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How to Decide Which Autographs to Frame

Posted Sept. 25, 2019 | Filed under General

One of the harder decisions for autograph collectors is which of their autographed items to frame,  and if so, how to frame them. There are three main reasons to consider framing your autographs:

  • Display -- obviously, an autographed photo, poster, magazine cover etc can't be easily displayed.
  • Protection -- an unframed autographed photo or other flat item is vulnerable to being dented, creased, spilled on, etc.
  • Value -- all things being equal, a framed autographed item is always worth more than an unframed autographed item. Autographed index cards and plain paper suddenly look a lot differently when matted and framed with a photo or magazine cover.James Cameron autograph matted and framed

Given those three reasons, why wouldn't collectors and dealers want to frame just about all their autographed items? Here's why:

  • Cost -- framing always costs money. Custom framing costs a LOT of money.
  • Fading -- while a framed item is well protected from physical damage such as creasing, once displayed it now is MORE vulnerable to fading, especially from direct sunlight or ultraviolet light.
  • Moving or shipping -- a framed item is much, much more difficult and expensive to move or to ship.

So deciding which of your autographs to frame is a little complicated. While I can't decide for you, I can offer some useful tips:

  • If you move frequently for whatever reason, be very selective on what items you frame. Moving framed items is not only costly but if something goes wrong and the glass shatters, the shards will scratch the item itself. Not good. Once you've settled in a long term residence is when to spend big bucks on framing.
  • A good rule of thumb is to never spend more on the matting and framing than the unframed item is worth.
  • For less expensive and  especially standard size (5x7, 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20) photos, you can save a lot of money with simple off the shelf mats and frames vs. custom framing. It may not look quite as nice but is probably fine for your less treasured autographs.
  • Either keep your framed items far away from direct sunlight and ultraviolet light and/or spend a little more for UV protective glass.
  • For custom framing, shop around extensively. Prices on custom framing varies wildly. Typically a mom and pop type custom framing shop will charge less than a chain store. Some custom framers, including mine, don't even have retail storefronts which minimizes their overhead costs.

I hope this information helps you make good decisions on your framing moving forward.