Movie posters: Nostalgic, collectible, valuable

Image provided | Movie posters, especially those that predate 1970, are increasingly collectible.

INDIANAPOLIS – From the talkies of the early 1920s to the Disney classics of the mid-20th century, movie posters are a top collectible for 2019. Recognized as both a collectible and a legitimate art form, sales are trending upwards with savvy Millennials who see their investment potential.

The first American movie poster was issued in 1903 to herald the release of The Great Train Robbery. Copies of it are extremely rare, but it is of importance to collectors in that it established the standard poster size of 27×41.

Posters from the early 1900s emphasized the studio name, as the concept of the movie star had not yet emerged. By the mid-1920s, the studios realized the public’s fascination with actors and actresses, and the star’s names were added. All posters from this era are highly collectible. Many of them feature hand-painted portraits of the stars by well known artists, and can garner thousands of dollars at art auctions.

With the introduction of talkies in the late 1920s, the movie-going public grew from 60 million in 1927 to over 110 million by 1929. This increase in attendance created the need for posters to be produced at a faster rate, and by 1920 hand-painted posters were replaced by lithographs.

As movies worked their way into mainstream culture, the sophistication of the audience was considerably elevated. No longer content with the melodramas, audiences of the 1930s demanded full-length films. One of the top selling posters of all time is from the highly ambitious 1939 release Gone With the Wind. Posters from the original release seldom surface at any price and even those from the 1967 re-release will have you reaching deep into your pockets. From a collector’s point of view, one of the most significant events of the 1930s was the introduction of two types of movie posters: the full sheet and the half sheet.

During the war effort of the 1940s, paper was in short supply and the studios cut back on the number of posters they produced. War movies were the top box office draw and many stars made public appearances to promote their latest release and to lift the spirits of the American public.

Unrivaled as a source of entertainment for its first 50 years, the movie industry took a hit with the introduction of television. Suddenly, there was no need to leave home to see comedians, cowboys and major events. To draw their audience back to the box office, studios released large-scale epics such as Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. The 1950s would also see the release of the first 3-D movies.

The 1960s were a time of change and unrest in America. Gone was the innocence of the past, as posters displayed both sex and violence in their content. Beach party, Elvis and James Bond movies posters are collected as much for their documentation of a changing morality as they are for their artistic value. The '60s would also see the release of glossy finish posters.

In the early '70s, poster production increased drastically, causing a drastic drop in value of anything printed from that time forward.

Reproduction abounds in this area of collecting, so do your homework!

Until next time, Linda


Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in downsizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates. She may be reached at 317-258-7835 or

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