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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Collector's Corner: Gears of War Hammerburst + 11 more cool collectiblesBlastr, March 31st
Watch your fingers with this furry, frightening Monster Book of Monsters movie prop replica from the Harry Potter franchise. It comes paired with a limited-edition Harry Potter: The Creature Vault volume packed with detailed illustrations, concept...Read more
Hipster Couple's Save-the-Date Is a Ridiculous Action MovieJezebel, March 31st
While the movie is pretty great — it features every important wedding trope as a traditional action movie prop — it lacks one important element: I can't put that shit on my fridge next to the takeout menus and pictures of myself when I was younger...Read more
How a Joker Revived a BatmobileWall Street Journal, March 31st
It's a movie prop; it was used as the stand-in car in the filming of the 1992 Warner Bros. movie “Batman Returns,” starring Michael Keaton. I put a Corvette engine in it and re-engineered things so it's drivable and safe. It has blinkers, taillights...Read more
The $344000 movie item: Academy buys ship from Kubrick's '2001'Los Angeles Times, March 29th
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Saturday bought the Aries 1B Trans-Lunar Space Shuttle from "2001: A Space Odyssey" at Premiere Props' Hollywood Extravaganza Auction for $344,000. lRelated Purported Adolf Hitler watercolor ...Read more
Despite delays, construction of Duncan Canyon/I-15 interchange continuesFontana Herald-News, March 28th
On one of those instances on Feb. 20, a "movie prop" helicopter was knocked off a big rig and onto the freeway, blocking two lanes for more than an hour. Construction of the Duncan Canyon Road project began in 2012 and was originally scheduled to be ...Read more
Students, teacher talk about enjoyable trip to SpainChanute Tribune, March 27th
She also enjoyed visiting a factory in Toledo to see movie prop swords and jewelry being made. The trip allowed her to stretch the Spanish she has been learning in class. "We had to order our own food in restaurants," she said. During their free time...Read more
Fake gun causes school lockdownThe Park Record, March 24th
One teen allegedly pulled a gun -- later determined to be a movie prop loaded with blanks, Bates said -- which was wrestled away by the other group. Police later discovered the gun hidden in bushes nearby, but were concerned the teen may have had a ...Read more
Fake Firearm spooked second hand store that donated the prop to the RPDCounty 10, March 12th
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Riverton Police Department has acquired a movie prop that may be used for future training opportunities. The prop is a non-functional .45 caliber revolver. Captain Todd Byerly held the fake firearm so it could be photographed...Read more