The Ultimate Guide on How To Store Autographed Photos September 23 2020

Giacomo Puccini - Large Signed Photo

From an authentic signed autograph with Walt Disney's signature to historical ballet memorabilia, collecting pieces of personalized history captured into a moment is magical. And, you want them to last a lifetime, being passed through generations to become more valuable.

However, the question is:

What is the best way to store autographed photos?

Well, as one of the best autograph dealers, here at Tamino Autographs, we want to make sure you can have a lasting experience with treasured autographs, images, memorabilia, and signatures. That’s why we’ve come up with solutions for you to try out in this ultimate guide to storing autographed photos.


The first thing you should consider before buying a safe storage option for your autographs is if you want them on display. This will then determine the tools and equipment you’ll need in order to make your valuable signatures last.


1.    For Storage Solutions to Display

There’s no surprise many people like to display and store their signed memorabilia whether it comes from an autograph dealer or the icon who signed it, themselves. So, we’re here to provide two very popular storage options for a way to let all your friends, family, and visitors know about your valued autograph!


a.    Find Yourself a Frame


A statement frame can be anything from a traditional gold-plated wooden gallery frame to a floating glass frame. And, while it is completely up to you which of these frames you choose, there are some tips and tricks we need to share.


When choosing a frame shop or frame store that will take care of framing your new autograph piece, make sure you ask if they do conservation-grade framing. That is, they use acid-free mats, tapes and all the material has the standards for conservation. 


The first tip would be to find a deep-set frame so you can mount or display your autographed photos without the image touching the glass. It’s important the autographed image does not touch the glass as air can’t circulate, meaning moisture can accumulate and cause the ink to stick to the glass.


To avoid this, you should either find yourself using a deep-set frame or an acid-free mat board. This can be used to create space between the glass frame and your picture as well as providing a suitable and secure method to hold the image in place.


The matboard needs to be archival-grade and/or acid-free to make sure the autographed image maintains its look and value for a long time. The paper used for old photographs or signed autographs for sale by an autograph dealer will typically contain a natural acid called lignin. However, when this acid reacts with other substances, it will cause your valuable signed photographs to become yellow and brittle.


P.S. You’ll also want an acid-free backboard to go with your mat. This goes behind the image rather than in front and will help stop your autographed photos from deteriorating.


b.    Use a Glass Cabinet or Display Case


A glass cabinet is the perfect choice for those with multiple items in a set, are autograph dealers or simply have large collections looking for a safe storage solution.


If you were to choose to store your autographed photos within a glass case, then here at Tamino Autographs, we highly recommend placing the signed images within a frame. This will reduce the likelihood of the items mixing with each other in case there’s more than images, signatures, photographs, trading cards, tickets or other 2D items.


For example, our extensive signed collections at Tamino Autographs have included ballet shoes, books, film reels, figurines, fans, and even a wig!


However, one extra thing to be wary of is direct sunlight. You need to make sure that your glass cabinet or display case is not exposed to any UV light. Again, if direct sunlight catches the lignin of the paper, it will cause the yellow coloring to occur at an accelerated rate, in turn decreasing the value and view of your photos.


2. For Storage Solutions That Will Not be on Direct Display


Any signature enthusiast or collector may have a large collection of photographs. And, in turn, this could mean that there isn’t as much wall space or cabinet space to display your valued signature.

In these circumstances, it’s important to know a way your photos can be safely stored in a compact manner.


a. Use Acrylic Toploaders

This is used not just for photographs but also for coins, postcards, banknote bills and even larger objects, as well as a rare trading card or any other valuable collectible - for the most part in flat format, but not necessarily.

Acrylic Toploaders

Acrylic top-loaders are popular and they could even be used to display your photographs if you use an easel stand, of which there are many different sizes and types in the market.

Toploaders, also called topload holders, come in many different sizes, usually from 3x4 inches to 32 x43 inches (internal capacity) and sometimes even more. They are not expensive if purchased in larger quantities, one of our favorites brands is Ultra Pro, which can be purchased directly from the manufacturer or from Amazon.com, or the BCW brand.

There are also thick toploaders that allow you to store objects of various thicknesses, such as watches, medals, booklets, and more.

b. Place your Photos in a Safe With PVC-Free Plastic Sleeves


If your images from authorized dealers are of high-value or have very well-known or rare signatures on them, you’ll probably want to keep them away from certain people. This could be kids, family members, nosy guests, robbers, or even your pets.

In this case, it’s best to keep your memorabilia and autographed photos stored in a dedicated safe.

For this project, you’ll need five different items: A safe, your photographs, some wooden dowels, some PVC-free plastic sleeves (with binder-holes), and some acid-free paper as a buffer.

Step one would be to place your acid-free paper into your PVC-free plastic sleeves. Then, place your valued signatures and images into the plastic sleeves, with one either side of the acid-free paper to maximize your space. The next step is to slide your PVC-free plastic sheets onto your wooden dowels at regular intervals. Make sure there is no contact between the wood and the autographed images. Finally, you can mount your wooden dowels at the top of your safe. This will allow you to easily flick between the images without needing to handle or touch them while being the only person with access.

You’ll need to have PVC-free plastic sheets because plastic can age. This process can then release harmful chemicals onto your photographs causing early-aging, brittle paper, tears, and even holes.


c.    Try Using a Photo Box

These are simple archival-grade boxes that allow you to store hundreds – and, sometimes, thousands – of your photo prints in one place. These will often have metal edges for re-enforcement, compartments to organize different categories, and acid-free envelopes to protect your valued images.


However, you do need to be aware of cheap fake photo boxes. These are plastic which, as we’ve mentioned, can cause your images to degrade as the plastic ages or is subject to specific temperatures.


On the note of temperatures, it is very important that you keep your valued photographs at a cool temperature. A way to gauge it would be to always make sure the temperature is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit in a well-ventilated room.


d.    Use a Classic Ring Binder but Don’t Affix Your Autographed Photos


A final storage method is to look at buying a classic binder. But you’ll need to make sure it has acid-free paper and no sticky or glue residues. As you may have guessed, these can interact with your photograph’s lignin and cause irreversible damage.


With this in mind, it will always be best to find a way to keep your photos in a ring binder without affixing or gluing them down. This includes any ‘peel and stick’ binders and photo books out there: While they secure the image and protect from moisture, they are generally manufactured using glue, plastic, and cardboard folders that will do anything but protect your autographed photographs.


Instead, we suggest trying an acid-free magnetic photo album. There are often sets that can be bought which include the binder, removable archival sheets, archival ink (for the paper rather than the image), and photo corners to reinforce any weak edges.


3.   Closing Notes and Tips

A final tip from Tamino Autographs would be to always use cotton gloves when accessing or handling your autograph collection, or to thoroughly wash your hands before getting in direct contact with your valuable documents and photos. Natural oils and sweat can mix with the acid of the photograph to cause the ink to manipulate and the paper to turn that unwanted yellow color.


If you’ve ever created and printed your own polaroid picture, you know only to touch the corners of the polaroid and the same rings true for any valued photo prints.


So, there you have it. The ultimate guide on how you can safely store your autographed photos. For more information as well as tips and tricks about autographs for sale, keep checking our blog here at Tamino Autographs. Or, go right ahead into our online shop to see what famous faces and signatures we have for you!


(By Jonathan Ward & Nestor Masckauchan)

Read also:

Autograph Framing Done Right - How to Frame your Autographs Properly

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