Vintage Star Trek Posters
Vintage Star Trek Posters

Movie posters generally can serve two purposes after their days as in-theater displays are over. One, they can be valuable collectibles, no different than baseball cards, stamps or comic books. And just as with those widely collected items, a poster's condition has much to do with its value. And two, they make spectacular wall hangings, and can add a dash of style and pizzazz to your game room, office or den. (When used only as décor, and not considered an investment, reprinted film advertisements are probably sufficient.)

No matter which group you fall into, knowing the difference between a collectible movie poster and a reprint is important. After all, if you're hoping to attain an item that will increase in value, it must be an original print. If, on the other hand, you only want to spruce up your off-campus apartment, there's no sense spending money on a pricier collectible when an equally attractive reprint would fit the bill.

What makes a film print collectible? How is the quality of a print determined? How can I preserve a collectible once I've obtained one? If you are new to the collecting game, you likely have many questions that you need answered before you make your first purchase. Below, you'll find a few tips to help get your collection started on the right foot.

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Star Trek Ships Of The Line Poster Print 36x24
Star Trek Ships Of The Line Poster Print 36x24

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STAR TREK TOS STANDING CAST SLIM 12x36 TV POSTER Original Series Spock Kirk
STAR TREK TOS STANDING CAST SLIM 12x36 TV POSTER Original Series Spock Kirk

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Original vs. Reprint: Learning the difference

To determine whether something is considered collectible movie art, you must know the answer to two key questions: Was it produced, printed and distributed by a movie studio solely for the purpose of in-theater advertising? Was it originally intended for use only as a movie advertisement and not as an item meant for public consumption? If you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, you're likely dealing with a movie poster that has value.

Certainly other factors come into play (and we'll address some of them shortly) but the basic criteria have been met. Movie art materials that have value are created for studios by a select group of lithographers, sent to theaters as advertising materials, and later either returned to the studio or destroyed. They aren't printed in huge numbers with the goal of being sold to the public later. In fact, the print run of each movie poster is limited to only what is necessary for theaters and distribution centers and later returned for credit. Because of this, there are fewer in circulation, which in turn is what makes them more valuable.

Making the Grade: Understanding what a print is worth

Grading systems used to determine the value of movie poster art are similar to grading systems used for other collectibles. Rips, bent corners, faded colors, staple holes or pinholes, and any other blemishes will detract from its market value. Most collectors will use standards set by the Motion Picture Arts Gallery to help figure a print's value. Ranging from “Near Mint” to “Fair”, the value of a print can be wide-ranging.

Prints graded in “Near Mint” condition were hardly ever used, if at all, boasting colors that are still vibrant and no mars of any kind. The MPAG scale declines as far down as “Fair”, which describes posters that show signs of wear, perhaps are ripping at the folds, and could have damaged borders. Even prints in this condition have value - the poster is still rare after all - but the market will knock points from its worth.

Of course, even after the condition of a print is ascertained, estimating its value requires additional legwork. You can't simply rely on a dealer's word as to its worth. Conduct extensive research to determine how film prints for the same movie and of like condition are being valued. And remember, the more rare a piece, the more valuable it becomes, so if you have a difficult time locating artwork of a particular film, that's a good sign that its value might be higher.

Quality Control: Preserving your investment

No matter how great an investment you make in a movie poster, it won't be a sound investment if you don't care for the item. Preserving the quality of the paper is critical, but it isn't difficult to do with some basic instruction. One of the most preferred materials used to preserve valuable documents is uncoated polyester film. DuPont's Mylar D and ICI Corp's Melinex 516 are two of the most popular brands. By sealing the movie posters, these products will protect your investment from the paper-destroying effects of moisture, pollutants, oils and acids.

Other preservation methods, less popular because they render the movie posters less usable, include using acid-free boards and boxes. Many collectors also have their posters professionally deacidified before storage to add additional years of life.

Size matters: Understanding the shapes and sizes

While the term “movie poster” is generically used to refer to any marketing materials used to advertise a film, actual studio-released work typically comes from a catalog of certain sizes. Below are the names of the most common sizes and where you're likely to first see each advertisement.

1 Sheet: 27” x 41” (27” x 40” after 1980); most often seen in theater lobbies and in display cases in and around theaters (i.e.: bus stations, train stations…)

2 Sheet / Subway: 41” x 54”; used in subway stations

3 Sheet: 41” x 81”; used as large lobby displays

6 Sheet: 81” x 81”; used as small billboards

12 Sheet: 108” x 144”; used as medium billboards; very seldom used with new releases today

24 Sheet: 108” x 246”' used as large billboards

30 Sheet: 118” x 265” used as large billboards

About the Author

Whether you're looking for collectible film authentics or simply decorative reprints, find all of your movie posters needs at www.allmoviereplicas.com.

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