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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Movie prop “bomb” found in Oakville apartmentHamilton Spectator, November 27th
An investigation eventually determined that the device was an inert movie prop meant to resemble an explosive device. Residents were allowed back into the building just after 8:30 p.m.. Police say the matter is being investigated by Oakville detectives...Read more
The Casablanca piano: a case of do or buyThe National, November 25th
If you shop around in the UAE, you can buy a new upright piano for as little as Dh14,000. However, in New York, an 80-year-old piano with 30 fewer keys, a few dents, a paint job that may not be to everyone's taste and a piece of petrified chewing gum...Read more
Cowardly Lion Costume, Piano from Casablanca Fetch over $3 Million at AuctionPeople Magazine, November 25th
The record auction price for a movie prop is $4,085,000, for a Maltese falcon (from the film of the same name, also starring Humphrey Bogart) at a Bonham's auction last year. The overall record is $4.6 million for the Aston Martin driven by Sean...Read more
EXCHANGE: Cass County woman makes Hollywood propMerced Sun-Star, November 19th
In this Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 photo, Marcia Cox poses for a photo with a Santa doll in her craft shop, Clear Creek Mercantile, in Virginia, Ill. Cox was contacted through her Etsy site by “Interstellar” props master Ritchie Kremer to produce three...Read more
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
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