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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At BAFTA event, Emma Watson dedicates award to her long dead hamsterLos Angeles Times, October 31st
The movie's prop department built her a prop coffin. "Rest in peace, Millie. This one's for you," she said. Mark Ruffalo, who will next be seen in "Foxcatcher," received the Britannia Humanitarian Award. In 2010, Ruffalo founded the nonprofit Water...Read more
WATCH: New Patlabor live action movie teaser whets fans' appetitesGMA News, October 30th
Last August, the mecha - or at least a movie prop version of them - showed how tough they were by surviving Typhoon Jose (Halong). Halong had headed for Japan after passing through the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Citing photos by Twitter users, ...Read more
'Weta Cave' Movie-Prop Workshop Expands for Tour GroupsWall Street Journal (blog), October 25th
WELLINGTON, New Zealand—Hobbit fever is ramping up in Wellington ahead of the third and final installment of Peter Jackson's “Hobbit” trilogy and Weta Workshop is expanding to meet demand. In a bid to cater to growing demand from tour groups for a ...Read more
Tomorrow Daily 071: Ashes in space, a big 'Avengers' prop for RDJ, and nuclear ...CNET, October 20th
The moral of this story? Don't joke around if you're RDJ, because someone's gonna take you seriously and find a way to send you a gigantic movie prop for your office. This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age...Read more
California archaeologists uncover 90-year-old movie prop (+video)Christian Science Monitor, October 17th
Buried for more than nine decades under the sand dunes of Guadalupe, Calif., the giant plaster sphinx from "The Ten Commandments" has been rediscovered. By Laura Geggel, LiveScience Staff Writer October 17, 2014. About video ads. Hidden for more ...Read more
Star Wars, Alien, Terminator; See 20 Iconic Movie Props You Can Buy This Week/FILM, October 14th
And every once in a while, there are movie prop auctions held that allow you to own a piece of film history. Now, these don't come cheap. A unique prop or costume used in the filming of an iconic movie like Back to the Future or Terminator 2: Judgement...Read more
voxeljet Acquires 3D Printed Movie Prop Maker Propshop (Model Makers) Limited3DPrint.com, October 2nd
Early this morning, it was announced that voxeljet AG (NYSE:VJET), the German-based 3D printer manufacturer, apparently is also getting into the movie prop production business. The company has acquired all outstanding shares of Propshop (Model ...Read more
Back to the Future hoverboard on sale at movie prop firm's first live auctionThe Guardian, October 1st
Back to the Future hoverboard on sale at movie prop firm's first live auction. Casino Royale deck of cards, Milla Jovovich's Fifth Element costume and HR Giger chair will also go on sale in London. Hoverboard. Marty McFly's hoverboard, one of more than...Read more