What is Linen Backing
The process of linen backing is where a movie poster is mounted to linen or cotton. It helps to preserve the movie poster, make it more durable for handling and is used to repair damaged movie posters to their original condition.
When linen backing was first used for movie posters the backing would be 100% linen. Linen was used because it is soft and pliable but unfortunately very expensive. Today, most professional restorers use 100% cotton duct. Cotton duct is a canvas material which is stiffer than linen but costs a third of the price of linen. For extremely rare movie posters some restorers would still use linen.
A double mounting process is used for linen backing, where a sheet of acid-free Japanese rice paper is used between the movie poster and the cotton backing. The rice paper acts as a neutraliser between the movie poster and the cloth.
We have seen that when movie posters are linen backed for preservation purposes and are graded in a very good or better condition can command a higher price than an unbacked movie poster of the same title. As an example, on the 16th May 2017, eMoviePoster sold a ‘Style D’ Star Wars movie poster for $327 in a very good condition, the very same title but linen backed sold on 15th June 2017 for $545 again in a very good condition.
If a movie poster is linen backed for restoration purposes, the value of the movie poster could rise significantly. As an example, on 28th August 2012, eMoviePoster sold a ‘Style A’ From Russia With Love movie poster for $71, the very same title but linen backed sold on 16th September 2014 for $375. By having the movie poster professionally restored and linen backed, the value of the movie poster could increase back to market value.
Linen backing would normally be completed on paper stock movie posters with paper backing being used for card stock like US Inserts or Window Cards.
Some collectors will not buy linen backed movie posters as it can hide the amount of restoration completed. Also, by linen backing a movie poster, any markings on the back are hidden which could be used to authenticate the movie poster.
The cost of linen backing a movie poster will vary according to its size and the company used for backing. For example, a UK Quad 40”x30” and a US One Sheet 27”x41” will cost £100. A US 3 Sheet which measures 41”x81” will cost £250. If any restoration work is required then that will be charged on top at £75 per hour.
The Linen Backing Process
The process of linen backing a movie poster is quite laborious and requires a high degree of skill and experience. The team at Fourth Cone Restoration, a small business staffed and owned by three women recently completed some work on a Blade Runner US One Sheet.
The Blade Runner movie poster is incredibly hard paper to work on due to its glossy nature, Melissa said “the poster has got to be one of the most cantankerously restoration-resistant pieces I’ve come across. Every step is a battle. When the paper is that smooth and glossy, there is no ‘tooth’ to grab on to any added pigment. So it takes a while. But we’re experienced so of course, it’s fine”. They began with a light wash to remove any surface dirt, followed by linen backing to smooth out the fold lines. Follow the rest of the process and the restoration work completed.
The Blade Runner poster in original condition. Notice the heavy folds.
Here is what the poster looks like while it is still on the screen, before getting trimmed down.
Melissa uses an agate burnisher to smooth the fold lines down until they’re perfectly flat.
An example of what restoration does. The whitish line running across the image is a fold line. The middle area has been restored first in order to demonstrate the difference. Some people like to keep their fold lines while others think it detracts from the poster’s original message.
And here is the poster linen backed and restored.
A side by side comparison of the poster unrestored and restored.