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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Phony money showing up in KnoxvilleTennessee Star Journal (press release) (registration) (blog), November 24th
Goodlettsville police recently worked a case at Teriyaki Express in which the customer allegedly used a fake 100 dollar bill, a movie prop, to buy food. The clerk didn't catch the obvious signs on the bill. When the customer was questioned, he...Read more
Fake 'movie' prop money popping up in South Louisiana; two arrestedThe Advocate, November 24th
Fake money created for use as props in movies is circulating across several parishes in southeast Louisiana, with authorities receiving multiple complaints about the counterfeit cash from banks, bars and convenience stores. Police have already arrested...Read more
Which Horror Movie Props Would You Love To Own?Bloody Disgusting, November 22nd
Horror movie prop collecting is expensive, it's difficult, and it's incredibly rewarding. There's something special about having a piece of a film's history in your home, something that you can look at and recognize from the movie itself. But as we all...Read more
People trying to pass fake movie prop money at Tennessee storesWATE 6 On Your Side, November 18th
A man used a fake 100 dollar bill, a movie prop, to buy food. The clerk didn't catch the obvious signs on the bill that say “for motion picture use only.” When the man was questioned, he reportedly swore he didn't realize it either. He could have been...Read more
York collector reveals original James Bond movie propsYork Daily Record/Sunday News, November 14th
Picture the biggest James Bond fan you can imagine. Someone who has seen the films countless times, regularly travels to James Bond movie conventions and has a James Bond movie prop and costume collection so large it fills three rooms in his house...Read more
Ex-diner to become movie propTimes Herald-Record, November 14th
CITY OF NEWBURGH – Cracks spread like fingers on one window. Wires hang from the tile-less ceiling. Dust covers everything. Decay has taken over in the roughly two decades since anyone ordered a meal at the 1940s-era diner that sits at the corner of ...Read more
CBC building evacuated over movie prop military shellCityNews, November 6th
Police evacuated the CBC building at Front and John streets in Toronto on Friday due to the discovery of a military shell which turned out to be an old movie prop. The CBC says the item was donated to its archives. TO fire platoon chief: the military...Read more
Jay Leno Drives A Movie Prop: 007's Aston Martin DB10Carscoops (blog), October 26th
Aston Martin has put a great deal of effort into making the DB10 look like an actual production coupe, even if it's nothing more than a movie prop on wheels. As you already know, its chassis is based on that of the Vantage, while its 4.7-liter V8...Read more