Frame Shop Selection: Finding the Best Frame Shop for Your Autographs June 01 2021

Like other forms of goods and services advertising, we Selecting the right frame shopare inundated with countless ads for framing services by arts and crafts chains as well as local mom and pop framing stores.  These ads show you pictures of framed artwork and maybe even the interior of their stores with their attractive displays.

However, behind all that glitz, it is important that one asks are these framing establishments skilled and knowledgeable in handling and framing these important and/or valuable autographs and manuscripts?.  Do they have the know how and proper materials to ensure a safe and protective display for your valuable and important documents and other autographs?

Owning such rare and important items means the collector needs to take the responsibility to seek the right person skilled in handling and framing them.  Yes!  Only a person who is familiar and capable of mounting and framing these historical artifacts should work with your treasures.  Once your item is framed, you won't be able to see how the item is mounted or if the proper UV filtering glazing is used, so it's better to know beforehand how the frame intends to mount and frame the autograph.  

And, don’t believe what the receipt that shows what the receipt states.  The framer or order taker can write down anything without regard to accurately or honestly what has been done.   In my many years in the business, I have examined framing jobs brought to me for inspection from people when they noticed something wrong with their framed autograph.  In one case, the framing business stated the framer used UV filtering glass when, in fact, only commercial regular glass was used. 

Museum framing example

The lady noticed the "R E Lee" signature was faded.  By the way, the document was a General Orders No. 9, which is the letter of surrender at the conclusion of the Civil War. Although several copies exist, these items are very rare and valuable.  Now, her copy is virtually worthless due to the carelessness of the framer.

This situation could have been avoided if the framer took the necessary measures to ensure a proper frame with the necessary materials and techniques.  But, since neither was used, irreparable damage occurred, causing a dramatic decrease in value.

As with any business, there are two primary ways a business owner can increase profits.  (1) Use cheaper materials, which are obviously lower in quality.  This would increase profit margins.  (2) The other would be to increase prices.  Many in this industry do a combination of both, unfortunately.  Using cheaper materials can have negative effects, and if the item that is framed, is valuable, sentimental or unique, the object can or will be harmed over time.

In my 32 years in this industry, I have yet to hear a client ask for their artwork to be damaged when being framed.  But, that is precisely what is occurring when the customer doesn’t do the necessary research and due diligence in choosing a framer.

And, being that most framing businesses aren’t familiar with the value, rarity or fragility of historical autographs, they may take drastic short cuts at the expense of the autograph for the sake of saving  themselves money.  This is both wrong and dishonest.   But, it happens. And, more times than you can imagine.

Napoleon Bonaparte autograph letter signed, with a nice print and a plaque
Napoleon Bonaparte autograph letter signed, with a nice print and a plaque


The best course of action to take when you wish to frame autographs is to choose a framer who is very open, with knowledge and transparent about how they would frame your autographs autographs and historical documents.  What type of glazing/matting/backings would they use? How would they mount and frame your valuable and sensitive items?.

Has the framer demonstrated long term skills and experience in framing historical artifacts and manuscripts?  And, PLEASE!  Don’t accept their record of the framing sports jerseys as their competency in framing important autographs.

Many jerseys are framed by framers in minimalist quality framing with LITTLE or NO regard in protecting the jersey or its signature.  Many of these framing businesses are looking to make a quick buck in the jersey framing industry. 

How do I know?  Because I have unframed many jersey frames at the request of the customer for reframing due to concern for how the jersey was framed.  What I have seen would shock even the unknowledeable person.

There is always a concern for framing autographs and signed letters/documents,  as these are far more fragile and susceptible to damage due to incorrect framing materials and techniques.  For the most part, ink is very acidic and most papers used for writing or typing are as well.  Therefore, any lesser quality framing materials can hasten their deterioration.

 It's this reason we take the necessary steps to ensure the item's longevity in the frame.  First, if needed, we decidify the letter or document prior to framing. This neutralizes the item without affecting its appearance or quality. Instead, it protects it from further erosion.  

Additionally, it's very essential that premium, Museum grade materials and workmanship are used in framing. These include,  but not limited to, 100% cotton rag matting and backing, 99% UV filtered glass or acrylic and final backings in archival grade coroplast. 

Never use any foamcore products, even "acid free" foamcore!  Foamcore products outgass over time and deteriorate. That's why these products show aging and discoloration years later.    

Regarding mounting,  it's imperative that only reversible mounts are used such as mylar corners, strips and archival grade tissue. Never use masking tape, adhesive tape or any other commercial quality, over-the-counter adhesives or glues. These products will cause serious harm to your letter or document.   

In the end, make sure you know your framer and almost guaranteed they will take the precautionary steps to ensure the quality of your items are preserved and maintain for many years to come.


Rick Badwey



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