Who's never decorated a bedroom or dorm with at least one poster of a favorite flick or rock god? Before tossing that old "Star Wars" or Shaun Cassidy wall art, consider that a promotional poster for the 1932 movie "The Mummy" recently sold for about $460,000.
"They were printed on cheap paper and meant to be thrown away," says William Chrisant of ewolfs.com, explaining the rarity and hence the value of vintage posters. He periodically handles online auctions of rare posters, including a lot featuring Marilyn Monroe scheduled for Aug. 6 to 10. (Ewolfs.com temporarily shut down its operations in mid-July because of a dispute between current ownership and former CEO and founder Michael Wolf.)
|For the complete story on vintage movie posters, turn to page 43 in the August 2001 issue of Cleveland Magazine.|
Vintage posters served as artsy wall and window ads promoting movies, circuses, travel destinations, war participation and sundry products of the day much like today's advertising. They suffered neglect and, later, the ignorance of well-meaning collectors. That's why, in Chrisant's words, "condition is to posters what location is to real estate."
He lusts after the occasional find that's free of creases, folds, tears, water stains, sun fade and the tendency of collectors from the 1950s to mount their treasures with glue that would bleed through the backing, resulting in "matte burn."
For Marc Wyse, the enticing framed collection on the walls of his namesake ad agency and in his home reminds him of his own profession. "It's about the history of advertising," the Wyse Advertising chairman and CEO says of his original French-language posters from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The lithographs first appeared on the street kiosks of Paris to sell everything from cigarettes and shoe polish to cabaret shows. And if some of the classics look familiar to art buffs, it's because the exquisite work was produced by such serious painters as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, presumably to pay bills. Today, many of the originals sell for upward of $80,000, according to Wyse.
As with any other collection, it's impossible to say which of today's posters will achieve lasting value, but Morris Everett, owner of The Last Moving Picture Company in Kirtland, has his eye on the theater art for "Swordfish": "Great stars, nice visual appeal and it's the type of movie collectors like," he says.
For what it's worth.