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Collecting and Protecting Movie Ticket Stubs

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I remember movie ticket stubs being nothing special when I was a kid.  You got one of those colored roll tickets, which might have had the name of the theater on it, but lacked other identifying information.

Somewhere along the way, maybe when I was busy being a “business man” in the late 1990’s with no time for such foolery, movie ticket stubs got more interesting.  Most theaters now give you a ticket stub that is larger and has all sorts of interesting information, like the name of the movie you saw, the date, and the theater’s name.  A few years ago I realized that this was a great thing for someone like me who watches a lot of movies and might have some trouble remembering what exactly I’ve seen.

I’ve always been a bit of a collector.  As a youth, it was baseball cards.  It’s always been books.  And in the last several years, it has been about movies.  Most forms of collecting can look like a mild form of mental illness, from a certain point of view.  To follow a collection to its logical conclusion is to always be looking to acquire the next thing.  Some people collect as if they are managing an investment, a dubious proposition in any collector’s market primarily run by dealers, be they antiques, coins, or rare books.

In comparison, a movie ticket stub collection can represent a meaningful personal history with minimal issues related to collectible markets.  This post seeks to illustrate the ease and enjoyment one can have collecting ticket stubs from the movies.

Ticket stubs are technically epherema, which is a fancy way of saying “meant to be thrown away.”  Post cards, hand-bill advertisements, and garage sale posters are all epherema.  Lobby cards and posters are well-established and often expensive film epherema collectibles.   Given the disposable nature of stubs, your collection quickly becomes unique as time elapses.

In terms of cost, ticket stubs are easily acquired for free, assuming you frequent your local movie theaters and feel that the films are already worth the price of admission.  There is a very thin trade in movie theater ticket stubs on eBay, should you want to acquire beyond your own viewing habits, but I don’t recommend throwing good money in that direction.  If you acquire the ticket stubs from theaters directly, there isn’t any question of authenticity, while the same cannot be said about eBay sales, movie memorabilia dealers, or garage sales.

You also can’t beat the personal history that a ticket stub can represent–it’s a small piece of documentation of where you where and what you were doing.  Maybe it reminds you of people with whom you spent time.  Sometimes, it’s a chance to prove you were hip to a film before the bandwagon caught on.

Keeping Your Stub Collection

This section provides some basic advice to preserving your movie stub collection and is adapted from my training in book preservation in library school

There are many ways your ticket stubs can be damaged:  radiation (most commonly from light) will fade inks and discolor paper; moisture can create conditions where mold can grow; dust and other substances can soil the paper; and even light handling can create wear on corners and creasing.  To make matters worse, your ticket stubs may be carrying an internal threat–traces of acid in the paper or ink may slowly react over years and weaken the stub.

Keeping your collection in appropriate protective media in a dry place not in direct sun should extend the life of your stubs. Fortunately, the supplies necessary to protect a movie ticket stub collection are readily available, thanks to the widespread popularity of trading card collecting and scrapbooking.

For holding individual ticket stubs, I use 2 5/8 x 3 3/4 polypropylene sleeves designed for trading cards.  They’re too small for concert or theater tickets, but every movie ticket stub I own fits in this style of sleeve.  Sometimes these sleeve can be found in retail at places like Wal-mart, if you look at the collectible card game/sports card section.  A pack of 100 may run $1 to $5, making for a very low per-ticket price.  Also, you can buy them online from Hobby Lobby.  I’d avoid the trading card pages designed to fit in binders, since they tend to slump and bend the contents if stored upright for a long period of time.  To keep your slips organized, invest in a card box, preferably one that is acid-free.

Poly sleeves are ideal because they allow you to handle your stubs with minimal touching.  If you want something more focused on presentation, look into building a movie scrap book, taking care to use acid-free supplies (as most are, these days).  If you’re like some of the scrapbookers I know and have a backlog of projects, take care to place your stubs out of the light until you can get them placed in your books.

If I have a need to keep notes on a stub, I use a piece of buffered paper and write with an acid-free ink, as is shown in the following photo. The buffered paper from archival supplies can easily run $20 a ream, so an acid-free scrap book paper is a suitable replacement.

What’s the difference between buffered and acid-free paper?  Buffered paper has alkaline chemicals added to mitigate the effects of acid, while acid-free paper merely has a PH of 7.0 or higher.  For example, old newspaper ink was often acidic to a point that the newspaper deteriorated much faster beneath lettering than in the white space, so buffered paper is used to slow this process down.  I don’t know the innate acidity of paper in ticket stubs, so the use of buffered paper may be over-compensating.  Maybe I’ll do some chemistry over the summer and find out.

Most of the damage I’ve done to my stubs comes from the time between purchasing the ticket and returning from the movie.  To minimize this damage, I place the stub in a book (since I often carry one).  Alternatively, you could invest in a simple hard-sided business card case to temporarily hold stubs. For example, this case: Aluminum Business Card Case (Amazon)

A note on honest wear:  I don’t get upset if the stub gets torn badly by a ticket taker or has a streaked and/or muddy printing.  These are legitimate artifacts of the experience.  I’ve long felt that the condition-focus of most collectible markets detracts from the enjoyment.  Your experience may vary.

I hope this was a informative and encouraging post.  If you collect stubs I’d love to hear about how you keep them in the comments.

Written by Bill

May 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Movies

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