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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Photos: The Vancouver movie prop sale to end all movie prop salesThe Province, November 18th
After 38 years in the business, Paul Pincott, owner of CanAm Importique in Burnaby is closing his doors. Before then, over 800 lots of props will be up for auction, with the help of Able Auctions November 20 & 21st his warehouse in Burnaby...Read more
Hundreds of famous B.C. film props up for auctionMetroNews Canada, November 18th
Almost 40 years of B.C. film history is going up for auction this week as a staple in the local movie prop industry calls it a wrap. This Thursday and Friday, CanAm Importique will be auctioning off hundreds of film props that graced the screens in...Read more
Movie prop collection to be liquidated at Vancouver auctionCBC.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
Body Found in Saugus Woods Confirmed to Be Movie Prop, 'Not a Real Body'Boston.com, November 10th
A team searching for a 25-year-old Swampscott woman found a body in the woods in Saugus Monday afternoon that turned out to be a movie prop. Investigators believed there was a chance the body belonged to Jamiee Mendez, who has not been seen ...Read more
What movie prop would you love to own?A.V. Club, November 6th
My white whale of record-collecting is the film's soundtrack, which features only the lovely Cat Stevens, and if I could have any movie prop, it would be Harold's car. I often find myself daydreaming about how I would customize a car to my liking and...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
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
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