Whether it’s fantasizing about the life of a movie star or wishing you lived in a galaxy far, far, away, movie memorabilia resonates for millions of people regardless of their position and place in society. Some are drawn to horror movies, others prefer film noir, and who doesn’t like a classic cartoon?
You can collect based on the artifacts associated with a favorite star—Marilyn Monroe memorabilia is perennially popular—or items aligned with a particular film, although fans of “The Wizard of Oz” are forced to obsess about things other than those fabled ruby slippers, since the originals reside in the Smithsonian.
Like the films themselves, movie memorabilia comes in all shapes and sizes. Vintage animation cels, movie posters (one-sheet and two-sheet), and movie photos are some of the most popular film collectibles. Original vintage movie posters are relatively scarce because they were often destroyed by the movie theaters at the end of a film’s run, but rarity is not the only reason for the high demand—vintage movie posters from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s commonly depict some of the most beloved stars.
Movie photos, which were designed to appear as though they were taken in the course of filming but were normally posed, show stars in exquisite detail. Naturally, the oldest of these sorts of photos are generally the most prized, as are autographed movie photos.
Lobby cards (also called window cards) are another collectible category. Unlike movie photos, which were printed in limited editions, and movie posters, which were often too large to be properly stored, lobby cards were printed in relatively large numbers, so there are plenty of them around. Despite the fact that they aren’t in short supply, some individual lobby cards and especially certain sets still fetch quite a price, especially for classics like “King Kong.”
Movie props and costumes are also highly collectible. Props are most often available as authorized replicas, but sometimes prop masters will unload their personal collections, which gets original items out into the market. Costumes are often considered museum pieces or the sorts of things that raise eyebrows at auction, the most expensive example being Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress, which she wore as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Fans of particular stars, cult films, or popular series such as “Star Wars” accumulate movie memorabilia, as do people who are infatuated with Hollywood power couples—Bogart and Bacall back in the day, Pitt and Jolie more recently. When it comes to the movies themselves, some of the films with the most devoted followings include “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca,” and “Lord of the Rings.”...
Sometimes the clamor is simply a question of supply and demand. For example, James Dean memorabilia is extremely popular, even though he only appeared in three films before his untimely death. Because his career was so short, there is only a limited amount of Dean memorabilia. Conversely, Greta Garbo was extraordinarily popular, appeared in numerous films, and lived a good long life, but Garbo almost never signed autographs, which makes her scrawl a rare prize, indeed.