Protecting Signed Rugby League Memorabilia

The majority of rugby league memorabilia is in paper form and subject to rapid deterioration. What are the best ways to preserve the integrity and protect these documents for years to come?

The growing sport of rugby hit a snag in 1890 with the split of the Rugby Union. Much of the remaining rugby league memorabilia of that era consists of handbills, artist renderings of events, and photos with the athletes’ signatures. The turn of the 20th century was one of the busiest times in rugby history.

In 1888, the England rugby team toured Australia creating interest there, and in 1892, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union was formed. People of that time were very perceptive to realize the importance of keeping articles relating to their beloved sport, and we have a rich pool of signed football memorabilia to draw from to appreciate the sport.

Because so many of the remaining items from the early days of rugby consist of paper, proper preservation is a top priority. Occasionally, loose and unprotected documents in fair condition are discovered in trunks and closets, but most often, they are almost unrecognizable.

Unsigned finds in good condition are a treasure to the collector, but anything that has a genuine signature is like gold. If you have the good fortune to get your hands on signed football memorabilia, be sure to take immediate means to protect it. Touching such fragile documents with your hands will quickly lead to their deterioration.

Oils from your body transfer easily to papers you handle, which leads to stains and causes old paper to break down. Use light cotton gloves to handle your documents until you can get them properly preserved. Signed football memorabilia, like any other old papers, reacts adversely to the acid in paper.

Temporarily store your papers by placing them between acid-free sheets of tissue or paper. Do not lay anything heavy on them. The sooner you can seal them from the atmospheric conditions, the better the chances for their longevity. Understand that under the best of conditions, documents that have been exposed for many years will not last forever.

It is highly recommended that you scan your rugby league memorabilia papers so you can transcribe them from copies rather than the original, and this will also ensure that the information and appearance of such items can be preserved even if the document itself becomes illegible or deteriorates beyond recognition.

Depending on the condition your signed football memorabilia is in, there may be folds and creases that make preservation more difficult. Carefully unfold and flatten the pages and do not refold them. When scanning, do not lay the lid of the scanner on top of them, but cover with a dark paper to reduce the chances of damage.

Many collectors prefer to laminate their documents after scanning to seal them from the air using a high quality lamination product. This works much better in the long run than just placing the collectibles behind glass. Glass also has a tendency to stick to the paper due to changes in humidity.

Any signed football memorabilia will definitely be valuable at some point, if it is not already. Be sure to follow these steps to preserve your rugby league memorabilia.

Nicole Thomas

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