Born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907, John 'The Duke' Wayne dominated the American movie screen for nearly 50 years, from 1930 through 1976. Appearing in almost 200 films, Wayne acted in numerous genres but he was most famous as the courageous and strong cowboy in Westerns. He also worked as a director, product spokesman, and even a recording artist.
Although Wayne played a variety of characters during his long career, it was his work as a cowboy in films like “The Searchers” and “True Grit,” for which he won an Oscar, that made him famous. Because of his gunslinger image, most Wayne collectibles today have some sort of Western feel to them. In fact, many websites and groups dedicated to Wayne memorabilia only focus on his Western-themed items.
Much of the reason why Wayne is remembered as a cowboy is because he fostered that tough-guy persona on and off the screen. Wayne was an outspoken conservative and anti-Communist in the early 1950s. In addition, he made controversial comments about Native Americans in a famous "Playboy" magazine interview that seemed to reinforce the remorseless Indian-hunting character he often portrayed.
Nonetheless, the list of Wayne collectibles extends well beyond cowboys. His image can be found on everything from lunch boxes to movie posters—one particularly charming poster advertising his 1946 comedy “Without Reservations,” in which a youthful Wayne co-starred with Claudette Colbert, is considered a rare prize. Wayne was on the cover of major magazines 28 times, and the market for John Wayne movie props is equally vast—Wayne fans gravitate to both on-screen props such as saddles as well as their replicas.
Lobby cards printed for Wayne’s films include “The Long Voyage Home,” “Sands of Iwo Jima,” “The Alamo,” and “The Searchers,” which many critics believe to be Wayne’s most powerful performance, are also highly collectible.
There is also a large array of items with John Wayne’s face on them, as well as objects that simply seem to be in the John Wayne style. For example, there are Wayne belt buckles, bolo ties, lamps, mugs, clocks, and replica pistols, among other things. There is even a John Wayne pocketknife and dinnerware set. These items aren’t vintage, but they are widely collected.
Autographed Wayne memorabilia, not surprisingly, increases the value of an item, although not as much as you’d think. Wayne was generous with the pen, so while his autograph isn’t considered especially scarce, having a signed Wayne item is an important part of any serious Wayne collection.