Ever since I was child, my parents seemed to take me to theaters on almost a weekly basis. The theaters were a form of escape to be able to journey into another world and experience another person’s life. One week I could be flying a bike with an alien, the next week I could be the captain of a spaceship, and the following week, I could be fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world. As I left the theater each week I could not wait for the next magic carpet ride.
The possibilities seemed endless on what I would see next. One day, when I left the theaters I looked up and saw a poster for a film called Spaceballs(1987). I stopped because I thought I recognized the characters, but I didn’t. What the poster did do in just a single image was tell a story. My curiosity was intrigued enough to where I begged my parents to take me to see Spaceballs as a result of a poster. My parents later that year took me to see Spaceballs and I have never been the same since. I knew that day a poster could be just as an effective advertising piece as a theatrical trailer, if not better.
Just look at the film poster for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman from 1958. The suspense, drama, and superbly drawn poster by artist Reynold Brown may be the finest example ever made that illustrates one image selling the film. The time and detail that goes into making film posters is why many people like myself have started to collect original theatrical film posters. Some film poster collectors collect to capture their favorite actor or actress like no image ever could like Audrey Hepburn on the Breakfast at Tiffany’s(1961) poster.
The main reason I collect film posters myself is to recapture my childhood, but I also collect some because of the artwork for some of my favorite films is simply breathtaking like Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD(1966). When I look up at a film poster framed hanging on my wall, the poster reminds me of the time I spent with my dad in the theaters. The kind of feeling any person would just never want to go away.
Unfortunately, when I look at some posters in my collection, those posters do not give me that warm feeling inside, but instead remind me, like in all hobbies, there are people who are willing to take advantage of you to make a profit. Original theatrical posters are highly collectible and can sell for a lot of money. Where thousands of dollars can be made off of just one poster, then you have people willing to make counterfeits to get into their part of the action. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster I mentioned above at the turn of the century sold for around $200 dollars, the poster can now fetch over $9,000. I did not realize there was a large market for film posters when I first started collecting film posters. So like many people in poster collecting, I bought a counterfeit poster when I first started collecting.
To be fair to myself, I was a novice who knew nothing about printing techniques, signs to look for, and the largest market for counterfeit posters was for science fiction films.(Is it still?) All I knew was when I first touched the paper for this poster when it came in the poster felt like it was made of illustration board. I realized then the seller used today’s technologies to send me a counterfeit poster. I was pissed not at the seller, but at myself more than anything else. I wanted to learn all I could before I bought my next film poster.
All research led me to a guy by the name of David Leiberman as the industry expert. David owns a company called Cinemasterpieces. David came highly suggested and is the real deal. David’s posters were even featured on a lot of documentaries. I talked with David about my problems and I decided to order my next poster from David. When I picked up the poster, David gave me a short 101 on film poster collecting.
#1. Look for certain marks on the poster from a certain age back, like the printing company logo. Look for stamps on the back of the poster that some come with. Match the serial number to the film on the poster. Look for a small paragraph on the bottom of the poster.
The paragraph David was talking about was the National Screen Service Paragraph and should read the following:
Property of National Screen Service Corporation -Licensed for use only in connection with the exhibition of this picture at the theatre licensing this material. Licensee agrees not to trade, sell or give it away, or permit others to use it, nor shall licensee be entitled to any credit upon return of this material. This material either must be returned or destroyed immediately after use.
#2. David also said to feel the poster. Pinch the paper to get a measurement for not just the texture, but the thickness. David brought a few for me to feel from different age periods. Wow, I was surprised. Some posters were on extremely delicate paper that could rip easily. The newer the poster, the more glossy and tougher the poster got. this is because of better printing, because the posters are now expected to last longer as they move around the country and finally, because now movie posters are viewed as collectibles. David’s last advice to me was go onto learnaboutmovieposters.com aka LAMP for short.
I followed David’s advice and found the answers I was looking for when it came for buying film posters. The first thing I noticed on LAMP had a large list of approved dealers.Whether one needs the services of buying original film posters, frames, restoration services, and other materials to display, ship, and even store a film, the dealers on LAMP can help knowledgeably. The website even had a database to show what the film posters should look like and what marks to look for. This is not an advertisement so much as a recommendation for education.
The one thing for sure was I now felt confident in buying an original theatrical film poster in person and had a list of reputable dealers to buy from online all across the world. I have been buying film posters now confidently for the last two years from the knowledge I gained from this website. Just last weekend I was at Phoenix Comicon 2015. I was looking for a Rocky Horror Picture Show(1975) original theatrical release poster to buy and get signed by the cast of RHPS. Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell were attending the Unconventional Convention for the conventionists. I found a dealer at con who had a possible candidate. He pulled out the poster and as I inspected the poster, some alarm bells went off in my head.
The poster was not folded, but rolled. A film poster made before the 1980’s should be machine folded. The poster had one other clue. When I looked at the printing company the poster had GCU’s logo. GCU took over printing film posters from GAU from 1983 onward. That told me one of two things: (1) the poster was a reissue for the 10th Anniversary or more likely (2) printed for the video release and sent to a rental store. I pointed all this information out to the seller and the seller said he had a folded one available.
The seller pulled out the folded one and all the marks were there that I was looking for: the fold lines, the GAU logo, the NSS paragraph, and the right serial number. The only thing that was missing was the stamp on the back, but by this time a lot of film posters were not stamped like the Psycho film poster you see above has on its back. I purchased the poster, educated the dealer, and left the vendor hall happy that the knowledge I gained over the years paid off.(Did Furiosa risk making a counterfeiter a smarter counterfeiter?)
Before you buy an original theatrical film poster I suggest going to three websites to avoid buying a counterfeit poster.
https://www.cinemasterpieces.com/cinedefinitions.htm <- This is an excellent source to learn the definitions and see pictures of what you should look for.
http://learnaboutmovieposters.com/# <- For more general education and a list of some trustworthy dealers
http://www.learnaboutmovieposters.com/newsite/MOVIES/MPDB.asp This site has pictures of the different variants, so you can get to see what the actual film poster should like in all sizes and the various artwork done for a film poster depending on which country the film is in. Sometimes the British Quad is cooler than a U.S. one sheet. I think the Neverending Story(1984) is the perfect example. However that is a story for another segment of Poster Wars.