Can I remove shellac from a signed baseball without removing the writing on it?
Q. Dear Donia,
I have a baseball from the 1947 World Series signed by several players (no stars) with other notations, like score, attendance, "Longest Game", etc. The writing has faded significantly, nearly unreadable in most cases, but I wrote it all down when it was readable. Unfortunately, it was coated with shellac many years ago. Is it possible to remove the shellac without removing the writing? I would consider enhancing or recreating the writing, even though I know this would destroy any "market" value it may have. I am not a collector, and I am much more interested in simply being able to display, show, and enjoy it. Is there anything you can do, or do you have any advice? Thanks, Ben
A. Dear Ben,
What a wonderful souvenir to have, and I am so sorry to hear the writing is fading!
It is very difficult to tell you whether you can remove the shellac without removing the writing. Formulations for shellac can vary since it could have been mixed at home or by a company. Also, not knowing what ink or what varieties of ink were used make this impossible to say without testing all the variables. If you try to remove the shellac, you could remove all the ink below. Also, depending on what you use, you could also damage or stain the leather itself.
In my opinion, it would be best to leave the ball as it is. You could try getting digital photographs using different sources of light such as UV or Infrared if you know anyone with those light sources.
I am sorry I cannot give you a more definitive answer but without testing, I just don't know how all of the components will react.
If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask "Dear Donia" again.