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Film memorabilia are objects considered of value because of their connection to the cinema. These include costumes, props, advertising posters, and scripts, among other things. Fans have always coveted memorabilia, but in recent years, what was once a hobby has mushroomed into big business, with millions of dollars changing hands in auctions held by such top firms as Christie's and Sotheby's. In addition, many popular films have their collectible items sold via independent, online movie memorabilia stores, web auctions, and at film studio charity events.
History of collecting
In the early days, most people sought autographs or original photographs or posters. Collectors had to rely on a handful of news magazines that were full of various sellers offering mail order catalogues or asking to buy bulk lots, or particular items of interest. Occasionally, events would be organized which were structured around a live auction — these, while fewer in number today, still occur, and one can still buy memorabilia in person from trusted sellers on-site. The community was also fairly fragmented, with collectors and dealers spread out across the globe and no real consistent and reliable way to communicate with one another.
Movie studios were slow to recognize the value of their property, "generally viewing the material as junk taking up precious backlot real estate." Often, workers would just take souvenirs or sell items without permission, aware that their employers did not particularly care. One of the more notorious of these was costumer Kent Warner, who amassed a large private collection and made money selling to interested buyers. One of his friends claimed that Warner rescued Humphrey Bogart's Casablancatrench coat, which had been slated for burning.
The turning point came in 1970. Kirk Kerkorian had bought MGM the year before and installed James Thomas Aubrey, Jr. as president. As part of his cost-cutting measures, Aubrey decided to auction off hundreds of thousands of items. The success of this mammoth event made people take notice.
1970 MGM auction
MGM sold the contents of seven sound stages "for a mere $1.5 million" to auctioneer David Weisz. There were over 350,000 costumes alone. Weisz hired Kent Warner to help catalog and prepare for the auction. In the course of his work, Warner found several pairs of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (it is common practice to make multiple copies of important props). One pair became the centerpiece of the event and sold for a then-unheard-of $15,000 (Warner kept or sold an unknown number of other pairs).
Actress Debbie Reynolds spent $180,000 and "purchased thousands of items", the beginning of her large collection. Weisz "recouped eight times" what he paid "from eager nostalgia enthusiasts."
The unsold items, "... truckloads of costume sketches, movie stills and other memorabilia were sent to the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas to be sold in the gift shop and used as hotel decorations." The auction catalogs have now themselves become sought-after collectibles.
2011 Debbie Reynolds auctions
Debbie Reynolds' collection was sold by Profiles in History in two auctions in June and December 2011. Among the items to be put up for bid in the first of these auctions are:
On June 18, 2011, the subway dress sold for $4.6 million, far in excess of pre-auction estimates of $1-2 million. Another Monroe dress, worn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, fetched $1.2 million; it had been expected to go for $200,000 to $300,000. Estimated at $60,000 to $80,000, a blue cotton dress Judy Garland used in test shots for The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000. In total, the auction grossed $22.8 million.
In the second Reynolds auction, on December 3, 2011, a still-functioning Panavision PSR 35mm camera used to film Star Wars went for $625,000, breaking records for Star Wars memorabilia and vintage cameras.
Influence of the internet
In the early days of the internet, the larger community began to get in touch with one another through UseNetnewsgroups (for example, alt.binaries.pictures.movie-posters). As the internet grew, collectors began communicating in ways never thought possible. In 1995, popular on-line email group MoPo was formed, creating a central place for people to keep in touch about things and events important to the community. This group continues to provide information to new and old collectors alike.
By 1997, the community had changed forever; eBay was quickly becoming the alternative marketplace after two years of steady growth. Professional sellers took notice, causing many of them to close their bricks-and-mortar businesses and focus their attention completely on internet sites and the future of the on-line marketplace.
In the early days of internet selling, prices varied widely. One could find posters normally valued in the hundreds of dollars selling for twenty dollars, or, alternatively, find posters normally valued at twenty dollars going for a hundred, or more. Today, the market place for film memorabilia has mostly stabilised. While one can still see a rare film poster go for large amounts, it is far more common to find that items are priced either at or near market value, or are bid up to that point.
