Often unnoticed to the untrained eye, props function as the glue that holds a movie together. Whether it is a Civil War battle or a futuristic alien invasion, prop masters are charged with the task of making sure every detail on the screen appears historically accurate and realistic.
But what is a prop? It seems like a simple question, but it is not so easy. A prop is anything a character can pick up, be it a magazine, weapon, or lamp. This can include food items and, depending on production, even decals, such as those on the sides of ambulances and police cars.
A prop is not, however, the vehicle itself. It is also not the furniture that the lamp sits on or the uniform that goes with the weapon, although jewelry can be considered a prop. So while Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” pulled quite a prize at auction, they aren’t props. Nor is Orson Welles’ pinstriped shirt from “Citizen Kane,” but the sled called “Rosebud” owned by a young Welles in the movie would be considered a prop, and was bought at auction by Steven Spielberg in 1982 for $60,500.
When it comes to collecting props, there are two types: those that were actually used on a movie set during production, and replicas, which may even be licensed by a studio. Like autographs, it is often extremely difficult to fully authenticate a prop. Studios have even been known to sell props post-production claiming they were used on set, when the piece in question was actually a less collectible re-creation.
Getting your hands on authentic props can be difficult. In older movies, props were often discarded after the film because the studios didn’t have space to store them. In other instances, props were left in the possession of the prop master, which is why such individuals are usually the best sources of authentic props.
Acquiring props from recent movies is no easier. Because studios pay for the props in a film, they often maintain possession of them after production. In recent years, studios have started to hold on to props so they can be used in sequels, potential or planned. In other instances, studios will hire an auctioneer to sell props immediately after filming has ceased in order to recoup some of the movie’s production costs.
The prop collector also needs to keep in mind that many props are not what they appear to be on screen. For example, if a character in a movie that’s set in the 18th century is r...
For the most part, props from the most memorable movies are the ones most sought by collectors, be it a blaster from the original “Star Wars,” a pair of dice rolled by Marlon Brando in “Guys and Dolls,” or the “Witch Remover” sprayer used by the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
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Recent News: Movie Props
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See vintage behind-the-scenes 'Back to the Future Part III' footageCNET, October 5th
The footage comes from the YouTube channel of Robert Moseley, owner of the movie prop and car-building business Bob's Prop Shop in Dallas that serves as the setting for the Reelz Channel reality show "Screen Machines." He writes in the video's ...Read more
RV fire prompts investigation in San FernandoKABC-TV, October 5th
Investigators are trying to figure out what caused an RV to go up in flames at a movie prop rental business in the city of San Fernando early Saturday. Officials said the fire started around 12:30 a.m. on the 800 block of Griswold Avenue. The motor...Read more
George Reeves' Superman Costume Sells for $216k at Movie Prop AuctionTheImproper.com, October 5th
George Reeves' Superman Costume Sells for $216k at Movie Prop Auction. Topped Only by Model From 1977 Star Wars Film. By TheImproper Staff, on October 5th, 2015. George Reeves' superman costume from the iconic '50s era television show sold for ...Read more
Nazi flag hanging as movie prop has small French town in shockMalay Mail Online, September 29th
A Nazi swastika banner hangs on the facade of the Prefecture Palace in Nice which is being used as part of a movie set during the filming of a WWII film in the old city of Nice, France, September 29, 2015. — Reuters picNICE, Sept 30 — A huge Nazi...Read more
Reliving my favorite movie battle in Star Wars: BattlefrontThe Verge, September 23rd
As I whizz closer I see the other AT-AT explode, hit with repeat rocket salvos from my teammates on the ground. It bursts like a movie prop, bathing the snow in golden light, before the blackened shell topples over. It's a good sign for our team. But...Read more
Herod: We lose out on movie prop mementoesSt. Catharines Standard, September 18th
Herod: We lose out on movie prop mementoes 0. By Doug Herod. Friday, September 18, 2015 8:45:21 EDT PM. The town of Hammond, Ind., commissioned the making of a bronze statue that depicts the tongue-stuck-on-flagpole scene...Read more
Giant Movie Prop for “Miracle on Hudson” to be Transported From VictorvilleVVNG Victor Valley News, September 10th
VICTORVILLE:(VVNG.com)- A replica of one of the most famous air planes in history will be making a road trip from Victorville to Universal Studios Hollywood. Airplane_2 “On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 (AWE1549), an Airbus A320 piloted by ...Read more
Movie prop money being passed off in RentonKIRO Seattle, September 2nd
The seal on the front of the bill says "FOR MOTION PICTURE." The back of the bills says “MOTION PICTURE USE ONLY” in place of “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” Sponsored Links. RENTON, Wash. —. Scammers are using prop money used in ...Read more