Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gimme Gimme Gimme More Movie Posters

There used to be memorabilia stored all through old theatres. The Liberty had a room filled with them. I was years laying hands on these because Col. Forehand always maintained he might be playing the movies again (Devil Bat coming back in 1968?). A driver’s license widened nets I could throw at small town houses within a gas tank’s distance. We skipped school one day during senior year to visit a retired showman in Taylorsville. I asked for posters and he slammed the door in my face. Next day I knocked again with all-I-had-in-the-world fifty dollars in my hand. He turned nice at the sight of that and gave me my first big collecting score. This was in 1971. Nobody thought such junk had value then. You could go to most venues and they’d be glad for the free janitorial service. A lot of drive-in screens were hollow. Within these were piles of advertising materials and display frames. Our Starlight was such a place. Looking at a drive-in screen from the inside was quite an experience. It wouldn’t be long before they’d knock that down for a super market. What I took was less for the junkmen to worry about. Old-timers were slow but sure getting wise to value of inventory they’d kept. Through the eighties and nineties, I’d guess every theatre in the country was accounted for in terms of owners and managers being tracked down and questioned by dealers and collectors.

Treasure hunting nowadays is kind of a pathetic enterprise. Everybody’s traveling an antiques roadshow, it seems. Ebay opportunists dream of coming across the last great stash. Some NC guys recently got in the newspaper upon finding a one-sheet for The Eddy Duchin Story in a long-shuttered downtown Bijou they were remodeling. Treasure hunters have long since gone to the other extreme as to presumed values. Every poster that turns up now is worth a fortune. Didn’t we all read about that Dracula original that went for half a million? These folks expect all of them to go for that. Collecting brings out the beast in otherwise docile personalities. After my success in Taylorsville, I figured the whole state and ones surrounding were ripe for plucking. Not that I was looking to profit from my finds. This was an aesthetic pursuit. My justification was not unlike that of art collectors looting Renaissance churches. To preserve and protect was the slogan I might have painted on my car as it rumbled through town and country in search of loose memorabilia. Even in the early seventies, there were sometimes guys who’d got there ahead of me. How many times did exhibitors say: Oh yeah, I had a room full of that stuff, and some feller came just last week and took every bit of it. It was always just last week from these people. Never ten years ago, which would at least have cushioned the loss for me.

Interesting what these showmen had chosen to save. One had a set of rolled, laminated oversize displays for Cheyenne Autumn that were stunning. Another kept lobby cards from Seventh Heaven since 1927 because he’d liked that silent movie. None of them differentiated between titles represented. A Jezebel one-sheet was no more precious than a same-sized Audie Murphy (in fact, they were less likely to part with western material and far more willing to trade whenever I brought such goods along). Certain vets seem to have possessed crystal balls back in the day that told them what to save. One gentleman ran a Charlotte venue in 1941 and guessed that Citizen Kane would be a classic. Acting on said instinct, he filed back two one-sheets (of the rare and more desirable "B" style), plus a window card and a pair of pressbooks (RKO issued two). Some were wise enough to know I was there to snooker them out of something worth cash. I never had much of that, and often got laughed right out of their yards. Such things happened more and more as media started noticing what old posters could bring. The collector shows I began attending in 1976 represented quicksand of unexpected depth. Slicker dealers would prey now on this country cousin and suddenly it was me getting snookered. I’ve lately reviewed a ledger of trades made during those trips and could cry for having been such a chump. No matter how smart you think you are at hustling collectibles, there’s always someone (in fact, lots of them) smarter.

There was one event where I came across a lobby set of eight cards for A Hard Day’s Night. This was around 1984 and the seller only wanted $40. I whipped out those bills like lightning. Boy, had I gotten the best of him. Boasting of my find across length and breadth of the room, I noticed another lobby set for A Hard Day’s Night, this one for $35. Then another … and another. Something smelled of fish. A rival bargain hunter smiled when he told me that my cards were counterfeit. He even showed me how an experienced collector could tell the difference. I felt like Scott Carey down in that basement. Or Sydney Greenstreet hacking away at the plaster Falcon. Either way, I’d been neatly routed for my determination to put one over on a seller whom I reckoned not to know what he had. Collecting’s playing field would be further leveled when some of those smart guys got together and published a Price Guide for movie posters. As soon as that got out, the party was over. How could you take advantage of a seller’s ignorance with these books putting everyone wise? My first taste of the new order came when I asked an old-timer at a western con how much he wanted for an Oklahoma Kid lobby card. Jes’ a minute, he said, reaching under his dealer’s table for the Guide. That’ll be four hundred dollars, son. Here then was the moment I knew a poster-collecting era had come to an end.


Blogger Kevin K. said...

I came in on the tail end of the days when a guy like me could afford interesting, old (like from the '30s and '40s)posters. In fact, I was lucky enough to attend Forry Ackerman's New York auction circa 1986 -- even got to pose for a photo with him with my 3D camera! My friend and I were able to scoop up a lot of stuff for fairly-bargain basement prices (much to Ackerman's frustration).

A couple of years later I attended another poster auction where I got into a conversation with a couple of guys behind me. They seemed to be familiar with a lot of the bidders. One bidder in particular caught their eye. They shook their heads; one of them said, "Well that leaves us out." I asked him who it was. "Steven Speilberg's representative," he replied. Suffice it to say, nobody could outbid him -- not exactly a level playing field. I remember the rep paying a fortune for a badly waterstained window card for George M. Cohan's "The Phantom President." In the condition it was in, I wouldn't have given 25 bucks.

My poster collecting days are pretty much over. Like you said, everybody thinks their posters are worth way more than they really are.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it annoying that some people think something is valuable just because it's old?

12:42 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

most of the stuff I picked up at comic cons all thru the 1970s,were re-release lobbys and posters from the late 40s and 50s of 1930s movies,some,lesser universal horrors in those..1940s monogram films,Eastside and Deadend Kids..My favorite was a worn 22x28 from Cat People..

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I picked up a lot of non-mint posters and lobby cards in the
1980's for very few dollars. If you
weren't fussy about condition, they
were cheap and plentiful. Nothing
classic; Bowery Boys, Martin & Lewis re-issues, Jack Webb movies...I hung them up in my sun
porch and basement for years, with
double-sided TAPE. I didn't care
about resale. I just wanted to enjoy them! My guests often commented on them too; they were
quaint, old and sometimes cool.
Did I get my money's worth out of
them? You betcha!

Sam Kujava

4:59 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

It's all about the aesthetics, until it's about the money.

8:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021