Auction Education Archives - Thomaston Auction

For you as a collector, it is important to arm yourself with the knowledge of how to spot common signs of aging in paper and how to care for your collection.  

Prints, books and ephemera – oh my! Delicate pieces that survive throughout history vary in their subject matter and intended purpose. Ephemera, collectible memorabilia that is used for a short period of time, is typically printed on paper. It can vary from baseball cards to playbills and postcards to broadsides featuring advertisements, announcements, personal information, and more.

Regular antiquarians, or people who collect rare books, should be familiar with the labor of love that went into writing, printing, and binding old books and how improper care can be a detriment. As time goes on, these pieces will be affected by their environment and consequently, their aesthetic and integral structure could be altered.

Collection of Andrew Wyeth – Olson House Memorabilia, Lot 2091 from Summer Auction Weekend 2018, sold for $2,000

Collection of Andrew Wyeth – Olson House Memorabilia, Lot 2091 from Summer Auction Weekend 2018, sold for $2,000 

What are Some of the Most Common Signs of Aging in Paper? 

Each piece will vary in condition and can be impacted by how it was made originally, from the paper that was chosen to the ink or paint that was used, and how the piece was stored and cared for after. Conditions will vary from piece to piece, but here are a few terms and common signs of aging in paper you as a collector should be familiar with when tending to and adding to your collection.  

Acidic Burn – appears as discoloration or brittleness caused by the presence of acid in either the piece itself or the materials it has encountered.  

Figure . An example of acid burn from Acme Framing, a common sign of aging in paper 

Discoloration – changes in the hues of media present (paper, paint, ink, etc.) 

Figure 2. Example of discoloration from Yale University (2014), a common sign of aging in paper 

Delamination – the piece becomes separated from the board or backing to which it was mounted. 

Figure 3. Example of delamination, a common sign of aging in paper, from The Fine Arts Conservancy, Stoneledge, LLC

Embrittlement – the support of the piece has become fragile to the point of breaking or snapping.  

Figure 4. Example of embrittlement, a common sign of aging in paper, from The Fine Arts Conservancy, Stoneledge, LLC 

Foxing – reddish-brown stains caused by the paper pulp degrading, exposure to humidity, or the presence of certain fungi.   

Figure . Example of foxing from Wikipedia 

How to choose an Art Conservator 

Now don’t be alarmed – should you find a common signs of aging in paper in a piece you adore, consult with a paper conservator. Search the American Institutes for Conservation “Find a Professional” to find someone near you. It is important to research your candidates before handing over your collection. Carefully look through their portfolio to see if there are similar projects done before. Standard procedures for treating foxing, discoloration, embrittlement, and others with positive changes after being treated are key clues to look for to indicate their capabilities.  

Word of mouth is priceless. It is important to check reviews online to see what previous clients have said and to reach out to others who may use conservators. Auction houses, such as Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, work with conservators we regularly trust for paper, furniture, paintings, and more. We can provide you with recommendations as well. Feel free to give us a ring! 

Preventative Measures to Avoid Common Signs of Aging in Paper 

How do temperature and humidity affect paper?  

To avoid common signs of aging in paper, your collection can be stored in a variety of ways, but make sure it is storge the right way. Paper is a delicate material and can easily degrade when stored incorrectly.

Whether a book or a single sheet, the piece should be stored in a cool (about room temperature or below) and relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity) room with not much fluctuation in either. Water can cause mold and mildew to grow on the pages, risking biological degradation. Heat on the other hand can cause the pages to chemically break down the paper fibers, causing it to become brittle and yellow. Older pieces are comprised of inks of an unknown nature which can destabilize from the heat to differ from the intended shade.  

Why is acid-free storage important for paper collectibles? 

