Edge Wear, Smudging, Fold Lines and other common Vintage Movie Poster Defects 🇺🇸

July 11, 2021

Vintage movie posters can come with a range of defects. Especially unrestored posters may display signs of use. This article provides an overview of the conditions as described for some of the posters sold on vintage.com

Edge Wear
As paper is an organic material, its structural integrity deteriorates over time. As a result, poster edges can become weak and tearing can occur; it is very difficult to keep the edges of vintage posters in pristine conditions and often there will be tears in the edges of a poster or tiny parts of paper may be missing from the corners. 


Small pinholes located in the corner areas of a vintage movie poster are very common. Exhibitors frequently used pins to display posters in movie theater lobbies. It is often hard to spot pinholes, even when using the magnifying feature on our website (see example photo below). We therefore indicate in the poster description if a poster comes with pinholes.


Smudges and Stains
Stains result from liquids (water, oil etc.) being spilled on a poster. This can be due to accidents, or improper handling or storing. Stains may also lead to smudging. The example in the screenshot below shows a poster with a stain in the bottom right-hand corner.


Fold lines, Fold Separations and Creases
Posters released before the 1980s often have folds, or fold lines as they were machine folded before they were sent out to movie theaters. In contrast to that, modern movie posters are typically rolled up to be shipped.  
As a result these fold lines are highly symmetric and crisp. Most collectors do not consider fold lines ‘defects’ as even in the original condition, movie posters came with these fold lines. In some cases posters may have started separating along fold lines. The example below shows clearly visible and straight folds. 


Toning or Darkening
Toning or darkening indicates that a poster has discoloured. This occurs due to the aging of the paper, or acids in the paper. The severity of this effect depends on the age, but also the quality and thickness of the paper used. The photo below shows a poster affected by slight toning. 



Mould is a serious problem, as it may lead to the destruction of a poster and ultimately a total loss in value. Even worse, mould might spread to posters that are stored in the vicinity. For that reason, we have very few posters in our collection that are affected by mould. For those few pieces that were affected, we have carried out restoration work administered by the Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi to preserve the poster. 

The poster below shows a case where mould and most stains were professionally removed (photo shows pre-restoration status).


Paperlifts, Glue Stains
Paperlifts appear on the back of a poster if it has been roughly removed from its backing. Often, this comes along with remaining glue stains. As these issues mostly appear on the back, it usually does not have an impact on viewing the poster front. Glue stains might bleed through to the front, though.


Tape of every kind may appear on the front and back of posters, often to keep foldline separations under control. Tape is removed during the linen-backing of a poster. The acids in the tape’s glue may cause bleeding through to the front (for tape on the back) or compromising the colours of the poster (for tape, snipes, stickers on the front).


Writing on the poster’s front/back
Back in the day, cinema owners would often announce the movie’s playdates on the posters and especially on window cards. This will, in most cases, not decrease the value of a poster (just do not write on a poster by yourself, please). In the case of window cards, it used to be their actual purpose so that cinema goers would know where and when to catch a particular flick.

Oftentimes, cinemas would use the back of a poster for writing up announcements on the back of a poster before throwing it out. The writing might bleed through to the front of the poster, and this writing might be difficult to remove even for a restoration expert.


Amateur restoration
Every profession has its experts as well as its laymen. When it comes to restoring posters, a lot of harm can be caused during every step of the restoration (or, rather, preservation) process. The main issue stemming from using non-professionals is the use of irreversible restoration techniques, such as the use of sharpies to paint over missing parts of the poster.


Wrap Up
It is important to point out that some collectors consider minor defects normal and as an indication that a poster is truly vintage and authentic. Others are going to great lengths to restore vintage posters. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. When
linen-backing a poster, for instance, missing paper pieces on the edges of a poster can be replaced. If you are interested in learning more about our poster restoration services, please do get in touch with us