Safe Ways to Display Vintage Halloween Decorations

If you frequent antique malls or flea markets this fall then you’ve probably noticed some vintage Halloween decorations for sale, most of which are made up of paper, or rather card stock or thin cardboard. This rather delicate and disposable nature of decorating for Halloween meant a lot of decorations were easily damaged and often tossed after use, and results in vintage Halloween decorations being rare, expensive, and still quite fragile. And as they are paper, it is tempting to display these pieces with tape. After all, you probably noticed tape on some of the items you’ve seen. But here is the thing, tape is one of the worst things you can use to display a piece of vintage ephemera. Thumbtacks and staples are just as tempting to use, but equally damaging. So just how are you to display them? Well today I am going to give you the inside scoop on how I display my vintage Halloween decorations!

Our living room full of Halloween decorations, text overlay reads "Safe Ways to Display Vintage Halloween Decorations"

But before we dive right in, I want to showcase some close-up images of the damage that has been done in the past to some of my decorations, so you have a better understanding of the damage created by tape, thumbtacks, and staples.

When tape is used on the front of a piece, and is then removed, it often lifts up part of the top layer of the piece, leaving a scuff like white spot, such as this one…

A vintage paper bat, who has a white scuff like mark on his black wing due to tape being removed from it.

Now, you can “restore” pieces using high-end artist markers, such as those by Prismacolor. Which I have done on some items.

Close-up of a torn area that has been touched up with marker.

There is still some remaining tape, but as you can see just above the right eye is where I touched up the image. I don’t often do this, but there was a massive white spot on top of his head that was rather distracting from the rest of this guy’s overall awesomeness.

Sometimes this wear gives pieces character, but sometimes it can detract from the piece. Like with most vintage items, condition is everything, although there is more leeway with ephemera, badly scuffed up pieces will fetch a smaller price, and filling in areas on your own does not increase a piece’s value, as the damage is still done, and other people may not like the method in which you have chose to restore the piece.

Using tape on the back can be tempting, but is just as bad, as when it is removed, it often takes with it part of the paper, degrading the integrity of the paper, and wearing it down. Over time repeatedly putting on and removing tape can eventually wear a hole in a piece. You can see a portion of the back has been ripped when tape was removed here…

Close-up of an area that has been torn on the back by tape.

Sometimes people just leave tape on piece. Tape that remains on decorations can discolor with time, like this piece…

Close-up of an area that has been discolored by old tape.

You can also see that the above piece was also hung up with a thumbtack at some point, leaving a small hole.

Sometimes old tape becomes brittle and lifts off fairly easily with minimal damage, as shown below…

Close-up of the residue and discoloring from tape.

However there is some mild residue left, and some discoloration where there was once tape.

Some items were produced with small holes in the top to allow for thumbtacks to be used. If you have pieces with these already designated holes, feel free to use thumbtacks as long as you use the hole. Otherwise you will puncture a hole directly through the paper. Staples also small holes in items, and also degrade the piece. Here you can see this piece had a designated hole in which to display the item, however someone chose to repeatedly use a stapler on it.

Close-up of damage done by staples to a decoration.

These are all things we want to avoid! So to do that, I suggest using the following methods.

Thread

Thread still allows you to hang your decorations akin to how they would have been used back in the day, but without risk of damage. That is if they have a hole in the top already! (If your decorations do not have a hole in them, please use one of the options further down!) So instead of sticking tape on your decorations, tie thread through the hole, and then you can hang the piece in a variety of ways.

We employed tape here, taping the thread behind the painting above our couch.

Above our couch hang two skeletons and a black cat, which have been hanged using string tied to the tops of them, and the string tapped behind the painting.

Here I used white thread, as our walls are white.

Close-up of the hole in the head of the skeleton, and the string tied through it.

Banners require thread, and then can be hung by the thread using tape, hooks, or tacks. We have used tape to hang our banners, with the thread being taped to the top of our valances so you do not see the thread.

Three black cats with jack-o-lanterns, sit on top of a valance, while a banner made of jointed jack-o-lanterns hangs below.

Close-up of the string that is taped to the top of the valance.

You can also use Command Hooks from the ceiling, as we did around our fireplace. For this I used a burnt orange-red thread to blend in better with the brick of our fireplace.

A cat sitting in the moon, and a witch dancing hanging against a brick wall.

Close-up of the witch and the hole in her hat.

Shot of the various ceiling hooks along the brick.

We purchased these style of Command Hooks at Target. You can also buy them in clear on Amazon. We will be switching to clear ones next year.

Frame

A frame is an easy and simple way to really class up your Halloween decorations and display them without damaging them, and preserve them as well.

In using a frame you can either frame the piece on its own, as I did here…

A flat paper jack-o-lantern in a frame.

Or create a collage, by backing vintage pieces with perhaps sheet music, vintage wallpaper or wrapping paper, or other bits of ephemera. If you intend on using modern paper mixed in with your vintage, I recommend using acid free paper to keep your vintage from getting discolored.

Frames are a great way to protect paper decorations in areas where there is water, such as the bathroom or kitchen.

The popular style of frame above is known as a “float frame” and can be found at Target, Michaels, and Amazon.

Plate Stand or Easel

The plate stand/easel idea was Patrick’s one year, and allows what are normally flat pieces of decor to be elevated to a more three-dimensional piece.

A flat decoration with an image of a black cat standing on a skull sits on top of a black plate stand.

The same black cat decoration, but being lifted by my hand to showcase the folding plate stand.

You’ll also notice sometimes I just prop up a piece by simply leaning it against the wall, which works well too. I just love the plate stand idea though as it really helps create dimension within an area.

I use two sizes of plate stands, and the taller the piece is, then the taller you would want the plate stand to be.

The two sizes of plate stands.

Easels come in a variety of styles and materials, including wood (like we have used here), plastic, and metal.

We purchased these ones at Michaels. You can purchase similar ones on Amazon.

I selected a different style of easel, one which allows me to alter how much a piece leans back, when propping up my vintage Haunted Mansion tombstone.

Small tombstone with a bat, and reads "Here Lies Ghost Number 1000"

A shot of the clear and white easel that holds up the tombstone.

Once again, I purchased this style at Michaels. If you really like this style, you can purchase a pack of 12 on Amazon.

I hope that this post inspires you to get a little more creative and be a little more careful with all of your vintage paper Halloween decorations! And if you’re wondering if that piece of Halloween decor you’ve found is indeed vintage, then be sure to check out my guide on how to tell the difference between a vintage piece and a reproduction or reissue piece.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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