By Amanda Sheriff, Gemstone Publishing
Collecting movie posters is plain and simply a fun hobby that expresses the love for a film and appreciation for art. From an advertising standpoint, they are meant to capture the story and tone of a movie with one artistic statement. They are designed to attract viewers, to stop theater patrons in their tracks to observe and imagine what exciting tale awaits in the film it advertises. It is those very factors—the pull to adventure, romance, thrills, and laughs—and the opportunity to capture that feeling for more than 120 minutes that turns film fans into movie poster collectors.
Collecting Across Time
Horror Movie Posters
Universal’s slate of early horror films can also be counted on to scare up impressive prices. Harder to find, they display striking artwork of menacing monsters and their frightened prey. The one-sheets for movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Black Cat, and The Invisible Man can achieve $250,000-$500,000 in sales. Posters from The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man can also realize six figures. Not to be outdone, MGM’s London After Midnight poster exceeded $475,000 nearly a decade ago, and RKO’s King Kong three-sheet has sold for nearly $340,000.
For comparison’s sake, in 1978 Grease was the highest-grossing movie of the year, and its one-sheets featuring stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John now go for around $400. While the one-sheets for Halloween depicting a menacing jack-o’lantern and knife, which also came out that year, are selling for $1,200. Similarly, in ’96 Independence Day was the highest grosser, with one-sheets of the alien ship destroying the White House now averaging $30. Scream posters with a closeup of Drew Barrymore’s terrified face are up to $140.
On the family-friendly side, collectors can turn to the wonderful world of Disney. Mickey Mouse is always a big seller, including the stock poster with a casual portrait of the Disney mascot selling for $20,000. The posters for his 1930s movies are particularly popular, such as Society Dog Show, The Barn Dance, and Alpine Climbers, which average $15,000, and Whoopee Party, Wayward Canary, and Mickey’s Pal Pluto have sold for nearly $50,000. The classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs poster by artist Gustaf Tenggren reaches $20,000, Pinocchio appears at his happy-go-lucky best on his posters that realize $15,000, the vibrantly colorful circus-style Dumbo poster sells for $9,000, and a motley party gathers on the Alice in Wonderland poster that averages $5,000.
Marilyn Movie Posters
As far as movie franchises go, Star Wars rules the galaxy in poster collecting. Teasers, advances, different styles per film, anniversary posters, and more have been created for the series, providing lots of collecting opportunities. The Star Wars Triple Bill, made in 1985 for a one-time showing of all three films, is valued at $20,000-30,000. The rare A New Hope style A seven-sheet has sold for more than $20,000 and the extra large 24-sheet averages $15,000. Most of the original trilogy posters can be found in the hundreds to low thousands range with highlights like the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention poster, New Hope advance teaser style A with a variant “W,” the style D “circus” poster, the Happy Birthday anniversary poster, The Empire Strikes Back style A/Gone with the Wind (nicknamed for its resemblance to that poster), and the Return of the Jedi advance with the original Revenge of the Jedi title.
James Bond, the world’s greatest superspy, is another highly collectible franchise, particularly for posters from his country of origin. Whether he’s posing with a weapon at the ready, looking suave in a tuxedo, or surrounded by beautiful women, 007 posters are flat-out cool. Multiple images appear on the Thunderball advance quad crown that realizes $25,000, Bond poses confidently on From Russia with Love quads that average $10,000-12,000, and Bond is superimposed over a golden woman on the Goldfinger six-sheet that can reach $13,000. Other great examples are The Man with the Golden Gun U.S. Christmas teaser with the titular weapon appearing in pieces and the British charity poster for The Spy Who Loved Me featuring Bob Peak’s vividly colorful art.
Age and the gravitas of older films aren’t the only reasons that classic posters are such hits with collectors. While modern versions favor photo-based imagery of their lead stars, posters from most of the 20th-century feature painted art. Bob Peak is one such artist, known for creating intricately designed pieces with montages and plenty of colorful flourishes. Some of his best work can be seen on posters for West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Apocalypse Now, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Cartoonist Jack Davis, who has an impressive body of work at MAD magazine, used his skills for comedic caricatures on movie posters. Highlights of his work include It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kelly’s Heroes, Bananas, and The Bad News Bears.
Saul Bass took a minimalistic approach by designing symbolic pieces that depicted key elements and themes from the movie. This can be seen on the posters for The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, and The Shining. Robert McGinnis created realistic renderings of actors and juxtaposed splashes of color with white backgrounds. Some of his most notable work includes Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Barbarella, The Odd Couple, and Live and Let Die. Drew Struzan uses a realism-focused airbrush style on popular films of the last 40 years, including The Thing, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting, and Hook.
Mondo variants have become a hot trend in movie poster collecting. The company works with artists and studios to create reimagined artwork for classic titles, then the posters are sold in limited edition print runs with most, if not all, selling out very quickly. Mondo posters that combine attractive art and marketability include the packed collage art on Guardians of the Galaxy, the textured, moody look on Rear Window, the bright, tourist style on Jaws, the red skies and ominous house on Psycho, and a blend of planetary details with the outlines of characters on Star Wars posters. Though many of these posters are less than a decade old, the best examples can sell for $5,000-10,000 on the secondary market.