Don’t Touch the Signature
It’s important when handling your autographs not to touch the signature itself. The oils from your skin can break down and damage a lot of surfaces/inks and can result in your signature fading or smudging. This is especially important with baseballs where it’s not only important not to touch the signature but also not to touch the leather of the ball before it’s signed. Having oils on the ball before it’s signed can also cause fading or smudging. Our best tip is to always handle items near the edges and away from the signature, or on baseballs always handle them by the laces. If you want to go one stop further you can even get plastic gloves to handle your items with.
Toploaders and Plastic Bags
It’s common sense that it’s important not to have an item out in the open where it can be damaged. Be sure to use toploaders for photos and plastic bags for other items to keep them from being handled too much. We use plain sandwich bags to store all of our baseballs, larger ziploc bags to store jerseys and large items, and plastic toploaders for photos. These items keep you from handling the items more than necessary, the goal is to pull an item out in the open only long enough to have it signed to reduce the risk of damage or contamination.
*NOTE: Most toploaders do contain PVC, a plastic product that over time can damage a signature. Toploaders are great for short term storage but are not an archival safe long term solution. I’ve had photos in top loaders for 5-10 years without any major issues but over an extremely long time (especially if temperature or humidity is adjusted) they can damage the sharpie signature on items. Polyester photo sleeves are a great alternative for long term storage (or have your photos professionally framed).
Let it Dry
Don’t forget to let an item dry before putting it any kind of storage where the signature will touch a surface. Many collectors forget this and smudge autographs by touching them or putting them in toploaders or bags right after they have been signed. A good tip here is to blow on the signature for a few minutes after it’s signed until it’s fully dry. Paint Pens are especially bad for this since paint takes much longer to dry than sharpie (we usually keep our paint signed items out to air dry for 5-10 minutes after being signed, for sharpie a 60-90 seconds of blowing on the signature should work). There is nothing more frustrating than getting a great item signed and then destroying the signature by smearing it.
Avoid UV Light
This is one of the most important tips and is often ignored by so many. UV light can breakdown ink from pens and sharpies. Over time any signature exposed to UV light from the sun or from fluorescent light bulbs will fade until it’s completely gone. Depending on the condition of the item and the ink this can take as few as a couple years. There are a couple things collectors typically do to fix this issue. First, you can keep all of your items in a dark room or in some form of boxed storage where they do not receive direct UV light. However, most of us like to display our collections. If you want your items on display keep them in some sort of UV protected storage. For baseballs and bats you can use UV protected holders and ball cubes. For photos you can use toploaders or sleeves as long as they are UV protected or even better have items that in direct light framed professionally using UV plastic instead of normal glass. You can also buy non-UV protected holders (such as ball cases) and then replace the glass/plastic with a UV plexiglass like Lexan.