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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.
Crime in the galaxy is a constantâwhether itâs seedy deals made on the lower levels of Coruscant or organized crime syndicates in the outer rimâbut how galactic law enforcement has defined those crimes has shifted with each change of power. Â Star Wars: Scum and Villainyprofiles the misdeeds of infamous smugglers, pirates, gamblers, bounty hunters, and thieves throughout galactic history. Page through the case files of three generations of galactic law-enforcers and explore their case reports, surveillance images, warrants, artifacts, and much more in this lavishly illustrated and in-world narrated book that is showcased in a slipcase. Â Introducing all-new details and characters, this collection sheds new light on the galaxyâs most notorious. Â
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.
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!!
This collectible Harry Potter pop-up book, based on the creative development of the films, features exquisite original artwork by Andrew Williamson, concept artist for all eight movies. With dynamic pop-ups animating memorable moments and locations â like the Triwizard Tournament, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts Castle â Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book offers a 3-D glimpse into the amazing world, as seen in the films.
This deluxe book will delight Harry Potter fans with dynamic pop-up ingenuity, insights from the creative team who turned JK Rowlingâs stories into movie magic, fascinating facts about the magical universe seen in the movies, and Harry Potter memories and memorabilia packed into every page.
Celebrate your love of Beetlejuice with this deluxe note card set based on the hit movie, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary!
The 1988 Tim Burton movie Beetlejuice is an endearingÂ classic. Now fans can enjoy this unique note card set and keepsake box modeled after the Handbook for the Recently Deceased used by the characters in the film. Including a pocket journal, twenty note cards, envelopes, and sticker seals, this is the ultimate gift for fans to share their love of Beetlejuice with friends near and far.
The Star Wars: Millennium Falcon: A 3D Owner's GuideÂ explores the notorious Millennium Falcon layer by layer, modification by modification, and spec by spec in awesome detail.
Take the fastest ship in the galaxy for a spin in this fully updated and revised edition of theÂ Millennium Falcon: A 3D Owner's Guide!
ThisÂ 3D Owner's Guide provides a pilot's insight into every facet of the infamous Millennium Falcon.Â From its compliment of armaments and defenses, to the life support and propulsion. Each page details the technology and provides notes and commentary from the many crew members who haveÂ piloted the Falcon.
Each page of this owners manualÂ is die-cut so they fit together to create a three-dimensional model of theÂ fastest ship in the galaxy embedded within the book. And now, it has been updated to include material from The ForceÂ Awakens and The Last Jedi, makingÂ this is the ultimate interactive guide to the ultimateÂ Star Wars ship!
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.
This vibrant box of postcards celebrates the art of the Disney Princess, celebrating all eleven official Disney princesses. Featuring a mix of gorgeous concept artâincluding some never-before-published workâas well as final frames, this beautiful collector's item is sure to delight Disney fans of all ages.
America, 1976. It's the last day of school in a small Texas town; the eighth-graders are getting their first taste of adolescence-a glimpse at high school. Frisbees hang in the air above Led Zeppelin music; the boys in their iron-on transfer T-shirts pop beers, while the teenage Cher clones strap on their cork wedgies and flirt.
It's a moment frozen in time, a shift from one era to another. It is dazed and confused.