What to know before you start your own nautical flag collection.

By Sarah Brueggemann
May 21, 2003
Whether framed or strung together, pennants speak the language of the sea.
Michael Luppino

Bigger isn't always better. "If the size is too large, itcan devalue the flag," says Ryan. Many average 15 feet long. Todisplay a U.S. flag in a smaller space, fold the stripes back likean accordion so only a bit of stripe and all the stars show.

TLC. To protect fabric from sunlight and odors, have flagsstitched onto an acid-free fabric that's stretched and then framedunder UV-protected glass. Use clear acrylic for extremely largeflags; glass is too heavy.

Buyer beware. "Dealers claim they occasionally come acrossforgeries, but that's not the real trouble. "The problem is withcollectors who don't recognize what they are getting," says Ryan."E-bay or an auction house may say it's a valuable 25-star flag,but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's from the 1830s. It mayhave been made later during the Civil War, when many flagseliminated the stars for Southern states." If making a seriousinvestment, be sure to have a reputable dealer check it out.