Sericels And Production Animation Cels Collection

Equipped with the proper knowledge, just about anyone can purchase and care for a cel or start their very own collection.

Collecting animation cels can be an exciting, if expensive, hobby. Cels are the thousands of plastic cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate "frames", usually hand-painted, that make up an animated show. Each one is completely one-of-a-kind, and it is for this reason that they are popular among collectors.

Once considered worthless, cels have now become works of art, and studios are realizing that their old sketches and cellulose are in high demand by fans. Prices can rise into the thousands between collectors for a "valuable" scene in a show - for example, in a 1991 official auction, cels from the popular show The Simpsons went for an average price of four thousand dollars, and a record-setting Mickey Mouse cel sold in 1989 for $450,000!

When looking for a production cel, note that the price will be dependent on the number of layers, rarity of the show/scene/characters that appear, as well as the age of the show. For example, cels without a background are cheaper, as are cells without the original pencil sketch. Some cels will contain multiple cellulose layers with different characters/scenery on each, and though most will not have a background, many will come with their original pencil sketch attached. With age, the paper may become permanently stuck to the cel, so try to separate them after initially receiving them (else wise you will never get them apart) but take care not to damage the sketch or the paint job. If the sketch cannot be separated, it will have to be left as-is or risk devaluing the rest of the cel.



The cels that command the highest prices are, of course, production cels with the original sketch and full background included- however, recently another type of cel has appeared on the collectors' market, called the "sericel". Silk-screened for perfect color and shading, sericels are produced specifically to appease the demand for limited edition production art without actually selling off the cels used for the show. Nicely framed, a sericel is often more attractive than a production cel, whose paint might be sloppily applied and pencil sketch permanently stuck, background missing and clumsily stapled together. However, sericels have very little resale value, even among collectors, and are priced far higher than they cost to make.

Some studios will also produce hand-painted replications of their cels. Although they were never actually used in the production of a show, these limited-edition reproductions allow collectors on the lookout for a particular scene to acquire it, even when the actual drawings from that scene are long gone. They are produced in very limited numbers, and have nearly as high value among collectors as the originals.

Much care should be taken when framing cels, particularly production ones, which may be lopsidedly attached and many-layered. In fact, if this can be professionally by a gallery experienced with framing animation, it is recommended that you do so rather than risk damaging your cel in the long run. Animation art has a relatively short lifespan that can be immensely affected by improper framing. Keeping in mind that traditionally you are dealing with ink on the front and paint on the back of the cel, neither side should touch your framing materials. A special mat, called a "reverse-bevel back mat" is recommended to separate the back of the cel from the frame material. Choose a matboard that is acid-free on both sides and follow careful precautions to mount the cel correctly. Steps MUST be taken to correctly mount the cel, lest it become damaged; so taking it to a professional who has prior experience or locating exact guidelines is the best way to go.

Collection animation cels are becoming even more of a popular hobby, despite the trend of digital animation emerging. It is the ultimate souvenir for a fan - there is nothing quite like owning an actual piece of your favorite show!

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