Preserving a George Washington Centennial Ribbon

7bd860ebd1d0b7d1ab03529834a95215Even at 132 years old, George Washington could be better preserved, at least as he appears on this wonderfully preserved Jacquard silk ribbon from the 1876 Centennial Exposition. It was one of many antiques and collectibles evaluated by WorthPoint Worthologists at the “Treasures from the Attic” antiques and collectible show in Manassas, VA in March of 2008 to benefit the educational programs of the Manassas Museum Associates.

As Worthologist for political and presidential memorabilia, this particular item really caught my attention because the silk ribbon featured a very well preserved silk rendering of George Washington. The detail of the portrait, the crossed flags, the official buildings of the exposition, and the quotations all spoke to a high quality of workmanship for a general souvenir of a very unique event.

The Centennial International Exhibition was held in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Independence of the United States in the very city where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed. According to Wikipedia, about 10 million visitors attended the exhibition from its opening day in May until it closed in November. It was the first World’s Fair to be held in the United States and it featured the first typewriter, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the introduction of Heinz catsup, Hires root beer and one of the first electric lights.

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Of the many souvenirs available to the visitors, a silk ribbon would not have been out of the ordinary. What is unusual was its condition. A silk ribbon of this era usually has frayed edges to show that it was worn as intended, or stored incorrectly through the years out in the open, exposed to the elements. In this example, though, the colors of the silk thread are still vibrant, without frays anywhere, no stains, and even the reverse shows no loose threads at all. A very well-preserved piece of American history.

But, what is the value? A quick check of past auction records in WorthPoint’s Worthopedia at the time of the video brought up an example of the same silk ribbon featuring George Washington and the crossed flags. Comparing the two showed that the one featured in the Worthopedia did show some fraying along its edge with an estimated value of $150 to $250 as of 2001.

However, more recent examples item added to the Worthopedia after the video was shot sold at auction in late 2007, one for a mere $38, while another sold at auction for $42. Why the huge difference between the estimated value in 2001 and the more recent ones? Within the six-year time frame, many additional examples may have surfaced, bringing a larger supply and therefore lower auction prices. Also, the ribbon of 2001 did not sell at auction, so the estimate may have been originally too high.

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As with any historic item, though, preservation is the key. Here, the silk ribbon was placed in a commercially produced wooden frame under glass. While this is better than placing it in an open environment, it should be immediately removed from this frame and professionally attached to an acid free backing. An additional acid free mat should be placed to keep the ribbon from touching the glass. Use specially designed glass that helps filter out the harmful UV rays of normal lighting and of the sun. Once archivally framed, hang it on an inside wall and away from direct sunlight.

The Worthopedia is an excellent way to quickly determine value of items you may have had in your possession for many years. Then, once known, it is easier to determine just what you need to do to keep your historical item properly preserved for future generations.

To watch a video about this item, click here.