce sagging from gravity. It is important, though, that the framer overcut the frame at least 1/8" bigger than the actual poster, whether linenbacked, paperbacked, or not. This is for a couple of reasons. I like to call it breathing room. Just as your front door swells up when it rains outside, so, too, does your movie poster paper/linen, which the humidity changes. The poster needs room to "breathe" or it can begin rippling or buckling in the frame. Some rippling is common just due to the fact that the poster is not mounted to a stiff board and has some pliability in the frame. However, if your frame is not overcut to accommodate poster changes, when the poster "breathes" it will have no space to move into and thus will buckle toward the middle of the poster. This can be a problem later as paper has a memory and sometimes the only way to get severe buckling out of a poster is to have is linenbacked. A linenbacked poster is not immune from this problem also, even though it has more substance than a non linenbacked poster. If it buckles or ripples too severely, often you have to have it re-linenbacked to get the poster to lay flat again.


How do I get rid of wrinkles from fold lines, etc?

If you are the type of collector that likes to have their posters lay perfectly flat in the frame and look like it just rolled off the press, you have no choice but to linenback and restore. However, linenbacking and restoration is a costly process and once again, our motto is to keep as much money available to buy more posters. There is a little gimmick I use to install folded movie posters in the frame. First off, I do a light reverse fold on the fold lines. You have, on a standard folded one sheet, 3 horizontal folds and 1 vertical fold. Just unfold the poster all the way and basically, lightly fold it backwards. Then roll it up for a day or two to about a 2-3 inch diameter roll. When you unroll it, the folds will have fallen out as much as they are ever going to but it makes for a nice display in the frame. This is a procedure that should be done before measuring for the size of the frame, also. Remember, tension in the paper has been released at the fold lines. When you flatten it out, it may now be larger than it's original non-folded size. This is very common when linenbacking movie posters. I have had 27"x41" movie posters sent to me to frame that upon linenbacking stretched out to as much as 28"x42" not counting the excess linen that is left around the border.


When should I linenback or paperback a poster?

This is another one of those questions that only you can make the decision on. There are reasons that we linenback or paperback a poster. Linenbacking is usually done because some sort of restoration is going to also be done to the poster. Generally, when a poster is linenbacked, the restorer also does a cleaning and deacidification process. The linenbacking or paperbacking process itself, lends a solid surface for restoration to be done. Fold lines, holes and even major paper loss can be restored. Often, just the cleaning process alone makes original colors in the poster come to life again. However, some collectors like the "weathered" look for their posters. They don't mind a bit of aging or a little fold separation here and there. Once your poster is in archival framing, any further decay is virtually stopped. Some customers have their current rolled movie posters linenbacked because they want them to look at perfect as possible in the frame. Some collectors feel that linenbacking devalues the poster. All is up for debate. Remember, linenbacking is an expensive venture. So, determine your own reasons for linenbacking. Also, with the rise in movie poster prices over the last 5-7 years and many more collectors coming into the hobby, there has been an incredible rise in the number of linenbackers available out there. As a collector myself, I can't emphasize enough how important your choice of linenbacker/restorer is. Even though I am somewhat partial to the framing end of my collection, being a conservation picture framer, I know as a collector, there is no one more important to the life of your movie posters than who you choose to linenback/restore them. Find out years of experience, get referrals, ask questions, shop around. Don't always go with the cheapest in this case. Talk to movie poster dealers of longstanding. Ask who they use. In many cases, these posters are worth thousands of dollars. I offer a service through my own company www.hollywoodposterframes.com for linenbacking/restoration on my own wholesale account. Remember, inform yourself the best you can by asking lots of questions and when in doubt, use your own common sense.

Can I trim off the excess linen from my poster before I frame it?

In the old days, linenbackers would often return your restored poster to you trimmed right to the edge of the original poster. In more recent years, many linenbackers leave a small amount of excess linen around the poster. This is done for several reasons. One is that when it is shipped back to you, if it moves around in the tube, the excess linen can take a bit of a bend instead of the poster. Also, since the canvas fabric can fray a bit on the edge, by leaving a little extra, you don't have the frayed fabric going into the poster. When handling the linenbacked poster you have a little excess linen to grab instead of the actual poster paper. I'm sure there are a few other reasons we could think of, but I think these are among the most important. When you go to frame the poster, if you are using a mat border, there is no reason to trim the excess off, because it will be sitting behind the mat and you won't see it. Which brings us to the reason for this question. Many collectors do not like to see the excess linen in the frame. Typically, it is not the same color as the actual movie poster paper and to some, it looks odd. Also, not all linenbackers leave an equal amount of excess linen but then tell customers never to trim the linen at all. Well, why would anyone frame a poster with uneven amounts of linen around the edges so that the poster would not be centered in the frame. This is another one of those "use your common sense" questions. For me personally and for a large contingency of my customers who prefer not to see the excess linen, when framing, I trim the linen down to about ¼" all the way around. That way, I have not trimmed right up to the edge of the poster and the frame lip on most frames will cover that ¼" of excess linen and I will never see it. It is a personal choice. I have a few customers who believe that trimming down the excess linen devalues the posters. My "common sense" tells me since the linen was not part of the original poster, how can it devalue the poster. Also, I know from having been in this hobby for 30 years that if you have a valuable movie poster to sell, no one is going to not buy it because there is only 1/4" of excess linen around the edges. If that were true, then all those posters that were linenbacked years before leaving excess linen was done, would be of lesser value. I don't believe that to be the case. I still buy posters today that were trimmed right up to the edge of the paper. Again, this is one of those topics debated frequently.


