Eric Knowles Eric Knowles, Antiquarian

Film Posters

I love a good horror film - nothing too gruesome more your Hammer House of Horror with no shortage of werewolves, vampires, Dracula, Dr Frankenstein's monster and Boris Karloff. It would seem that the legendary Boris is not without fans and one in particular with deep pockets who paid $300,000 for the poster of his 1932 film 'The Mummy'. That price paid in 1997 still remains a world record price for any film poster. Initially it was thought to be one of only two known but since then another two have surfaced.

The film industry was up and running well before the advent of the First World War and Hollywood was at the forefront of the production line from the very beginning. The British public warmed to the zany exploits of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton , Fatty Arbuckle and the Keystone Cops. A Charlie Chaplin film poster will set you back £5,000 and more, whereas a Chaplin 'lobby card', a captioned photograph intended for display in the cinema lobby, sells for about £800.

The film studios soon realised the importance of an eye catching poster and went to great lengths to keep the identity of their poster artists a closely guarded secret. The film poster is recognised today as a highly important art form and consequently commands the attention of a huge worldwide market. Poster styles have evolved over the past 70 years in many different ways with some incorporating a montage of high quality artwork and others focussing on the starring actors.

The introduction of television during the early 1950s posed serious competition to the film industry who began to demand more inventive artwork to win back customers. Prior to TV the cinemas had been enjoying a monopoly and even a 'B' movie could command a full house. The film studios responded with blockbuster spectaculars such as Ben Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1962) the latter bringing together the steamy pairing of Burton and Taylor.

Altough film posters became increasingly more subtle during the 1960s the big money is spent on those pre-war classics of Hollywoods Golden Years. Judy Garland was the toast of 1939 with 'The Wizard of Oz' and the film poster today is the toast of any collector willing to cough up £30,000. 1939 was also the year that Clarke Gable made his sentiments known to Vivienne Leigh as Atlanta burned in 'Gone with the Wind' The US poster has made $71,875 the UK version selling for £10,000.

Staying with star crossed lovers 'Casablanca' released in 1942 is always highly rated by poster collectors and worth an almighty £60,000. However should your preference be for the 'Art Deco' touch of Mr Fred Astaire his 42nd Street can be yours for anything between £2,000 to £3,000 depending on condition. 'I'm ready for my close up now Mr De Mille' is a classic line given by Gloria Swanson in her 1950 masterpiece 'Sunset Boulevard'. The poster is similarly revered retailing for £10,000.

The late 1950s and early 1960s were dominated musically by Elvis Presley of his various films 'Jailhouse Rock' provided the most desirable poster not quite a 'Steal' at £1,000. Marilyn Monroe’s 'Seven Year Itch' featuring 'that dress' provided a great image for a poster that sells for £1,000 but the 'Some Like It Hot' poster is more desirable at £1,800+. Enter Audrey Hepburn in 1961 attired in Dior dress and holding an ever so long cigarette holder intent upon having 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and Bingo £4,500 buys you the poster. Breakfast costs extra !

Frank Mc Ginnis was the artist responsible for not only Miss Hepburns artwork but also the first James Bond posters. 'Dr No' (£4,500), 'Goldfinger' (£3,500) and 'From Russia with Love' (£4,500). The Beatles 'Hard Days Night', 'Help' and 'Yellow Submarine' can usually be found priced at about £2000 per poster although the later 'Let it Be' sells at £600. According to film poster expert Adrian Cowdry of Cine Art Gallery the last great poster for his money is Bond’s 'The Living Daylights' price £120. His tip for today - it has to be 'The Incredibles' at £35. See the film Buy em the poster.

For Further Information

Adrian Cowdry can be contacted at


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