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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Matthew McConaughey's Dallas Buyers Club Hat for SaleReporter-Times, March 6th
Now, fans of the film can claim the movie prop for themselves as it is auctioned off on L.A.-based auction site natedsanders.com. Bidding for the authentic Texas-made Resistol hat the actor wore during the 25-day shoot begins at $3,000 and ends...Read more
Does Back to the Future hoverboard really exist? - videoThe Week UK, March 5th
Not only that, but had it been genuine, there would have been questions about why such revolutionary technology had been applied not to lucrative government contracts, notes AV Club, but to "realising a movie prop so Moby could surf around a parking lot"...Read more
Restored Ball Turret back on WWII-era AircraftWSAV-TV, March 4th
The ball turret was purchased from the set of the movie "Memphis Belle" and has been under restoration for the last 11 months to transform it from a movie prop into a functioning turret. The installation was overseen by two groups of the B-17...Read more
BIG BEAR LAKE: Iconic pirate ship sinksPress-Enterprise (blog), March 3rd
I don't know how you're gonna replace a movie prop,” he said. He was delighted to hear that the Hafens plan to salvage it. “Really? Oh, that's great,” he said. “I just assumed that thing was toast.” Less than an hour after his reconnaissance dive...Read more
Santa Clarita Crime Reports Are In For 02/17 Through 02/23KHTS Radio, February 28th
A movie prop that looks like a space gun was taken. A 12-pack of beer and three packs of cigarettes were stolen from the AMPM, 24020 Newhall Avenue, Saturday, Feb. 22 at 11:35 p.m. The suspect was described as a white male, 23 years old, 5'09” and 170 ...Read more
Fake $100 movie bill used to buy food in BurtonThe State, February 24th
Two men eating at a Burton Chinese restaurant Saturday paid for their food with fake money used as a movie prop, according to a report from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. The two men used a fake $100 bill to buy $3.51 worth of fried doughnuts at ...Read more
Celebrity Touch Confers 'Magical' Value to MemorabiliaDiscover Magazine (blog), February 24th
Either way, now you have scientific proof that it's normal to want to pay extra for that autographed first edition or authentic movie prop — assuming it's still got its germs. CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts. MORE ABOUT: economics, psychology...Read more
UPDATE: Jurassic Park raptor crate sold for $100KOrlando Sentinel (blog), February 5th
A collector in Switzerland had the highest bid on the movie prop from the 1993 Steven Spielberg blockbuster, according to Brian Ramsey of the Orlando-based Theme Park Connection, the company that listed the crate. The bidding closed at $100,100.10...Read more