Should I mount my poster to a board before framing?

It is commonly felt that mounting a movie poster to a mounting board or matboard or such, devalues the movie poster. Because of this commonly accepted rule of thumb in the hobby, it is best not to mount your posters to insure the highest value for future sale or trade. However, it must be noted, that with high quality materials that are available today, a poster could be mounted and as long as acid free board and water based adhesives were used, the mounting process is reversible. I say this to collectors who have posters that will probably never be worth much money. They don't want to go to the expense of linenbacking, but they want their poster to lay perfectly flat in the frame. Therefore it is important to consider than under certain circumstances, with the correct materials mounting a poster can be reversed at a later date if the value of the poster increased or there was a future desire to linenback the poster. Reversing a mounted poster is something that can be done by most linenbacker/restorers.


What if I want to swap out my posters in the frames?

The frames I build for my company www.hollywoodposterframes.com are specifically made for just that purpose. Many of my studio accounts have to switch out posters all the time as new movies are coming out and there is only so much wall space. This is a common situation with many movie poster collectors also. When you consider the frame you will choose to display your posters, this is something you might want to consider and that is the ease of swapping out posters in the frame.

How do I get rid of glare on my framing?

Since we have already talked about glass as not being recommended in movie poster framing, we can now address the types of acrylics and plexiglass that is available for your frame. Remember, you always want to choose a high quality acrylic of approximately 1/8" thickness. Plexiglass is available in clear and non-glare. For many years, I was not a big proponent of non-glare glass. This was because when you laid it on the poster, it gave a bit of a grey cast, dissipated color and took the poster slightly out of focus. This was the tradeoff, however, to get a non-glare product. A few years back, the company I buy my plexiglass from came out with a non-glare product that is actually true view, which means you don't get glare from the lighting in front of the frame and the poster looks just like it looks with no plexiglass in front of it. However, non-glare plexiglass costs more than regular clear plexiglass, whether UV filtered or not. I only suggest non-glare plexiglass when you are hanging your posters in an area with lots of direct lighting, say, from track lighting or high intensity lights pointing directly at the framed poster. Many of us are hanging framed movie posters in TV or theater rooms in our homes. Large screen TVs or screens give off a lot of light which cause high glare and reflections to the face of the framed movie posters. That is why, in todays market, many collectors only use the true view non-glare plexiglass for their movie posters.


What do I clean my plexiglass with?

First off, you never clean it with an ammonia based product which is highly abrasive. Usually, plexiglass has been polished when you get your frame job, so you can just save old t-shirt material and every so often give it a dust. If something were to get stuck on it, you could use a little water. Beyond that you can buy yourself a bottle of plastic of plexiglass cleaner in your local hardware store or art store. This cleaner works great on your t.v. and computer monitors also since it is typically an anti-static solution.


Can I frame my movie posters myself?

Yes, you certainly can. You can go to art stores, hardware stores, etc. and buy all the materials to do the framing yourself. But remember, the story of the retail framers who buy archival materials in small quantities and thus pay top dollar for them. A good part of my customer base are people that use to do just that, frame their posters themselves. Most of them could not afford the cost of the UV filtered plexiglass so they used glass, many to disasterous consequences. They bought pre-made metal sides that were only made as large as 40", so for their 41" posters they either folded back or trimmed off the extra inch to make it fit. I am constantly sending posters to the linenbacker to restore the extra inch that so many of my customers trimmed off when trying to fit their poster into a 40" frame leg. Because of the volume of materials I buy and the fact that I sell the framing for wholesale, you couldn't buy the materials and do it yourself for even close to the cost of a completely custom cut archival frame from my company. I encourage customers not to take my word for it, but to call around in their own hometowns and check for themselves. I have customers who buy archival frames from me who have previously bought from local retailers in their own areas. They tell the retail frame shop about us and they are told that for that low cost, it has to be a cheap plastic frame. When their frames arrive and they take them in for the local retailer to check out, the retailer is on the phone to me to inquire how I can make that frame in those archival materials for so low of a price. I usually tell him it is because I buy about 150+ 4'x8' sheets of UV filtered plexiglass a month. That's the plain and simple of it, it is all about quantity pricing. We can even send you unassembled frames for larger posters, such as 3 sheet, 40x60s, and international posters.


I hope I have answered many of the questions that you are faced with when caring for and framing your movie poster collection. I am always available for questions or comments so please don't hesitate to call me directly.

Sincerely,

Sue Heim
www.hollywoodposterframes.com
(800) 463-2994

 



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