Automotive Movie Posters
Sept/Oct 2020 edition
Issue #12 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
You can find theater used movie posters on eBay, local garage sales, flea markets, swap meets, and second hand shops. There are also reputable dealers all across the country who sell movie posters. And of course at auctions, Sotheby’s and Christies used to sell them, and Bonhams still has a few movie poster auctions. Condition is key, so a well preserved and protected poster will bring the most value. Also, the popularity of certain films and their stars are major reasons why one movie poster will sell for $24 and another can sell for $2,500.
Remember, movie posters were meant to be used, so most have a few staple holes in the corners with corresponding small tears in the paper to go along with their original folded condition. Pre 1971 there are a lot of great vintage car racing movie posters, but from 1971 to the present, the most sought after has to be the Steve McQueen racing classic, “Le Mans”, which is highly sought after in all of its corresponding shapes and sizes.
In a previous auction of my posters held with RM Auctions during Monterey “car week”, I sold a Le Mans one sheet for around $3,000, and a Le Mans six sheet for around $7,000. All movie posters are printed on commercial poster paper and were meant just to be hung, and then returned or thrown out, so this adds to their rarity, as every week someone is damaging and throwing out movie posters.
Thinking of buying an old movie poster, here is the quandary; What do the size designations mean? It is very complicated, and maybe I can help decipher the ins and outs of movie poster sizing. For this article we will only look at US Posters.
Firstly, all US movie posters were sent to movie theaters in the USA on loan, and were supposed to be returned back to the National Screen Service. Those which were returned were destroyed immediately. Thus, the movie posters out in the world today are the ones which survived because the theaters didn’t send them back to be destroyed, and the theater didn’t throw them out.
The most popular of any of the US movie posters is the one sheet. The 41”x27” one sheet poster is also the most produced of any of the poster sizes. If the movie is real popular, there can be many different versions of this poster. There can be different one sheet designs as well if a film is extremely popular. However, an average film usually will release only one version of the one sheet poster. For the most part, one sheet posters do come mechanically folded. All one sheets are folded down to 13.5”x10.25” for mailing out to theaters.
“Redline 7000” Rare six sheet poster (81”x81” in four folded panels). This one is from the 1960 big budget studio race film directed by Howard Hawks, and featured footage of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, which they didn’t let anyone associated with the film drive! Excellent original folded condition. Value $2,400
The half sheet measuring 22”x28” is printed on a heavier rollable cardboard stock, and is usually not folded, however many have been folded over time. The half sheet was, and is a very popular size used by the theaters to showcase upcoming movies. As it is on a thicker hard stock, you would not need to linen back this poster prior to framing.
Of the posters mechanically folded, the best way to present them is to have them restored and linen backed on acid free archival paper. It also keeps them safe for many years. After archival linen backing, you can then frame, shrink wrap or pin them (in the border) up on the wall. I can help with your linen backing and conservation. Call me or send an email.
Start collecting, and enjoying movie posters! But you say… David I have limited wall space. Well Ok, but just think… fifty folded posters can fit into a desk drawer!
To read more great columns like this one from expert David Lawrence...