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Vintage Poster and Paper Restoration Techniques

Updated on September 23, 2014

Restoration for posters and paper

Restoring vintage posters, artwork, LP record covers and even the original product packaging for music memorabilia and can dramatically increase the value of vintage collectables, especially now as investors turn to alternative types of assets with high growth potential like posters and ephemera.

First, poster conservation is used to stabilize the physical condition of the paper and reduce the effects of acid which will eventually discolor and disintegrate the paper. Once the condition of the paper is fixed, more extensive work can begin.

Poster restoration techniques are used next to return any kind of paper memorabilia back to their original appearance by making structural changes to the paper (filling holes or missing pieces), and making cosmetic changes to the ink or pigment on the paper.

How much restoration is acceptable?

Is it worth the expense?

Restoration techniques vary from minor repairs to complete reconstruction of the paper and repainting parts of the artwork. Some collectors would find these techniques too severe by altering the fabric of the paper and ink. But because most posters are printed in large editions on paper with a limited life span, most collectors do not object to buying posters that are sold as a restoration, as long the changes made to the poster are reversible.

Restoration of posters and fine art - Highest rated books on Amazon

Poster restoration techniques

There are two ways to repair holes and missing pieces of paper. Japanese rice paper can be used, or antique paper that closely matches the age and condition of the original paper. These repairs are easiest when the damage is limited to the unprinted margin of the poster.

Paper matching and infilling require tremendous attention to detail but the results can be dramatic and nearly invisible, transforming a damaged poster with some potential into a valuable work of art. Read more about poster condition and grading for works on paper sold at live auctions or on eBay.

Poster restoration video - Classic James Bond & Planet of the Apes poster

Story of a movie poster collector who does his own restoration work on a valuable poster collection which hangs all over the walls of his house and studio.

Fine art restoration

Beatles before and after

And in the end...

Water damage is another paper defect that requires reconstruction of the basic paper material. This original Beatles '65 album cover soaked up water like a sponge along the bottom edge. The paper is first cleaned and prepared using conservation techniques. Then, poster restoration can replace the missing paper, layer by layer, and even add "in-fill painting" to complete the image.

Field Guide to collecting Beatles - Vinyl records, autographs, toys and memorabilia

The Poster Series

Collecting original posters

Read more about collecting posters and restoring artwork.

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Is poster restoration right for you?

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    • profile image

      babydodds 19 months ago

      I have some older movie posters from the 50's (not valuable), is it a bad idea to repair some fold line separation with archival tape?

    • dotpattern profile image

      Pat Moire 5 years ago from West Village, New York City

      @WriterJanis2: YOu'd be surprised what you can find in the attic or basement one day, or even a garage sale.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Good tips. Wish I had some of old posters.

    • dotpattern profile image

      Pat Moire 5 years ago from West Village, New York City

      @anonymous: Hi Geoff, It sounds like there's plastic laminated over the surface of the paper. It may be possible to get the poster restored professionally with solvent that can release the laminate from the paper and keep the ink. Any Cunard poster is valuable and worth the money spent on restoration. Good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


      i have an old print of the cunard ship "mauritania" i would think its from about the 50, it has a shiny surface which tends to be cracking, can this be restored.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Restoration is an art in itself. I love vintage and antique, but can also be torn between the old and new world if something is too tatty. I enjoyed reading this. Blessings.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for putting a link to my Book Care and Repair lens on this page. I do so appreciate it.

      I also appreciate the information you have here. I have several vintage posters -- vintage because I bought them while I was in college in the last century -- that need some repair!

    • dotpattern profile image

      Pat Moire 6 years ago from West Village, New York City

      @cdevries: That sounds like you have a really cool (and valuable) poster, especially if there's no folds or other damage, as you said. Linen-backing ("lining") the paper can help to repair the damaged corners and stabilize the paper. You can also use a "conservation picture frame" that can cover the pin holes. The yellowing paper can be easily bleached. Check out the article about poster conservation for more info.

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 6 years ago

      Very interesting! I have a poster from about 1968 - bought on Carnaby St., London: a charming, cartoony image of a hippy making a peace sign saying "Britain is great!" Its corners are badly torn and tack damaged and the paper is starting to yellow - but no folds or foxing or other damage. I'm wondering if it's worth restoring?

    • MrWidemouth profile image

      MrWidemouth 6 years ago

      Great topic I love restoration! Cheers

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have an old Beatles poster that needs restoring. Thanks for letting me know that it can be done. I will look into that more someday when I'm ready to get the done.

    • profile image

      mockingbird999 7 years ago

      Looks like restoration would be hard work but worth it.