If you have frequented antique malls or flea markets this fall then you’ve probably noticed some vintage Halloween decorations for sale, most of which are made of paper, card stock, and 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 the result is that vintage Halloween decorations are rather expensive, and 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!
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 later removed, it often lifts part of the printing, leaving a scuff-like white spot, such as this one…
If you like, you can fill in those scuffs on pieces using quality artist markers, such as those by Prismacolor. Which I have done on some items, such as this cat.
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, typically only when the missing color is quite distracting.
Okay, no tape on the front. But what about the back? It’s tempting, but is just as bad, as when it is removed, it often takes part of the paper with it when removed, 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…
Sometimes people just leave tape on a piece. Tape that remains on decorations can discolor with time, like this piece…
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…
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 designated hole. Otherwise you will puncture a hole directly through the paper. Staples also put small holes in items, and 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.
These are all things we want to avoid! So to do that, I suggest using the following methods.
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.
Here I used white thread, as our walls are white.
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.
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 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.
The popular style of frame above is known as a “float frame” and can be found at Target, Michaels, and Amazon.
A frame is also a great way to display some of the more fragile, typically disposable items, such as napkins and portions of tablecloths.
Here I used a record frame which fit one of my vintage napkins perfectly. I added a vintage die cut cat to fill the void in the center. I then used a small frame to showcase a segment of a vintage paper tablecloth. Often tablecloths have larger prints, so larger frames sometimes are needed.
In the first photo I framed two segments in larger square frames, flanking the float style frame that highlights two die cut pieces with their packaging. The second photo features a portion of a vintage vinyl tablecloth with a frame I bought at Michael’s.
Frames are an especially great way to protect paper decorations in areas where there is water, such as the bathroom or kitchen.
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.
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.
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 dictate how much a piece leans back, when propping up my vintage Haunted Mansion tombstone.
Plate stands/easels can also be used, of course, for plates! I have a small collection of vintage paper plates that I display in our dining room.
Once again, I purchased this style at Michaels. If you really like this style, you can purchase a pack of 12 on Amazon.
For Christmas one year I decided to display my collection of vintage Christmas cards on a “clothesline” using ribbon and mini clothespins. I used the idea again when Halloween rolled around when I began collecting vintage mini trick or treat bags.
I then scaled up when my die cut collection grew, and did a larger clothesline in the living room.
The ribbon for both is attached with Command hooks.
I purchased the mini clothes pins at Michael’s, sadly I can’t find black ones on their website, but they do have natural wood and other colors. You can find black ones on Amazon. As for the regular size orange and black ones, I purchased those on Amazon. Orange ones are available here. Black ones are available here.
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!
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.