Pressbooks and presskits
Industry magazines and related material
Scripts, storyboards, and original concept art
Promotional material of any kind
Several pairs of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are known to exist. One pair is on permanent display at the National Museum of American History, several others are in the hands of private collectors, and one pair was stolen in 2005. The last auction price, in 2000, was $666,000. Also, the black hat belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West sold for $33,000 in 1988 and $197,400 in 2008.
The William Conrad Maltese Falcon statuette
There were several statuettes made for the 1941 The Maltese Falcon -- two lead figures weighing 47 pounds (21 kg) each, and a seven-pound (3.2 kg), more finely crafted, resin model -- all handled by Humphrey Bogart. Christie's auctioned one of the lead figures, part of the estate of actor William Conrad, on December 6, 1994; it was purchased for $398,500 by Ronald Winston, president of Harry Winston, Inc. Within two years, Winston had resold the prop "at an enormous profit" -- for as much as $1 million -- to an unknown European collector. On November 25, 2013, Bonhams, in association with TCM, sold the other lead figure, the only one confirmed to have appeared in the movie, for over $4 million, including the buyers fee. This version has a prop number WB 90067. (See also The Maltese Falcon.)
On November 24, 2014, the piano on which Sam plays "As Time Goes By" in Rick's Café Américain (and in which Rick hides the letters of transit) was sold for $2,900,000 (the buyer's premium bringing the total to $3,413,000) by Bonhams in New York City. In the same auction, the only known surviving copy of the transit papers, though apparently not used onscreen, went for $118,750 (including buyer's premium).
Steven Spielberg paid $60,500 (including 10% commission) in June 1982 for a "Rosebud" sled from Citizen Kane. Orson Welles stated in a telephone interview that there were three made of balsa (as is Spielberg's purchase) that were intended to be burned in the final scene, and one made of hardwood for the beginning of the film. On December 15, 1996, the hardwood sled was sold to an anonymous bidder in Los Angeles for $233,500.
Star Wars first debuted on movie screens in 1977 and over the past forty years has grown into a merchandising phenomenon unequalled both in breadth and range. It has generated more collectables than any other movie series in history. From inexpensive pocket money toys to big ticket full-size replicas, it has spanned every area of licensed product. From inauspicious beginnings, Paul Berry charts the development of the Star Wars collectable from the Original Trilogy era of the 1970s and 1980s, the prequels of the 1990s and 2000s and the modern era of films. This book looks at the massive success of the Kenner, and later Hasbro, action figure range, which has spawned well over 1,000 figures; the story of the books and comics that have greatly expanded the Star Wars universe; the records and the videos; the bubblegum cards; and the modern collectors items. Whether you joined the Star Wars saga in 1977, 1999 or 2015, Star Wars is a hobby that continues to attract new generations of collectors and will likely endure for many decades to come.
2016 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award Nominee for Favorite Book!
Star WarsÂ®: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know is crammed with weird and wonderful Star Wars trivia, strange-but-true facts and fascinating "Did you know?" Q&As via a highly engaging infographic design. Find out who cleans the floors of the Death Stars and what takes 1,000 years to digest its victims! From movie-making trivia to quirky facts you never knew, this guide will excite new and old fans alike of Star Wars Rebelsâ¢, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the Star Wars movies I-VI.
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." It's been 30 years since those immortal words were first seen on movie screens nationwide and it was the start of a worldwide phenomenon and the beginning of the most successful movie franchise of all time.
The Star Wars Vault: Thirty Years of Treasures from the Lucasfilm Archives, With Removable Memorabilia and Two Audio CDs by Stephen J. Sansweet and Peter Vilmur (HarperEntertainment; on-sale October 30, 2007; $85.00) is the official illustrated book celebrating this year's 30th anniversary of George Lucas' first Star Wars movie, and includes removable reproductions of memorabilia, along with two CDs containing vintage radio ads, original cast interviews, George Lucas' commentary, and even Carrie Fisher singing in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
The Star Wars Vault is the insider's look at the development and making of all six movies, and the huge cultural impact they've had. In addition to hundreds of photos and pieces of artwork, the book includes fifty interactive, rare, and some never-before-seen pieces of memorabilia.
