Collecting Movie Posters | Base Memorabilia

Collecting Movie Posters

Are you interested in collecting movie posters? Are you interested in buying a movie poster and want to know more before you purchase? Do you have a movie poster and want to know more about it? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re in the right place!

Collecting movie posters is a great hobby to get into but unfortunately, there is no quick shortcut to learning the intriguing world of movie poster collecting. The problem is that the term ‘movie poster’ has and is used to describe a wide variety of advertising material that film studios use to promote the films. All of the promotional material including movie posters, lobby cards, press stills and other promotional items fall into the category of ‘movie art’.

Although purchasing a movie poster on the surface seems a simple decision, the world of collectable movie art can become a complicated place. Mistakes are made, sometimes very costly mistakes. Whether that be intentional or not, many of the items being sold today as original movie posters, particularly through online auctions, do not meet the criteria used by many collectors to be deemed a collectable movie art. The word ‘movie poster’ is applied to many items including items that are not considered to be collectable to movie poster collectors. Often the word ‘original’ is misunderstood to mean ‘collectable’, however, there is a big difference.

Whether you are buying, selling or simply wanting to determine what you have, there are six areas that you should become familiar with.

What is and what is not considered to be collectable?

It is important to understand what is collectable and what is not collectable movie art. Just because an item is described as a movie poster, doesn’t always mean it fall into an area of collectable movie art. The main problem with determining whether an item is collectable or not is the very subjective nature. Anything can become collectable as long there is a demand within the collectors market. However, there are several factors used to determine authenticity, value and the items collectibility based on supply and demand. This is also true with movie art collecting.

The poster market originated in the 1870s when Paris artist Jules Cheret introduced a printing technique that produced images with intense colour and rich texture. By the early 1890s, Paris streets were plastered with lithographic images highlighting everything from bicycles to cognac to circus performances. These artful graphics became instant collectables, spawning exhibitions, journals and dealers. That initial market wave died out by WWI and wasn’t revived until the 1960s. For decades an elite group of movie poster collectors have set standards which have developed into today’s marketplace. Significant changes over the last 30 years have created a confusion over what is and what isn’t considered to be collectable movie art. This has created a diverse marketplace with many newer collectors differing over what is and what isn’t, however, most movie poster collectors use a two-pronged approach to determine if a movie poster is considered to be legitimate movie art and therefore is worth collecting. The criteria used when determining if an item is to be considered as collectable movie art is below and in all instances, it must be met:

Movie art promotional materials produced by film studios for distribution directly to cinemas and/or distribution centres are considered to be legitimate movie art. They are printed by a select group of printers, generally domestically to where the film is released. They are designed, produced and distributed solely as advertising materials. Once they have been used for that purpose of advertising they are then returned or destroyed.

The advertising materials were never intended to given, sold or distributed to the general public under any circumstances, for example, on the bottom of the Skyfall UK One Sheet (see below) it reads ‘Property of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. for promotional use only. Sale, duplication or transfer of this material is strictly prohibited’. They are generally only printed in limited numbers enough to cater for the expected demand from cinemas and/or distribution centres. They are returned after use for credit and are destroyed. This makes them harder to find once a film has departed from the cinema thus creating a limited supply.

In addition to the criteria above, we need to look at what is not considered to be legitimate collectable movie art. That’s not to say that a movie poster which falls into these areas is not considered collectable in their own right; it’s to say they don’t meet the criteria to be considered collectable movie art.

Commercial Posters – These are posters that are produced in a large quantity and have been purely made for direct sale to the general public. They were NEVER intended to be distributed or used by a cinema as valid advertising material. They can some feature designs that are identical to the original ones or they can use completed different designs, however, they are smaller in size and generally measure 36″ x 24″. They are sometimes referred to as Maxi Posters. This should generally highlight they are most probably a commercial poster.

Reprint Posters – These posters have been the cause of many discussion and indeed confusion with the poster collector’s market. Again, these posters are commercially printed in very large quantities and have been made to sell directly to the general public. They are NOT intended for display, distribution or to be used as advertising material by cinemas. They will generally feature the exact image from a One Sheet poster and measure the same as the current industry standard 40″ x 27″ that is used on original material for display. These posters can easily be mistaken for legitimate collectable movie art whether they be licensed or unlicensed copies. They are freely available on the internet to purchase and most are not marked a being a reprint poster.

Now let’s look at what is widely considered to be partly collectable. Although these are not considered to be original movie art as used by a film studio in marketing a particular film in cinemas.

