If you are contemplating collecting movie posters, you need to know about linen backing. It can add value or reduce value, depending on the circumstances.

To quickly answer the question, yes, it can reduce the value of your collectible poster but usually when done by a non-professional restorer or if it didn’t need linen backing in the first place. But some posters see a significant increase in value when done properly!

What is Linen Backing?

Linen backing is a process that stabilizes the poster. As with any antique, especially one that is well-handled, a movie poster can be in fragile condition. There are fold lines, frayed edges, faded colors, and missing pieces. 

Linen backing mounts the poster onto linen. This prevents further deterioration and offers the choice of restoration. Three things are needed:  linen, paper used for lining, and an adhering solution.

The process, known as archival mounting, is simple.

  1. Stretch the linen on a canvas stretcher-bar.
  2. Mount the paper used for lining on the linen.
  3. Mount the poster to the linen using the adhering solution.

The process may be simple, but the actual work is painstaking and delicate. You want a professional to do the work.  Do not try this at home!

Linen

More About Linen Backing

While the term “linen” is used, actual linen is rarely used anymore. Linen is the ideal material because it’s soft and pliable.

It’s also expensive.  Some poster restorers use cotton duck instead. It’s stiffer than linen but a third the price. Sometimes, if a poster is extremely rare, linen will be used to ensure the poster’s durability and value.

Take for instance some recent pricing of linen versus cotton duck canvas.

  • Caravaggio Raw Linen Canvas Rolls 84” × 390” costs around $712.00 (at the time of publishing this article)
  • Generic Cotton Duck Canvas Roll 72″ x 360″ costs around $66.00 (at the time of publishing this article)

Acid naturally occurs in the paper pulp used in the poster printing process. This acid contributes to the deterioration of the poster paper over time. The paper used for lining and the adhering solution has an alkali buffer that neutralizes the acid and aids in the preservation of the poster.

When the paper used for the lining is mounted to the linen, water is used in the process. When the water evaporates, the linen pulls back and tightens to create a smooth surface for mounting.

Mounting the poster to the linen uses water. Once it dries, the poster is stretched, as well. The lines created by folding are stretched in this process and become less apparent.

Once the poster has been linen backed, it is easily handled. It can be transported flat or rolled with less risk of damage.

And speaking of transporting posters we wrote this article which can be helpful. There are a lot of nuances with shipping insurance, so please be aware should you decide to mail your expensive movie posters:

Why Mount a Poster on Linen?

The foremost reason is to stabilize the poster. If its condition has deteriorated, it will continue to deteriorate. It is made of paper, which is not a durable medium. Handling, even carefully, risks further damage. 

A linen backed poster looks better. The imperfections are still visible, but the linen backing process stretches the poster flat, which improves its appearance.

A linen backed poster can be restored. Tears can be mended, colors touched up, and fold lines erased. The appearance improves, but there is a risk of losing value. Some collectors prefer “vintage” over “restored” posters.

The vast majority of posters increase in value with linen backing. If the poster is in fair or poor condition, its appearance is improved by linen backing, and collectors will pay more for it versus the same poster without linen backing.

In fact, recently Sotheby’s auction house sold a highly coveted original Star Wars Style A linen-backed movie poster for over $3,700.

Star Wars Style A

Reasons Not to Mount a Poster on Linen

If the poster is in excellent condition, then, by all means, leave it alone!  Linen backing won’t improve the appearance. Besides, chances are you won’t recover the cost of linen backing when you go to sell the poster.

People collect posters for different reasons. The vast majority are looking for something to hang on the wall at home. It’s a décor item.

However, more informed collectors are looking for authentic posters.  They value the fold lines and imperfections.

Naturally, they value a poster in excellent condition more than one in poor condition, but they’ll pay more for an untouched poster.

If you’re looking to get top dollar for a poster, evaluate whether your poster is sought after by this group of collectors. If so, linen backing may actually reduce the amount of money you can get for your poster.

Conclusion

If you plan on selling your poster to a serious collector, linen backing can reduce the price you can get. However, for the vast majority of buyers, who want wall art for their home, linen backing improves the poster’s appearance and increases its value.

In most cases, linen backing old and weathered posters improve your investment in movie posters.

If you are into collecting movie posters then you may find these very popular articles helpful:

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