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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently acquired a collection of vintage wine posters. Do they have any value? What's the best way to display them without damaging them?

—Willi, Toronto, Canada

Dear Willi,

If you’re talking about real vintage posters (not reprints), you might be in luck. Vintage posters in good condition of any genre are highly collectible, including ones that were originally advertisements for our favorite beverages. A copy of artist Leonetto Cappiello's Carnaval Vinho do Porto poster sold for $34,000 in 2005 at Christie's; one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Moulin Rouge: La Goulue posters sold for $374,000 in 2010 at Sotheby's.

If you have old, fragile posters, there are a few different schools of thought on poster preservation. First off, you need to decide if you want to display the posters, preserve them, or simultaneously do both. From there, how to handle each poster will depend on the condition it's in, but in all cases, the idea is to avoid moisture, humidity, heat, light, acidity and hungry critters.

An expensive but popular preservation method is to back the poster with linen for reinforcement—it really makes the posters less brittle. Linen-backing the posters can also prevent future deterioration of the piece, so it can actually increase a poster’s value. If not, keeping the poster flat in acid-free sleeves will provide them with plenty of protection, or storing them in a tube. If you want to display the poster, consider framing it in UV-resistant glass, making sure to allow some space between the poster and the glass, to avoid humidity or moisture getting trapped.

If you think you have some real treasures—posters of the late 1800s and early 1900s are highly sought—or want to collect more, contact a gallery or auction house specializing in poster art. Poster Auctions International and Swann Auction Galleries in New York and PosterConnection, Inc., in California are great places to get started.

—Dr. Vinny

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