Anniversary Issues – These are posters that are released either by film studios or licensed printers to commemorate an anniversary of a particular film. If they were issued and used in conjunction with a film’s release and have the sole intention of being utilised as advertising material in cinemas only and not intended to be sold or distributed to the general public then they are considered to be studio released anniversary posters. However, there are instances when a licensed printer will get the rights to an anniversary movie poster that is not used or issued in conjunction with a film release to cinemas. These are normally produced in limited numbers for direct sale to the public and are therefore considered to be licensed anniversary posters.

Limited Editions – These are posters that are made and released by film studios in conjunction with specially licensed printers, such as, Killian Enterprises and Film Prints Inc. They are produced in limited quantities and made for sale directly the general public or through fan clubs. They are NOT intended for display, distribution or to be used as advertising material by cinemas.

Video Posters – These are posters that were distributed by film studios as advertising material, they were used in conjunction with the advertising of VHS release only. They were intended to be used by the video stores only and were not distributed to cinemas nor were they intended for sale or distribution to the general public.

TV Posters – These are posters that are distributed by TV networks to solely advertise terrestrial TV programs only. They were intended to be used by the video stores only and were not distributed to cinemas nor were they intended for sale or distribution to the general public.

Special Promotional Posters – These are posters are were released by companies not directly associated with the film industry but in conjunction with a product promotion to a particular film (such as Burger King, Coca-Cola, etc). They are not intended for nor were they distributed to or used cinemas as advertising materials. They could have been sold or distributed to the general public.

What are the different types of movie art and what is most collectable?

In order to determine what is Collectible Movie Art we need to consider the variety of shapes, sizes, paper and uses as these have an impact on the collectability and value of an item. There are occasions when certain sizes and types of material are considered more collectible than others, such as, a one sheet poster is considered to be more collectible than window card for the same title. The primary reasoning is that fewer one sheet posters survived compared to a window card because cinemas were allowed to add their names and other details to the tops and keep them afterwards, compared with the fact that; one sheets were generally returned or destroyed.

The term movie poster is used extensively to describe most advertising material used with the cinematic release of a film. However, the movie poster is a small part of a larger group known as movie art. The term movie art is used to describe all paper advertising material that is used by film studios during an advertising campaign. The material used comes in a wide and varied sizes and shapes. A number of different materials are used to print the movie art but the size and shape is largely determined by its intended use.

As movie art is just one piece of film’s overall marketing campaign it can vary in numerous ways. Yet the film industry has maintained some constants over the last 123 years.

Paper Stock – Most of the movie art printed on paper was intended for use inside cinemas, display cases around towns and on billboards. Many of the sizes original printed are no longer used such as 3 Sheets and 6 Sheets posters. 12 sheet posters which were only used by Paramount are no longer used either. 24 and 30 sheet posters which are used for billboards are now only occasionally used

Card Stock – Over the years card stock has been used in a variety of ways due to their strength. They were used in areas where paper stock was deemed not to be durable enough. The card stock items that are no longer used in the UK or US markets are half sheets, inserts, lobby cards, window card, 30″ x 40″ and 40″ x 60″ posters. However, lobby cards can still be found in some foreign markets.

Press & Promotional Materials – Alongside the many different advertising materials used for display, film studios also print a wide and varied range of materials for cinemas to use in promoting their films. As each advertising campaign is different, press materials printed can vary widely depending upon the film. Some items were never intended for the public whilst others are printed exclusively to be used as giveaways, these are termed as promotional material of movie art. All press and promotional material ever used is still in use today such as Campaign Books, Press Stills, Programs and Trailers.

Other – There is a variety of items that have become more popular over last few decades and indicate a new direction for studio advertising. Some items that fall into this category include Banners, Standups/Standees and Static Vinyl Window Signs.

When was the movie poster released?

Over the years films can be re-released by the film studio. Sometimes on more than one occasion, therefore not all original movie posters for a particular film are valued equally. Let’s take Gone With The Wind, a film starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh which was released in 1939. This film features in the Top 10 of the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 and also in 1989 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Since its original release, it has been re-released to cinemas 12 times in total over the last decade in 1940, 1941, 1947, 1953, 1954, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1980 and 1998.

Every time it was released, the studios issued newer versions of the movie poster and related items which sometimes featured new updated images. The image on the below shows a Gone With The Wind posters that was released in 1961 and the image on the right shows the same title but released in 1980. As you can see the images used are different.

When was the movie poster released?

Gone With The Wind R1961
Image courtesy of

When was the movie poster released?

Gone With The Wind R1980
Image courtesy of

All of the issues are considered original movie art, but their value to collectors differs greatly with each issue. In each case, the earlier posters are significantly more collectable and therefore more valuable than the later releases. For instance, the poster on the left sold on 8th December 2016 for $150 (source:, the poster on the right sold on 20th December 2016 for $19 (source: and an original 1939 release sold on 13th July 2014 for $5,250 (source: The year of the release is the deciding key factor and should be considered when assessing a poster’s collectibility and estimating the value.

