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Home > Vintage posters can add pizzazz to home decor

Posters quickly communicate what you‘re all about, unlike other forms of home decor.

They display where you want to travel and what you like to drink. They show style preferences, from the flowery ornateness of art nouveau to the ultra-hip techy look of the computer age. Their colorful artistry can be sophisticated or whimsical.

The posters in Greg Melvin‘s Overland Park, Kan., home showcase his favorite movies. Three posters dominate his study, paying homage to noir films, known for their shadowy scenery and unlucky characters. His living room features three science-fiction film posters hung above the sofa. The 1956 poster of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," with a highly stylized red handprint set against a vivid yellow background, hooked him on collecting.

"Posters provide a lot of visual appeal," Melvin said. "They‘re works of art."

Melvin owns only vintage posters. They‘re collectible because they can be tricky to find and often cost hundreds of dollars. "Vintage" means the poster was printed at the time its advertising campaign originally took place, and it doesn‘t refer to style or age. So the contemporary Apple iPod posters, with white MP3 players dramatically popping against dark silhouettes and colorful backgrounds, are vintage -- and in demand.

Reproduction posters, on the other hand, are inexpensive and aren‘t valuable because they were printed long after the original ad campaign ended. Reproduction film, travel and cuisine posters are easy to come by at stores such as Z Gallerie and online at www.allposters.com.

Posters are sold mostly online these days. The most recently searched categories of vintage posters on eBay were "French," "film," "travel," "war" and "music."

Dealers see other trends. Skiing, art deco and modern 1950s posters are hot, says Jim Lapides, owner of the International Poster Gallery in Boston.

Olympic themes are also popular, says Valerie Clark, spokeswoman for the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association.

The top-selling vintage poster on eBay in August was an 1898 "Tournee du Chat Noir" ("Turn of the Black Cat") by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen for $9,200, says spokeswoman Jenny Baragary. The poster is one of the most reproduced images.

Vintage movie posters also fetch a lot of money. Last year a California man set the record when he bought a 1927 poster for the German sci-fi film "Metropolis" for $690,000 from a London gallery.

Posters became the art gallery of the street during the 1870s in Paris, ushering in the modern age of advertising. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec‘s "Moulin Rouge" elevated the poster to fine art status during the 1890s Belle Epoque period.

They were printed using stone lithography until after World War II. Each color was hand drawn or painted onto a separate slab of porous stone. The vibrant colors and textures of stone lithography are more prized in the poster world than photo offset or silkscreen processes.

Butch Rigby of Kansas City says stone lithographs even make B-movies look beautiful. "Some of these movies were pretty awful," said Rigby, who displays vintage film posters in his media room and in the Screenland Theatre he owns. "These posters were about selling the sizzle, not the steak."

For his vintage posters, Rigby said, he doesn‘t mind a few creases or rips. "Part of the beauty," he said, "is in the wear and tear."

POSTERS ONLINE

LINEN BACKING AND RESTORATION

FRAMING

Research the dealer by reading feedback, making sure the seller is reputable and specializes in posters. Members of the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association (www.ivpda.com) meet guidelines to ensure ethical standards.

Call the dealer and ask questions: What‘s the poster‘s history? Are there any tears, stains, scratches, fading or pin or staple holes? Has the poster been restored? What‘s the return policy? How is it going to be shipped?

Get a second opinion. Lee Milazzo, owner of Poster Conservation in Stamford, Conn., says people e-mail online poster images and listings to him, asking about authenticity and potential restoration before they buy. He can be reached at leeposterconservation.com.

POSTERS ONLINE

LINEN BACKING AND RESTORATION

FRAMING

Linen backing is a conservation method used to mount and preserve vintage posters so they can be framed without compromising value. The poster is mounted wet to linen (cotton canvas) with a buffered barrier paper. The process gets rid of fold lines and creases. It provides a smooth surface for restoration work and allows a poster to be easily rolled up and shipped. It starts at $80 for a standard 27-by-41-inch movie poster.

Restoration includes washing, piecing paper inside holes and using watercolors or colored pencils to make missing parts nearly undetectable. It costs about $75 per hour.

These services are not usually available at custom frame stores. Contact a specialist:

Poster Conservation, 583 Pacific St., Stamford, Conn. 06902, 203-324-9750, www.posterconservation.com.

Poster Mountain, 7320 Laurel Canyon, North Hollywood, CA 91605, 818-982-1058, www.postermountain.com.

POSTERS ONLINE

LINEN BACKING AND RESTORATION

FRAMING

Improper poster framing can cause acid burn, mold or foxing (dark spots that spread throughout an image). Don‘t let a framer use tape -- even archival tape -- as an adhesive because it damages posters. Also, don‘t let a framer dry mount a vintage poster to foam core because it can yellow and devalue the piece. After the poster is professionally linen-backed:

Use acid-free cotton-rag matting or frame spacers so the glass doesn‘t touch the poster.

Choose acrylic, ultraviolet-filtered Plexiglas, which is not as heavy as glass and doesn‘t shatter. Or choose museum glass, which is less expensive and anti-reflective.

The molding needs to complement the poster art. Black wood is a safe choice.