When you’ve taken the trouble to put together a collection of prized items, whether it’s of sports memorabilia, artwork, ceramics, textiles, or other valuables, then you already know that the condition of a collectible item has a profound influence on its value. This means that knowing how to properly display and store your items is paramount to preserving their value, because improper conditions can cause irreversible damage. Here are the primary factors to watch out for:
Excessive light can damage almost any kind of collectible. It fades artworks on paper as well as the dyes in textiles and original signatures on memorabilia. In addition, it can dry out organic materials such as leather, paper, wood, and cloth. Every kind of collectible should be stored away from direct sunlight. Artworks on paper should be framed with conservation or museum glass, which block UV rays, for additional protection. In general, try to find a low light location to display your collectibles, and do not leave display lighting on for extended periods of time.
Extreme temperatures, whether they are hot or cold, can ruin your collectibles. This is why attics and garages make terrible storage places for these types of items. The ideal temperature for preserving delicate materials like paper, wood, and natural fibers is 64 degrees. If you’re storing collectibles in your home, that temperature is far too cool for comfort, but don’t worry if you can’t achieve that. Just scout out the room or area of your house that tends to stay consistently cool, because that will be the best spot to store or display your collection.
If you need to move your collection to a spot where the temperature is quite a bit different from its original location, do so gradually. Sudden temperature changes can cause cracks in the finish of ceramics and in glass, as well as negatively affecting other types of collectibles.
To preserve collectibles, humidity needs to be at a happy medium of neither too damp nor too dry. Under damp conditions, mold grows, destructive insects breed, and metal rusts. Under dry conditions, organic materials shrink, crack, and become brittle. You’ll want a good balance of humidity (around 50 percent) whether your items are out on display or put away in storage.
Collectibles should not be cleaned the way you might clean other items in your home. Harsh chemicals can damage fragile materials. If you feel your items need care, start with a gentle dry clean—brushing dust away carefully with a soft paintbrush or blowing it away using a can of dry compressed air held at a safe distance from the item. If you feel that’s not enough, do some research or consult a professional before you proceed to trying anything further. For some items, removing the aged finish that develops over the years actually decreases their value, so don’t be hasty to scrub them clean.
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