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Collectors generally only buy “original” movie posters, which are posters authorized and printed by studios to promote movies. Original movie posters have a direct connection to the movie and can appreciate in value. Original posters are displayed in theater lobbies, bus stops, shopping malls, and other advertising venues. 


Many collectors also buy exceptional commercial movie posters/prints, such as screenprints currently being sold by MondoTees and posters produced by Killian Enterprises from 1985-1995.  Generally, however, commercial movie posters are not as collectible as original posters.


With very few exceptions collectors avoid reprints and bootlegs of movie posters because they have low value and will never appreciate in value. Of course, some movie posters are so rare and/or expensive that buying reprints of them is the only realistic option. (For example, only one original Bride of Frankenstein teaser poster exists.) 


Unfortunately, some reprints/bootlegs are difficult to distinguish from originals.  In fact, some reprints are deliberately designed to fool collectors.  See the MPC Authentication section to learn how to distinguish original movie posters from commercial posters.

Unlike comic books and other collectibles, official movie posters cannot be purchased directly from the studio or studio printers.  Generally, to promote a movie, studios hire advertising agencies to develop promotional materials, including posters. Approved designs are sent to commercial printers and then distributed to theaters.  Sometimes the studios or printers will sell movie posters wholesale to poster dealers, who then sell to collectors. Sometimes theater managers or employees sell them directly to collectors. Collectors also sell their poster through direct sales, auctions on Ebay, or consignment to independent auction houses. See the MPC Buying Guide to learn how to buy movie posters.

Rarity is a critical valuation factor for movie posters. Generally, the older the poster, the rarer it is. Until the late 1970s movie posters were considered “junk paper” and trashed like old newspapers. Also, many or most pre-WWII posters were recycled in paper drives. In fact, for most pre-1940 movies fewer than 10 posters still exist.  The popularity of Star Wars in 1977 fueled interest in the movie poster hobby, so movie posters from the late 1970s to date are more common than pre-1970 posters. Also, in the 1980s the National Screen Service, which had printed the vast majority of movie posters in the United States, closed all of its warehouses and liquidated all the millions of remaining posters. Many pre-mid 1980s posters being sold today originated from those liquidation sales.  International one sheets are also relatively rare.

Goldfinger

commercial print

Bride of Frankenstein teaser reprint

ALWAYS BUY ORIGINAL POSTERS

VALUATION FACTOR - RARITY

Collectors greatly appreciate and value creativity.  Below are some examples of posters featuring exceptional creativity:

1934

2006

1958

1982

Unfortunately, perhaps the majority of modern posters (and of course some older posters) are generic and unimaginative photo montage posters, which are shunned by collectors and are essentially worthless. Below are some examples:

The popularity of a movie often is the prime determinant of value.  Collectors will pay top dollar even for mediocre posters from popular movies.  Non-collectors will swarm Ebay to buy original posters from popular movies. Below are some examples of valuable posters from popular movies:

Collectors value artistry and therefore generally prefer illustrated posters over photo posters.  Prior to the mid-1980s most posters were illustrated but since then most posters feature photo montages of the movie stars.  (Using photos is less expensive than hiring artists and, to some extent, photos are considered more effective advertising than illustrations.)

Dracula Style F 1S

(four known originals )

Astounding She Monster

(few originals survive)

Animal House

(very rare advance)

The Big Lebowski

(rare international one sheet)

Collectors often prefer posters originating from the country where the movie was filmed or where the events of the movie take place, such as the following examples:

Collectors and fans of the British super-spy James Bond prefer quads originating from the UK.

Lost in Translation is an English language movie set in Tokyo, so the Japanese posters (like the B2 below) are much coveted.

International posters, especially French and Italian posters, often feature exceptional artistry, like the below examples:

Italy

France

UK

Japanese posters for Godzilla movies command a premium over non-Japan posters.

Many collectors will buy a poster from a movie just because they can “relate” to that movie, even if they never watch it.

Lawyers can relate to this poster from The Paper Chase, about the infamous first year of law school.

Everybody wants to be a cool surfer and you can be one vicariously by displaying this poster from Big Wednesday.

Every motorcyclist would love to have a poster like “On Any Sunday.”

There’s no denying that popularity and/or physical attractiveness of the featured movie star drives the price of many movie posters, like the below examples:

Collectors prefer better-quality posters, although some posters are so rare that any condition is acceptable. The hobby does not have one standard grading system but Jon Warren’s system is often used. (MPE modified table below)

It is critical to check past auction prices to determine the “fair market value” range of the poster.  The two best sources for past auction prices are the Heritage.com Movie Poster Archive (registration required) and the EmoviePoster.com Auction History Archive.

PAST AUCTION PRICES

Heritage screenshot showing Star

Wars Style C previous highest sale prices

eMoviePoster screenshot showing most recent sale prices of Titanic one sheets

Excellent/near mint condition, minimal fold wear, and unused. (Value $400+)

Fine condition, heavier fold lines, one piece of missing paper. (Value $200-$400)

Good condition, acid-tanning, tape, tape residue, large paper loss, heavy fold wear, stains. (Value $75-150)

Below are some pictures of Jaws one sheets in various conditions.

VALUATION FACTOR - ARTISTRY

VALUATION FACTOR - CREATIVITY

VALUATION FACTOR - POPULARITY OF MOVIE

VALUATION FACTOR - COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

VALUATION FACTOR - “RELATABILITY”

VALUATION FACTOR - POPULARITY/ATTRACTIVENESS OF ACTOR

VALUATION FACTOR - CONDITION OF POSTER

Although Ebay only maintains past sales for a few weeks, Ebay can also be searched to determine fair market value.  Be aware that most “Buy It Now” prices on Ebay are above fair market value. See the specific Ebay links in the Buying Guide section.

VALUATION FACTOR - RESTORATION

VALUATION FACTOR - ROLLED VS. FOLDED

Until the late 1980s/early 1990s the vast majority of movie posters were machine-folded, so collectors will pay a premium for pre-1990 rolled posters both because they are rarer and more attractive without distracting fold lines.  Below, for example, is a rare rolled 2001 1972 re-release poster on the right compared to a folded 2001 poster:

Restoration is a controversial subject in the hobby.  Generally, an excellent condition unrestored poster will always sell for more than a restored poster. Many “purist” collectors will only purchase unrestored posters.  Other collectors prefer restored posters, particularly linen-backed posters because linen-backing can dramatically improve the appearance of the poster, as shown below.  See the LAMP website for more details about restoration techniques.

If you do buy a restored poster, make sure the seller fully discloses exactly how it has been restored, especially significant paper replacement in the .  Heavily-restored posters are generally shunned by collectors and are worth much less than unrestored or moderately-restored posters. For example, this extremely-rare Astounding Monster three sheet (41”x81”) was substantially restored and the dealer allegedly did not disclose the restoration.

1940s comic book advertisement promoting war paper drives. (Picture courtesy Emovieposter.com).