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.”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [read review or visit site]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [read review or visit site]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [read review or visit site]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Screen Used Star Wars,the Empire Strikes Back Stormtrooper E-11 Blaster OriginalGuardians Of The Galaxy Awesome Mix Record Store Day Black Friday 2014 CassetteDisney Flubber 1997 Movie Robin Williams Screen Used Remote Control Hero PropVintage~disneyland~disney~it's~a~small~world~drummer~soldier~boy~original~propSealed Guardians Of The Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol 1 Cassette Tape Rsd 2014Disney Santa Clause Movie Tim Allen Signed Autograph Framed Prop Business CardsThe Rock 1996 Movie Nicholas Cage Screen Used Vx Nerve Gas Container Ball PropDisney Marvel Iron Man Film Stark Industries Ammo Case Original Movie PropStar Wars Han Solo In Carbonite, Rare , Life Size Prop ReplicaStar Wars Master Replicas Darth Vader Lightsaber Ep6 Return Of The Jedi 1:1 LifePeter Pan 2003 Movie Jason Isaacs Screen Used Captain Hook Long Shot PropMichael Myers Mask Nag/ahg 75kBeretta Ekol Magnum F92 Prop Gun Replica Film Reenactment 9mm Starter Disney Pirates Of The Caribbean At World's End Movie Production Used Prop ScrollThe Munsters Tv Prop, Zombos Screen Used Hands Wow! With Coa No ReserveSpider Man 2 Screen Used Newspaper Framed With Coa Daily BugleBatman & Robin Movie Production Used Mr. Freeze Henchmen Wardrobe Glove PropMattel Back To The Future Hoverboard 1:1 Scale Matty Collector Mattel Ghostbusters Neutrino WandBatman 1989 Michael Keaton Cowl Bust Life Cast Face 89 Movie Costume PropChristmas Story Leg Lamp Full SizeGhostbusters Proton PackProp Money New Style $100s $500,000 Blank Filler Bundles For Movie, Tv, VideosMichael Myers Mask 75k Empire Strikes Back Original Crew Gift PaperweightBatman Forever 1995 Movie Production Used Gotham Circus Performer Prop OverallsThe Best X-men Wolverine Blade 2 Claws Replica Christmas Sale! Safe Claws Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 ((screen Used)) Original MaskHercules Screen Used Long Battle Spear SetSideshow Nosferatu Vampyre Life Size Exclusive Silver Screen Edition Bust W/hatJaws Original Prop: A Piece Of The Orca Ii Used In Film. Rare! Scheider/dreyfussHercules Screen Used Long Battle Spear SetHercules Screen Used Long Battle Spear SetStar Trek Mr Master Replicas Communicator (signature Edition)Factory X Captain America ShieldVintage Paramount Pictures Authentic Production Used Sand Pinstripe Prop DressShah Safari Marty Mcfly Back To The Future Shirt Med.Star Wars Luke Skywalker Force Fx Lightsaber Blue Collectible ReplicaSafe House 2012 Movie Denzel Washington Screen Used Prop Shirt & Cast Call SheetProp Money New Style $100s, $260,000 Blank Filler For Movie, Tv, Videos, NoveltyJurassic Park John Hammond Mosquito Amber Cane Movie Prop Replica Hammond's ClawMen In Black 3 Movie Screen Used Neuralyzer Technician Jumpsuit PropHercules Screen Used Long Battle Spear SetTmnt Ninja Turtle Prop Suit MaskGhostbusters Proton Pack PartsMichael Myers MasksBruce Lee Movie ÀLifegard Iv Pass Alarm- Ghostbusters Prop Still Working'the Dark Knight' Screen Used Prop Money Last One! Not A Replica , Joker Batman Myers Mask 75k [ahg] Halloween Not Jason Freddy Glove Leatherface Back To The Future Nike Air MagBlues Brothers StatuesBatman Forever Movie Production Used Gotham Circus Performer Velvet Prop PantsLon Chaney, Jr... Tribute Display Head ~ Son Of Dracula ~ 1:1 Scale Custom PieceNoble Collection Indiana Jones Leather Bullwhip *new In Box* *discontinued*Zamunda Eddie Murphy Bu 20 Pc Roll 5 Pound Gold Plated CrownsGrays Sports Almanac Prop From Back To The Future - Complete With Bill And BagKing Kong V-rex T-rex Dinosaur Fight Boxed Full Size Weta Polystone Movie StatueGhostbusters Pke MeterFreddy Hat 1984 Original Part 1 K1 Not Mask Glove Sweater Krueger Prop Jason

Recent News: Movie Props

Source: Google News

DeLorean Time Machine Conversion Mod: Back to the Back to the Future
Technabob (blog), December 18th

The shop says it works with Universal Studios' restoration team for the permanent conversion, so you can expect to get pretty much everything that's on the original movie prop cars on your DMC-12. That includes the flux bands, the aluminum rear vents...Read more

The Aston Martin DB10 is Not a Glimpse into Aston's Future
Top Speed, December 18th

My take is that even though Aston says that the DB10 is not much more than a movie prop (or, better yet, "movie character"), its connection to the future of Aston Martin is a little bit deeper that we are led to believe. Why? Well, Aston Martin could...Read more

'Imperial' books among first Project for Awesome perks
Indianapolis Star, December 10th

Fans of "The Fault in Our Stars" now have the chance to buy the book that inspired Hazel Grace Lancaster to visit Amsterdam. "An Imperial Affliction" -- actually a replication of the movie prop read by actress Shailene Woodley in "TFIOS" -- is a perk...Read more

Mister Babadook: An oral history of 2014's most terrifying movie prop
The Week Magazine, December 5th

"If it's in a word, or in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook." That's the prophetic warning — delivered by, of all things, a children's pop-up book — in The Babadook, a low-budget Australian film that towers over every other horror movie...Read more

Movie prop “bomb” found in Oakville apartment
Hamilton Spectator, November 27th

OAKVILLE Halton police sent in the bomb squad when a package resembling a bomb was found in a vacant apartment. Police were called to a Queen Mary Drive apartment building shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday after a building manager found the package ...Read more

Movie prop collection to be liquidated at Vancouver auction
CBC.ca, November 18th

Movie prop collection to be liquidated at Vancouver auction. If you thought you had everything, think again. Hundreds of movie props hit the auction block this week. CanAm Importique, in Burnaby, B.C., has supplied props to movies and TV shows; You can ...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

What Is The Most Expensive Movie Prop Ever?
Cinema Blend, August 13th

But in the history of movie prop auctions, there's an elite few that have made quite a bit of cash on the names of the films or the actors that used them, and out of all of those items there's one that's head and shoulders above the rest when it comes...Read more