The Moving Image
It was shortly after 1867 when the first movie camera was patented. With an exotic name of zoopraxiscope, it wasn’t until 1895 that a paying audience “went to the movies.” While there is no indication that popcorn was sold at the event, it most definitely started a tradition that is enjoyed by millions every day. The introduction of moving pictures also saw the beginning of an entirely new activity, collecting movie memorabilia. In fact, this collecting niche is so large it is discussed by its many separate niches, from signatures to movie posters to the movies themselves.
Like most collectibles, their ultimate value is affected by a number of factors, such as the popularity of the films themselves, the quality of the item, and collector demand. Of course, the overall market for movie memorabilia is also affected by current economic conditions. It’s always important to understand whether you are buying or selling at a market top or bottom.
What’s Hot and Not
Like all collectibles, those in the movie segment see constant fluctuations in trends and values. For example, the movie poster market is considered to be hot, and individual posters are going for record highs. If you paid $50 for a Star Wars poster just a decade ago, you could expect to ask several hundred for it today. The same goes for any original posters of the Elvis movies and most ‘50s science fiction flicks.
Interestingly, that is not the same for the in-theater promotional stand-ups that were so popular in the late 1990s. That market has cooled substantially, with relatively few active collectors in the niche. It is somewhat striking to know that many of these items for recent releases are simply being trashed.
It’s pretty much a similar situation for autographs. When these were hot just a few years ago, the prices were quite impressive. However, this created a similar growth in fakes – some quite good – and the market was flooded with a tsunami of bad items. Without an industry standard for verification, many collectors have simply walked away. Even the certificates of authenticity are now viewed with skepticism. To top it off, many of today’s hottest actors simply refuse to sign photos or other items – they grew up seeing these items immediately put up for sale and aren’t interested in supporting such commercialized collectors.
Somewhat in the same position is the collecting of cartoon stills used to make movies. While this segment has not fallen so steeply, it has lost its buzz of just a decade ago. It’s simply too easy to use modern technology to fake individual stills. Another factor cooling this once roaring area of collector activity is the aging of the community. Too many younger collectors simply don’t connect with the love their parents and grandparents had for Donald Duck and Goofy.
Another segment of the once heavily followed movie market memorabilia collecting craze that is in a major downward cycle is that of movie licensing. Where a hit movie could once guarantee millions in sales of licensed products (and subsequent collector activity), that is no longer the case. On top of this, many of the last decade’s most popular movies haven’t been good ones for licensing any products.
Like any market, a downward trend often indicates a good time to make a buy. You may find that cardboard movie standup you pulled out of the dumpster is worth a good chunk of change in the future.