The subject of restoration comes up all the time in our conversations with customers. We frequently get asked, does restoration help or hurt the value of a poster? Even though it is our position that we do not offer restored posters, it is still not a simple question to answer.
Paper is one of the most fragile materials in the world. It is easily torn, ripped, punctured, and dented. That is why our vintage concert posters are so scarce and valuable in top condition.
Let’s start with how easily our posters are damaged. These posters are over 40 years old and were not considered fine collectibles at the time. Overall, they were not handled gently at the time of their original use. Concert posters were used for advertising purposes, and were taped up in store windows and stapled to telephone polls. Those that were taken down by fans were damaged from the onset. Posters that were handed out at the actual concerts had to make their way back home without getting folded, rolled or bent. Once they got home, they were often damaged by tape, thumb tacks and push pins while being displayed. Not to mention that they were also being decayed by light, heat, moisture, and acidity.
Since many of these posters cannot be found in undamaged condition, some collectors began turning to paper restorers decades ago to make their posters more presentable.
Is restoration good or bad for the value of a poster? I suppose that is a matter of opinion, however our opinion at PAE is culled from over 65 years of combined experience in the collectibles market.
Processes such as de-acidification, pressing, and non-intrusive dirt removal are acceptable in our opinion. These techniques slow the ravages of time, and as long as they do not disturb the integrity of the paper, they are potentially helpful. Additionally, It is our position at PAE, that if the restoration process is completely reversible, as with linen mounting, this type of work is acceptable. The key is that it does not permanently change the original paper.
Conversely, anytime you permanently add material or ink to a poster, it diminishes the originality of that poster and should be avoided.
In regard to the dollar value of restored posters, we need to look at other established collectibles. In the world of coins, stamps, baseball cards and comic books, restoration significantly devalues the specimen. That is not presently the case in rock posters, however our findings show that restoration does not increase the value of the poster either. A poster with four pinholes may even be slightly higher at this time than those with four filled holes. We do however; strongly believe that looking down the road, restoration will be viewed in a much dimmer light in terms of value.
Clearly, if a collector wished to “fix” a poster for eye appeal, and intends to use it primarily as decorative art work to be enjoyed on their walls, that seems completely reasonable. However, if the collector desires to hold it for the future, with the intention of it being sold down the road for increased value, we believe that the piece is better left alone.