Sunday, August 24, 2014

Storing and Displaying Flat Items

Ron writes:

If you're like me, you have a lot of flat items that need to be protected and displayed. Store displays present a particular challenge. They tend to be unusually shaped and/or sized, and they're easily bent and dinged. Semi-rigid plastic sheaths, sometimes called "toploaders," are out there. The problem is that their lack of rigidity leaves your collectible in jeopardy of being bent. That's the last thing you want. Also, I've never been terribly comfortable with their stability. Are they, in fact, archival? I don't think I've ever gotten a firm answer to that question.

My favored method of protecting such items involves affixing them to foam core using rolled Mylar. This technique provides rigidity while 1) leaving your collectible looking sharp and 2) preserving it in a manner that's reasonably archival.

If you're not familiar with archival Mylar, it's a type of polyester film that's both crystal clear and very stable. Museums often use it to help preserve valuable old documents.

A good source of rolled Mylar is Bags Unlimited, a company in Rochester, New York that caters to the storage and preservation needs of collectors. You can purchase a roll of Mylar here. I recommend the 3 mil variety, as it has some toughness while remaining fairly easy to fold.

The foam core can also be purchased through Bags Unlimited. But if you need large sizes, you might have to forgo the acid-free option and get regular old foam core instead. Alternatively, your local craft store might be able to sell you acid-free foam core through their framing division. It's expensive, but that's the safest option.

However, I think you'll be fine with normal foam core, provided you cover the front side of it with Mylar before laying your collectible down on it. That way, no part of your precious will be touching the foam core. It'll be happily floating between two layers of Mylar.

Once you have the foam core and Mylar in hand, simply do the following

  1. Cut the foam core so that it's slightly larger than the item you're encapsulating. 
  2. Cut a piece Mylar to a size that's a hair's breadth under the size of the foam backer board. 
  3. Lay that Mylar over the foam core.
  4. Lay your flat collectible on top of the Mylar + foam core.
  5. Cut a piece of Mylar that's about an inch to an inch and a half larger than the foam core.
  6. Place the newly cut piece of Mylar over the whole thing, then flip over.
  7. One by one, fold each flap of the larger piece of Mylar over the back of the foam core, and tape it to the back of the assemblage, making sure to pull it tight in the process. (You may need to cut out the corners of the Mylar in order to allow for clean folds.)

When done, you'll have a collectible that's safe to display. This method works great for shelf-talkers and box flats as well as posters and store displays. You can even affix a hanger to the back and stick it on a wall.

Below you'll find some examples of displays I've encapsulated in this manner.


  1. Great write up Ron with some great suggestions. I also use bags unlimited. They will pre cut your foam boards to any size as well if you don't want to do it yourself.

  2. If you have to use non acid free backing board, get your self a roll of Glassine, it works great to protect documents and it can be wrapped around the backer board. It is a neutral Ph, we use it in the museum I run for archiving and conserving paperwork. it comes in large rolls, pretty inexpensive.