Give your piece the best chance at surviving another hundred years and consider your storage options. One of the simplest fixes can be switching its current mat, box, or folder to something acid free. An everyday mat, box, or folder is typically made of regular paper pulp. This pulp is full of lignin, a molecule key in the formation of most plants and becomes destabilized when processed into pulp. As the molecule breaks down, it produces acid and deteriorates not only the box, folder, and mat, but other paper-based products it encounters. For that reason, it is important to evaluate how your piece is stored.

If you find the mat on your piece is brittle or turning yellow, then it is not an acid-free mat. Look for mats and other storage solutions that are acid-free and conservation or museum rated. Acid-free solutions have been buffered with calcium to delay the breakdown of lignin and others are made of 100% cotton, inherently making it acid free. 

How can I Contact Thomaston Place Auction Galleries for a Condition Report? 

At Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, we take great pleasure in extending our services to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of each piece. If you have questions regarding the condition of the piece or are curious to see additional photos, contact our Condition Department. With the influx we receive each auction, we encourage you to submit your questions as soon as possible and wait no longer than a week before the auction. Please include your name, the lots you are curious about, and what questions you have for each. Our staff is eager to assist you in finding your next treasure.  

Art enthusiasts and collectors know that the thrill of an auction lies in the chance to discover rare and unique pieces. At Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, we've been curating exceptional antique, collectibles and art auctions for over four decades, bringing to light works from various eras and styles. Our commitment to excellence has made us a trusted name in the art auction world. To enhance your experience, we're thrilled to introduce our Online Auction Alerts, a free service designed to keep you informed about the latest treasures in our collection.

The Importance of Staying Informed in Art Auctions

Antique, collectibles and art auctions are dynamic events where the rarity and uniqueness of items are celebrated. Each piece has its own story and significance, making it crucial for collectors and enthusiasts to stay updated on upcoming auctions. That's where our Online Auction Alerts come in handy. By following specific artists, categories, or search terms, you'll receive notifications about new additions that match your interests, ensuring you never miss an opportunity to acquire that special piece.

“Each piece that arrives at our gallery is a unique moment in time, a story from history that we're privileged to witness. We feel honored to see every item, knowing we'll never see these objects again. Every piece represents a chapter in the vast book of history, and we're grateful to be part of their journey.”

Kaja Veilleux, owner and auctioneer

Personalize Your Auction Experience

Our platform allows you to tailor your experience by following our most popular keywords. Whether your passion lies in contemporary art, classic paintings, or specific artists, our alerts ensure you're always in the loop. This personalization leads to curated results, allowing you to focus on items that truly resonate with you.

Setting Up Your Art Auction Alerts

Getting started with our Online Auction Alerts is simple:

  • Sign in to your Thomaston Place Auction Galleries account.
  • Navigate to My Account.
  • Go to the My Followed Keywords section.
  • Click on Add New.
  • Enter the keywords, artists, or categories you're interested in.
  • Click Save.

Embrace the Digital Revolution in Art Auctions

The art auction world is undergoing a digital transformation, with technology playing a pivotal role in enhancing the experience for collectors and enthusiasts. As highlighted in an insightful article on Artsy, titled "The Impact of Technology on the Art Auction Market," the advent of online platforms and auction alerts is revolutionizing the way we discover and acquire art. This digital shift ensures that you're always connected to the latest offerings and trends, making services like our Online Auction Alerts more valuable than ever. Dive into the article to explore how technology is shaping the future of art auctions and how you can leverage it to enrich your collecting journey.

The Art of Discovery

Art auctions are not just transactions; they're a journey of discovery. With our Online Auction Alerts, you're equipped to explore the diverse world of art and find pieces that speak to you. Whether you're a seasoned collector or a budding enthusiast, our service ensures you're always ahead in the art auction game.

Start curating your collection today with Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. Sign up for our Online Auction Alerts and embark on a journey of artistic discovery, where the next treasure is just an alert away.

Business hours are 9 am to 5 pm (eastern time) Monday–Friday.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
PO Box 300
Thomaston, Maine 04861
51 Atlantic Hwy
Thomaston, ME 04861
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