They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but how many times have you judged a movie by its poster? A mix of photos, illustrations, and text, movie posters are used to evoke emotion and stoke excitement about new productions.
Developed in the late 1800s, the movie poster has been a go-to marketing tactic for nearly 150 years. And, as a result, a collector’s item for almost as long.
In June, we sold a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movie poster autographed by the movie’s star Harrison Ford, director Steven Spielberg, creator George Lucas and music composer John Williams, for $700.
The rarest and most sought-after movie posters can sell for thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What makes a movie poster valuable?
- The movie. The poster for a famous movie is almost always more valuable than the poster of a relatively unknown film. The most valuable movie posters are from well-known films like “Dracula,” “Casablanca,” “Frankenstein” and the original, 1930s versions of “The Mummy” and “King Kong”.
- Rarity. Older movie posters tend to be worth more because they are rarer. The value of posters from the 1980s and later drops significantly because so many more posters were produced. Of the top 10 posters to sell for the most money at auction, nearly 60% are from the 1930s. The remaining top 10 posters are from the 1920s and 1940s.
- New release vs re-release. In general, posters released when a film originally came out are worth more than posters created for a re-release of the movie.
- Condition. The condition of a movie poster has a huge impact on its value. It’s important to note that prior to the mid-1980s, most movie posters were machine folded so they could be mailed flat to movie theaters. Machine folds, which are crisp, straight lines, are not considered defects in a movie poster. Any other folds will decrease the value of the poster. After the mid-1980s, most movie posters were rolled, and are less likely to have machine folds in them.
- Autographs. Autographs can have a positive or negative impact on the value of a poster, depending on who you ask and who is buying the poster. People collecting movie posters for the artwork, generally don’t want signatures defacing the poster. However, a poster signed by a star actor or actress, director or producer can add value to the poster in some instances, especially when the autograph itself is rare.
Do you have a movie poster from hanging on your wall or tucked away in a box of keepsakes? Consider having it appraised by a certified appraiser. They can tell you the value of the poster and if it’s worth attempting to sell.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ejsauction.com, or 623-878-2003.