What is the condition of the movie poster?

If you saw a poster listed as a condition grade of good would that be acceptable to a movie poster collector? Does that mean it would fall into the higher or lower price range? Unfortunately, the condition grading of movie art is subjective and grades can vary, purely due to there being no set industry standard. At present there are three different grading systems in use throughout the industry, two are generally accepted as recognised condition grading matrixes that most collectors/dealers use and the third is a grading system used by auction houses. As a collector to put yourself in a better position to make that judgement you should become familiar with them and what they mean.

The value placed on movie art as a collectable is determined by the rarity of the piece, demand, age and condition. Before any assessment of value can be made for a movie poster, its physical condition must be examined. Grading a movie poster is affected by the presence of defects and blemishes such as tears, wrinkles, creases, holes, bleed-throughs, marks, stains, fading, etc. Then we need to examine where the defects and blemishes are located on the movie poster. If the defects and blemishes appear in the border and do not distract from the artwork, then these would not warrant a significant reducing in the grade. However, if they appear in the body of the movie poster particularly on the artwork, then this would result in a significant reduction in its grade.

When assessing the collectibility and value of a poster you can rely on your own personal knowledge and understanding of the collectors’ market or you can do your own research through industry recognised sales result at eMovieposter or Heritage Auctions and through collectors magazines.

The prices for movie art are generally placed within accepted price band ranges based on the demand for that title. When a movie poster falls with the high or low range of these price bands it will solely be determined by its condition. If a movie poster is given a high grade, it will generally command a top price in the titles price band. Alternatively, if the movie poster is in a poor condition, it will achieve or be priced at the lower end of the price band. Therefore, the condition grading of a movie poster will have a significant impact on the value.

Below is one of the accepted standard grading systems used. The other standard grading system is the 10 Point System developed by Jon R. Warren which uses grades C10, C9, etc. and is available at

A poster in MINT condition looks like it just came off of the press. It will have no blemishes or defects of any kind. It can be machine folded or rolled, depending on the manner in which it was originally. A poster in MINT condition commands top dollar in that title’s normal price range.
A poster in NEAR MINT condition may have minor blemishes in the BORDER only. The artwork is in excellent condition with no blemishes whatsoever. A poster in NEAR MINT condition commands slightly less than one in MINT condition.
A poster in VERY GOOD condition may have blemishes in the border and up to approximately one inch of the poster’s artwork. There may be small tears in the artwork along the fold lines only. It may also have minor fading. A poster in VERY GOOD condition will command slightly less than one in NEAR MINT condition.
A poster in GOOD condition may have tears or small holes that measure no larger than a quarter on the outer edges of the poster’s artwork. Pieces of the border may be torn or missing; there may be mild bleed-through in the outer area of the artwork; there may be mild fading. In general, a poster in GOOD condition will have minor blemishes around the border and into the outer edges of the artwork. The major area of the artwork must be clear of any blemishes. The price of a poster in GOOD condition generally falls in the middle to lower end of the price range for that title.
A poster in FAIR condition may have major blemishes which directly affect the artwork of the poster. The poster is recognisable and the artwork is primarily intact. The value of a poster in FAIR condition will weigh heavily on its title. If it is a rare piece, it still may command the lower end of the poster’s normal price range. A poster in FAIR condition must be professionally restored.
Posters in POOR condition will have serious blemishes or in general, in such poor shape that even the slightest handling adds to the damage. The value of a poster in POOR condition will weigh heavily on its title. If it is a rare piece, it still may command the lower end of the poster’s normal price range. A poster in POOR condition must be professionally restored.

What is the style of the movie poster?

In addition to the points raised above, there are other factors that need to be considered as they will affect the collectibility and value of a movie poster. It is important for all collectors to have an understanding of the different types and styles of movie posters as this will help to better understand how they impact on the value of movie art. See our article on the Different Types and Styles of Movie Posters for more information.

How do I determine the value of a movie poster?

The last factor to consider in when assessing movie art is the current market and the value it places on a particular poster. Determining and assessing the value of movie posters can be inherently difficult, this is due to the subjective nature of posters and the value placed upon them. However, we can rely upon a number of factor such as authenticity, title, design and/or artist, condition and objectivity to help in determining the value. The first step to assessing poster value is to understand that it is based purely on economics, supply and demand. The basic principle of economics is that cost is determined by availability x demand – and the balancing of the two, however, always remember – A poster is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. See our article below for more information on determine a movie posters value.

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