Vintage Movie Posters Are Alive in Auction Prices

Collectors Dashboard has written about some of the most famous movie posters known. We’ve also written about the astonishing prices they have commanded. A movie poster about Dracula from 1931 sold for just above a quarter of a million dollars. The sale was at the high end of the estimate but represents a strong pulse for the class within collectibles. Classic movies with rare posters tend to be the stars of auctions and the Heritage Auctions Movie Posters Signature Auction April 23 through 24 (2022) was a high-dollar event overall.

Having a low population of well-known events is a theme that tends to support higher prices. Movie theaters back in time tended to not save the posters and many of the props that were used to advertise those great films ended up in dumpsters and landfills. Many of the classic posters that do still exist are simply because fans saved them on their own. Fans born generations after are elevating the estimates we see.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. This means some rare movie posters or memorabilia are attracting the same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds. Many original movie posters from the early age of cinema now cost tens of thousands of dollars (or much more). Collectors with a passion to own an original Dracula poster from 1931 or other great classic movies for years frequently have to compete directly against investors whose only desire is to make a profit in the future.

Dracula (Universal, 1931). Fine/Very Fine on paper, had an estimate of $125,000.00 to $250,000.00. The poster sold for $228,000.00. Dracula posters starring Bela Lugosi almost always tend to be a huge hit in movie poster auctions as the vampire film genre was born for multiple generations to enjoy. Heritage noted that this particular original insert poster (only 14″ by 36″) for Dracula is only one of five which are believed to still exist. This movie is such a big draw even 90 years later that it had 1,500 page views on the Heritage site even 10 days prior to proxy bidding being allowed. The review further noted:

Few could have predicted the enduring impact his performance would have, not only on the horror genre, but popular culture in general. Prior to backing the poster exhibited pinholes, edge and border creasing, and additional creasing adjacent to the original folds. Touchup has been applied to folds and creases, small spots in the title treatment, areas of the background and web, a thin line in Lugosi’s face, a spot in Helen Chandler’s dress, the bottom border, and the bottom right corner. The borders have been airbrushed and subtle color touch up has been applied to the title image and upper background area. Still visible is a faint scuff in the bottom right border. These issues do little to detract from the overall appearance of the poster, which would be the pièce de résistance of any collection!

Image used from Heritage Auctions.

Hollywood (Paramount, 1923). Very Fine- on Linen, 1 of 2 examples known with an estimate of $45,000.00 to $90,000.00. The poster sold for $38,400.00.

The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939). Very Fine- on Linen, the last truly complete example of this poster was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2015 for over $65,000.00. However the estimate is lower at $20,000.00 to $40,000.00. Ultimately the poster achieved well above estimate for $96,000.00.

Casablanca (Warner Bros., 1942). Very Fine- on Linen, professional restoration with an estimate of $20,000.00 to $40,000.00. The poster sold for $18,600.00.

Vertigo (Paramount, 1958) is large enough you are going to need quite an exhibition space for. This poster is listed as folded but near mint condition with Saul Bass artwork. The “Six Sheet” dimensions of this are 78″ by 80″ so if you want to bid you are really going to have to think of an area for it to make Alfred Hitchcock’s very sensitive ego not go afoul many decades later. Vertigo’s poster estimate is $40,000.00 – $80,000.00. The poster sold for $43,200.00.

My Man Godfrey (Universal, 1936). Very Fine on Linen, only the second time Heritage Auctions has auctioned this extremely rare style with an estimate of $20,000.00 to $40,000.00. The poster sold for $84,000.00.

From iconic to mostly unknown the film posters being sold by Heritage Auctions was a collection that spanned every decade. Nearly 1,000 movie posters were arranged to be seen and owned by serious collectors looking for presentation pieces that look museum quality. Be sure to keep your checkbook handy because you will need it if you’re a collector of rare movie posters in 2022.