What Makes a Movie Poster Collectable

By Karen Krizanovich

B eautiful, affordable and in some cases increasing in value by the day, movie posters, which feature in the Original Film Posters Online sale (13–22 March), are becoming more sought after by new and established collectors alike. But where to start? Here are some tips from movie poster guru Bruce Marchant.


The title is everything (almost)

“A famous film will bring in more value to its poster than a not-so-famous film. A well-known title from the 1930s, like Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), would be worth well over £100K as there are less than five known to exist. But there are many other film posters of the same era which wouldn’t have the same value.”


…Next to rarity

“Rarity is key. The rarest posters in this sale are an original German Charlie Chaplin City Lights poster from 1931, and a Belgian Laurel and Hardy poster for Bohemian Girl from 1936.  Both might be the last of their ilk in existence. The poster for 1950’s Stromboli is very rare, with fewer than ten surviving copies. Although thousands of posters were originally printed, survivors are few - and this is especially true for the larger posters. These were often pasted on billboards and that’s where they stayed, often to be pasted over. The large French poster designed by Jean Cocteau for 1949’s Les Enfants Terribles is a good example of one of the few that survived being pasted over!”


Look out for one-offs

“What is also very exciting are unique examples of original one-off artworks. These are the actual artworks used for the final posters. They are incredible filmic art. Just have a look at 1967’s The Jungle Book and 1960’s Spartacus.”


European posters are worth pursuing

“In many cases European posters are more valuable than American and British posters as posters in Europe were a recognised art form, often signed by their creators, unlike many American and British examples.  Anselmo Ballester was a legendary film poster artist who designed stunning posters for Rita Hayworth like 1944’s Cover Girl and 1952’s Affair in Trinidad.  Both are rarer and so superior to their American and British counterparts.”


Have designs on the aesthetic

“Some of the best film titles may not have great artwork but there may be other reasons to buy them. There is a film called New York (1927) which is relatively unknown but has the most amazing New York skyline. While the one-sheet (large poster) of Some Like It Hot, often called the best comedy of all time, consistently sells for under £1000 because the artwork isn't particularly exciting. In this sale there’s an exceptional Italian version of The Prince & The Showgirl which is both rare and a great design.”


Take a look at the condition

“Condition is very important, but it’s not like leaving collectable toys in a box and not playing with them. These posters were often folded by machine, stamped with the title and sent to the distribution warehouses. Over the years, they’ve been open and closed, pinned up but only if it’s been faded or badly torn does condition become an issue.”


Provenance isn’t important – but signatures are

“Who owned a poster isn't hugely important but there are a few here owned by the late David Gest who was married to Liza Minnelli. He managed to get this poster of To Kill A Mockingbird signed by Gregory Peck who was in the film. Having a poster signed adds a lot of value, particularly by people like Scorsese who hate to sign things.”


Prices can rocket

“Many pieces have gone up over 10 fold in 20 years. The poster for 1 Million Years BC is one you used to be able to buy for under £100, now some go for £2,000, a French version of From Russia With Love sells for similar.”


But don’t go too far in your quest for the ultimate poster…

“I knew a man who had an 8” scar down his arm, an injury he got by smashing the glass display at a cinema to get a poster. Real film posters were not typically for sale: they were kept by the studios and this guy just had to have this one… not that you should do that. Film posters are designed to create a lust for the film itself. This is the ‘concept art’ of film marketing. They set out to seduce you to buy a ticket. The largest poster in the sale - Prince & The Showgirl 79” x 55” two sheets - would have been glued on billboards in Italy around 1957. Imagine how that sexy image of Monroe would get people into the cinema. And in some ways, posters were often better than the film!”

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