Protect & Display Your Collection
By Lori Ferber
Anything worth collecting is worth protecting and organizing. You have invested time, money and resources in building your political memorabilia collection. Spending a little time learning how to store your items correctly, will help you maintain the value of your collection and help provide you with many years of enjoyment in the future.
Learning how to protect and organize your collection is part common sense and part preparation. It’s equally important that you select storage methods that allow you to enjoy and share your collection with others. I’m often startled how many collectors do such a great job of “protecting” their collections that they have no opportunity to enjoy the items because they are not accessible and, to take a clue from the late Johnny Carson, are “hermetically sealed.”
A rule of thumb I often suggest, is to picture this. If someone came over to see your collection, how long would it take to find a particular item and show it to the person. If it takes you more than a couple of minutes to locate the item and display it, then it’s too long.
The basics of preservation:
As I shared earlier, protecting your investment is part common sense. For instance, you must store the items in a well ventilated room, away from such things as smoke, humidity moisture, sunlight and children. Also, whenever possible, avoid areas with major fluctuations in temperature which can cause the items to expand and retract and cause damage to your items. For instance, it is generally suggested that you avoid storing items in such areas as attics, basements or garages.
When searching for supplies in which you store your items, always look for archival quality products whenever possible. “Archival” is a non-technical term used to describe materials that is designed to last for a long period of time with minimal effect on the stored item. Needless to say no single preservation method will keep the item in perfect condition forever, but choosing archival quality products will increase the longevity of the item significantly – thus maintaining the value of your collection.
The most common approach to archival quality products is using materials that are acid-free. Items that contain acids or certain chemicals, can interact with your items, particularly paper items, over a long period of time and slowly eat away at your collection. Look for non-PVC materials.
We are often asked if collector should clean items prior to storage. Certainly, brushing dust and dirt off most items is fine, but that’s generally where we draw the line without thorough research. As an example, collectors often are torn between cleaning medals and coins and removing oxidation, and normal changes in color. Collectors are often lured by manufacturers of coin and medal cleaner and the promise made that the mixtures will return the normal brilliance to these items. Our experience is that, when not in the hands of a professional, it is common that the result is uneven and removes the natural patina of the coin or medal.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended that any treatments or repairs be performed by a professional. If you do attempt it on your own, please understand that you do so at your own risk. Generally, collectors understand that most older items have some obvious aging. For instance, recently we had the opportunity to purchase a paper item from days of Abraham Lincoln. We turned down the opportunity to purchase the item because it’s almost perfect condition raised questions as to its authenticity.
Our Top 8 Suggestions When Storing Items:
Items should not touch. By that we mean, regardless of whether it’s a paper item, photo or coin, keep the items from ever touching each other. Touching may cause transfer of chemicals or scratches. For instance, campaign buttons are often damaged when the buttons are “stacked” one on top of the other because the pin on the reverse side of the button scratches the button beneath it.
Always protect the corners of paper items. Often the first thing to be damaged on a paper item is the corners. Make sure the corners are protected
In the case of paper items, once you have stored your items in protective plastic sleeves, make sure that your binders or storage boxes are also archival quality. Generally speaking, cheap 3 ring binders offer only limited protection. Not only may they contain harmful chemicals, but their ring systems are often terrible causing damage to pages and the binders themselves tend to be slightly smaller than quality binders so pages protrude over, or right up to the edges of the binder creating a situation where pages may fold under when binders are stored and damage your items.
Always make sure that your storage boxes or binders are labeled clearly as to what is included inside. “Searching” endlessly through binders and boxes for one particular item increases the A postcard album consists of a binder and clear plastic inserts that fit inside. Even more important than the binder itself, since it won’t be touching paper, are the inserts that actually hold the cards. It's important to make sure the inserts you use are archival quality.
Never - ever, laminate a document in hopes of preserving it. Lamination is not a safe preservation technique, and in most cases significantly decreases the value of our items. In most cases lamination cannot be reversed (removed). Laminating also often has chemicals in the laminating that may damage your items.
Whenever possible avoid handling your items with your bare hands. Hands contain natural oils that over time damage can damage your items. The best way to avoid such damage is to reduce the number of times you handle an item, using gloves or purchasing a pair of tongs which are essentially tweezers without the sharp points.
Avoid using rubber bands. Rubber bands often cut into paper items and boxes leaving the items damaged beyond repair.
If your collection has significant value, consider insuring the collection – or at least your more valuable items. Do not just assume that your homeowners insurance policy will cover any losses – they often do not. There are special riders or insurance policies available to specifically cover your collection in case of loss, damage, fire, theft etc.
As experienced and knowledgeable dealers in political memorabilia, Lori and Steve Ferber have been provding helping collectors acquire and preserve unique and intersting political memorabilia items for over 35 years. They operate a popular collectibles website at www.loriferber.com.