MOVIEPOSTERCOLLECTORS.GUIDE

HOW TO DISTINGUISH ORIGINAL MOVIE POSTERS

FROM BOOTLEGS, REPRINTS, AND COMMERCIAL POSTERS

 

(2) Avoid oversized and undersized posters


Pre-1990 US one sheet posters are usually 27x41 and post-1990 posters are usually 27x40 (or within 1/4” of those dimensions). Many reproductions are undersized by more than 1/2” or even more.  Many modern reproductions, including Grindhouse, are 39”. 


(3) Avoid posters with “fuzzy” text


Printing quality is key in spotting repros. The text - even the very smallest text - on original posters is usually razor sharp and very clear.  By contrast, the text on digital reproductions almost always is very “fuzzy” due to the effects of digitization and printing.   Here is an example of “fuzzy” text on a reproduction of Superfly:

(4) Check the clarity of the union logo


Many older posters will have a very tiny union logo at the bottom center.  This logo will be clear, sharp, and legible on an original and very fuzzy on a reproduction.  Here are examples of the “GAU” and “LPIU” union logos on originals:

(5) Avoid known sellers of digital reprints


Avoid the “Fake Sellers” detailed on this website.  They sell many reprints evasively labeled as “mint” or “new” or - at worst - falsely labeled as originals.


(6) Avoid “minty” white posters


Original posters are printed on acidic paper and have “tanned” to some extent over time due to natural “acid tanning.”  By contrast, digital reproductions are printed on “minty white” new paper.  The older the poster, the more tanning is apparent.

Studios have licensed some of the most popular posters for sale to the public.  While most collectors do not collect commercial reprints, they are perfectly legal and in some cases acceptable substitutes for originals. The licensed copies are normally smaller (often 24x36) than original posters (usually 27x40 or 27x41) and are always single-sided.  Sonis is one company that has sold commercial reprints of many movie posters.  If you see the small Sonis logo (as seen in red circle below) on a poster, it is probably a reprint.  (Sonis did print some original posters in Europe.)

Below are links to authentications for some of the most popular movie posters.  For some authentications I own both the reproduction/bootleg and/or the original and have prepared and written my own analysis of the distinguishing features.  My authentications point out the most important features that allow potential buyers to differentiate originals and reprints/bootlegs. They are not full-blown scholarly analyses and do not highlight every single difference. 


For other posters I have highlighted/summarized existing reports and other authentications. Some images below are direct links to other authentication sites such as www.movieposterauthenticating.com.

MoviePosterCollectors.guide is a portal, reference, and showcase to the wonderful world of movie poster collecting!  Pursuant to the “fair use” provisions of United States copyright law, any images on this site subject to copyright protection are displayed solely for the non-profit purposes of education and promotion of movie poster collecting. Contact the site administrator at moviepostercollectors@gmail.com.

FAKE MOVIE POSTER AUTHENTICATIONS

Bootleg posters are posters printed using the original lithograph printing plates without the authorization of the movie studio. For example, the Empire Strikes Back “Gone With The Wind” poster (below right) was printed with five printing plates. Anyone with access to these plates and a printing facility could print unlimited perfect copies:

DISTINGUISHING AND AVOIDING DIGITAL REPRODUCTIONS

DISTINGUISHING AND AVOIDING COMMERCIAL POSTERS

SPECIFIC AUTHENTICATIONS FOR THE MOST POPULAR POSTERS

Hard to believe, but certain unscrupulous dealers have created authentication sites with false information to bolster the credentials of bootleg posters, such as Star Wars Style A. The most notorious “fake” authenticator is “Professor Leonard Powers.”  If any seller tries to bolster the credentials of a poster by referring to Powers, the seller is selling a fake poster.

Collectors want “true original” movie posters, i.e. posters that were legally authorized by the studio, printed when the movie is released, and actually distributed or intended for distribution.  However, movie posters, unlike many other collectibles (e.g. comic books), generally are not sold to or intended to reach the public.  (Pursuant to the “first sale” doctrine of copyright - a rather complicated legal subject explored here - collectors still legitimately can own movie posters.)


Instead, studios directly or indirectly contract with printers and directly or indirectly distribute the posters to movie theater chain companies, movie theaters, or other advertising venues (bus stops, shopping malls, etc.). Many studios currently contract with Technicolor to distribute their posters. From the 1940s to the 1980s the National Screen Service printed and distributed most movie posters.


Movie posters legitimately reach collectors in several ways, including: 


  1. Most commonly, theater chains, managers or employees sell them to dealers or collectors, typically through Ebay.

  2. Sometimes movie studios will print extra posters and sell them directly to dealers.  These “dealer print runs” may occur years after the movie was original was released.

  3. When the National Screen Service liquidated many of its warehouses in the mid-1980s, millions of posters were sold (or otherwise acquired) by dealers. Some independent poster exchanges, such as Movie Poster Service in Oklahoma and Theater Poster Exchange in Memphis, Tennessee, continue in business and have enormous inventories of movie posters.



DISTINGUISHING AND AVOIDING BOOTLEGS

Unfortunately, in many cases it is impossible to distinguish “true” originals from bootlegs, which are sometimes printed years after the movie was released. In some cases specific “bootlegs” have been identified and authentication tests have been developed to weed them out.  The best known bootlegs include certain Star Wars posters. See the specific authentications below.

ADVANCED AUTHENTICATION

Most older posters are lithographs.  As explained on this site, a loupe can be used to verify the printing method and detect digital inkjet or laser print reproductions.

Offset lithography:  Type edges are sharp and well defined. The ink density is similar across the letter. The paper around the printed ink is usually clear/unprinted

Laser printing: The image is created by depositing a powder toner. This results in a "sprayed on" appearance. Type edges are soft and there are often specks of wayward toner on what should be unprinted paper.

Inkjet: ink jet type has a "blocky" "chunky" edge appearance. This is caused by the low resolution/large droplet size typical of these devices. Sometimes there will be the occasional "satellite" ink droplet near the letter.

Digital reproductions are posters printed from digital images of movie posters. Sellers will sometimes label these reprints as “new” or “mint” and avoid terming them “reproductions.”  Unfortunately, there are many digital reproductions of original movie posters for sale on Ebay and elsewhere. Fortunately, digital reproductions can usually be detected, as explained below:


(1) Buy double-sided posters when possible


To take advantage of lightboxes, most original posters since 1990 have been printed “double sided” with a lighter/whiter mirror image on the back. (See pic below.) It is expensive to print posters double-sided, so there are relatively few double-sided reproductions. (Grindhouse, Spiderman, and The Phantom Menace are some of very few double-sided reprints commonly sold. See authentications below.)  So 99% of the time you are getting an original when you buy a double-sided poster.

BELGIAN BOOTLEG MOVIE POSTERS

According to reports, many Belgian posters were bootlegged. These bootlegs have the line “printed in Belgium” in the corner.  Avoid these bootlegs.  Below right is a link to an authentication of a Belgian Forbidden Planet poster that has been bootlegged.