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Reader Responses to Blog Topic One: To Restore, Or Not To Restore?

Katherine Howard of Los Angeles, California:
I agree with you – I love the authenticity. These are posters that trumpeted the coming acts in a local city or town – all the marks, the pin holes, et al actually lend a bit of the back story – kind of like wrinkles in one’s face as we age.  Sure, we could use Botox and look like we did when we were first created, but aren’t the travels and travails of life worthy of a canvas, too?

Gregg Geller of New York, New York:
I'm unschooled in the field of collecting posters, but when I looked at the two Hank Williams posters side by side it struck me that the restored poster "felt" as though it could be a reproduction, whereas there's no doubt as to the authenticity of your weathered, beaten, and bruised original.  I wouldn't touch it.

Steve F’Dor of Los Angeles, California:
Nothing like being torn over a torn poster. If the Hank Williams were mine, I'd fix it, as it appears to be pretty much intact. This would assume that you had someone who was competent at restoring cardboard posters. That's a big "if", as many restoration people aren't [competent], as their business tends to revolve around thin paper, usually movie one-sheets. And sometimes they don't understand that owners of music posters tend to prefer minimal restoration, rather than correcting every last imperfection.
I think that this, and their rarity, is why collectors of music cardboard may be more tolerant of defects. If you're offered something, you may never see it again in better condition, and if you give it to the wrong person to fix, you may never see it again in a state in which you'd have a second chance to repair it. But I don't agree with the assertion that condition doesn't matter.
 From the point of view that faded or trimmed posters would be harder to restore than those with less extensive defects, I would agree that such defects are more serious.  But if there's no intention to restore the poster, then uniform defects such as trimming or mild fading might not be as distracting as some other types of defects, such as pieces missing or bad stains.  I've seen trimmed posters fetch respectable prices, and severely faded posters are most uncommon. Almost all posters that turn up are somewhat faded. We just don't realize it until we see one that actually is mint, due to it having been protected from the elements from day one, and that's a real rarity.

Joe Armstrong of Monarch Beach, California:
This is a great quandary.  For most people, the first reaction is to “fix it” and make it as close to perfect as possible.  This reaction has a lot to do with being accustomed to nice, new things.  Let’s face it: we come from a disposable society where if it’s not new, or pretty, we tend to get rid of it and replace it with something nicer.  Or want things perfect.
I’ve been collecting things for most of my life, and as I’ve become a more experienced collector, I’ve come to appreciate things that have the right look and feel for their age, rather than something very old that looks brand new.  Sure it’s cool to have a 1950s or ’60s poster that’s never seen the light of day or lacks any creases, bumps, etc.  But somehow these things, while their condition is fascinating, just don’t feel right at the end of the day.
As an example, I once purchased an old 1947 Indian motorcycle.  When it arrived it looked like its age, and when I got it running that first day and took off down the street, I felt every year of history in the old bike.  Unfortunately, I immediately wanted it to look brand new, and spent a lot of money restoring it.  It truly did look magnificent when completed, but years later, as I studied old bikes, I realized how great it looked when it first came off the truck.  I always wished I could have reversed that decision, because what made that bike special was the old patina, scars and other aging that carried it through to modern times.  Well, the same goes for old posters, in my opinion.  If it has the right look – don’t fix it.
That being said, there are posters that may have distractions that definitely take away from enjoying them.  Let’s say there was a big hole where Hank’s picture was; no doubt about it, I would look at that poster every day and wish the picture was there.  In such situations, an excellent restorer can return it to being a great poster by proper restoration - such that you won’t be faced with that feeling every day of not enjoying the poster.  The caution here is “proper restoration”… make sure you find the right person before doing something you will later regret.  Many of these old posters are virtually irreplaceable, so one big mistake can make your day (and many future ones) very bad.  Bottom line: use constraint before proceeding with restoration, and make sure you find the right restorer.
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