Among the book's features are:
The special questionnaire for the first and only test screening of the original Star Wars â and the invitation to attend it
George Lucas' hand-written treatment for The Empire Strikes Back
Lucasfilm Christmas cards
Iron-on T-shirt transfer
The very first concept sketch drawn for Star Wars
Blueprints of Star Wars vehicles and sets
Original hand-written directions for ground-breaking special effects
The Star Wars Vault is the ultimate, one-of-a-kind insider's look into the sensation that launched a phenomenon that includes six feature films; two spin-off films; three television series with more to come; and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, action figures, trading cards, and many other products worldwide.
The definitive story of how the classic horror movie was made -- plus my forty-year collection of articles, clippings and memoirs! The original articles auctioned for $5,000! A must-have for fans and collectors!!
John Wayne TreasuresÂ chronicles the life of this legendary actor, from his earliest movies and years out in the wilderness to his final films and eventual passing. Four pieces of memorabilia included in the book's pocket add vivid detail to this story of John Wayne's life.
"Damn, I'm the stuff men are made of!"Â âJohn Wayne
While people around the globe adore and cherish John Wayne, he remains the quintessential American icon. He embodied the definition of the American cowboy, soldier, and rugged individualist. Duke's extraordinary rise to fameâfrom hauling furniture around studio lots to becoming one of the most famous actors in the worldâis chronicled in this handsome volume, complete with on-set and behind-the-scenes photographs, vintage movie posters, and cigarette cards from his most well-known movies. Clips of interviews, quotes from movies, and the testimony of the people he surrounded himself with tell the story of America's favorite western star.
John Wayne TreasuresÂ contains a pocket in the back with fourÂ pieces of memorabilia spanning John Wayne's life and career. Included are aÂ small movie poster forÂ Stagecoach,Â excerpts from Duke's Glendale High School senior yearbook circaÂ 1925, and proof sheets fromÂ Big Jake andÂ The Shootist.
Since John Wayne's death in 1979, he has been the subject of the public's fascination and has become a folk legend, of sorts. John Wayne's character, with biting wit and grit, has grown far bigger than the man himself. While alive, he embodied the persona he created with pride, patriotism, determination, and integrity.Â Written by true and loyal fans, every aspect of the Duke's life is covered in this book.
(Limelight). Generously includes film stills and essays on crime films, The Postman Always Rings Twice , "Hitchcock's Noir Landscape," "Samuel Fuller's Tabloid Cinema," "Son of Noir," "Noir Science," "Girl Power: Female Centered Neo-Noir," and "Abstract Expressionism and Film Noir."
Celebrate your love of Beetlejuice with this deluxe journal based on the hit movie, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary in 2018.Â
The 1988 Tim Burton movie Beetlejuice is an endearing classic. Now fans can enjoy this deluxe journal, which is an authentic replica of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased used by the characters in the film.Â With sturdy construction and sewn binding, this journal lies flat, and the 192 ruled, acid-free pages of high-quality heavy stock paper take both pen and pencil nicely to invite a flow of inspiration. Includes a ribbon placeholder, elastic closure, and 7.5 x 4.5—inch back pocket perfect for holding photographs and mementos.
For the first time ever, Transformers Vault reveals the complete story of the Transformers, everyone's favorite robots in disguise. Loaded with never-before-seen images, this book is a guide to the epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons, as it began with toys and television, and continued to comics, film, games, and other media. There's something here for all generations, from classic toys that have become sought-after collectibles to the amazing, high-tech visuals of the three live-action films.
Hasbro has opened its official archives, gathering more than 250 images and several featured pieces of memorabilia. Look inside for a sheet of Generation One tech specs with a secret revealer, a rare pencil sketch from comics artist Casey Coller, an unseen character profile for Hot Rod from the 1986 film, an animation cel, and much more. Exclusive photos of Japanese Transformer prototypes, archival development art, and brand-new information about the future of the Transformers make this the ultimate package for every fan.
Praise for Transformers Vault:
âTransformers Vault . . . has a permanent place on our coffee table. If you need a unique gift to give your Transformers fan, we recommend this book. . . . they will discover something new every time they open it.â âWired.com âTransformers Vault is a collectorâs case at an affordable price. . . . With original artwork, amazing pictures of rare exclusive Japanese variants and a foreword by the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, Transformers Vault does not disappoint.â âexaminer.com