Movie Posters—Out Of The Closet

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by Leonard Maltin
November 27, 2012 1:00 AM
6 Comments
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Friends have asked why my wife and I are auctioning a number of rare posters and lobby cards with Heritage Auctions later this week. Answer: we’re trying to simplify our lives. We haven’t taken anything off the walls that we live with every day and enjoy; there’s just too much “stuff” stashed in cabinets and closets.

Much of that stuff isn’t so much a collection as an accumulation. I purchased my first movie still at the age of 12; it cost just 25 cents, and launched a lifelong obsession with 8x10 stills. Had I bought posters instead, I could probably retire quite comfortably, but somehow they didn’t hold the same allure to my youthful self. I also didn’t buy anything with an eye toward investment. The posters I did seek out were those that had particular meaning for me. Since I was hooked on cartoons and short subjects, I set out to acquire at least one sample from every series. Most of these aren’t worth a lot today, excepting a pair of one-sheets for Columbia Pictures comedies starring the ever-popular Three Stooges. Like many short-subject posters these were cheaply produced, but only a handful survive, which has made them particularly desirable. (No one is beating down my door to purchase my one-sheets for MGM’s Pete Smith Specialties, even though they’re much more attractive.)

When I met my wife Alice, she started eyeing posters in some of our friends’ houses and we became more avid collectors, at the tail end of the time when this kind of paper was still affordable.

Alice is also responsible for our all-time greatest find. We were at an outdoor antique show in Massachusetts more than thirty years ago when she called my name. I was looking at something and said I’d be there in a minute. She called me again, more insistently. That’s when I joined her and tried to keep my jaw from flapping open at the sight of an original set of lobby cards for Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfswith a remnant of the printed brown-paper mailing envelope from RKO Radio Pictures. There were condition issues with the set, but they were the right price.

Over the years we’ve had a number of lucky breaks, and engineered a few trades, which is how we added to our stash. Our all-time favorite pieces adorn the walls of our home. It’s frustrating not to be able to display even more, and we’ve never adopted the m.o. of pioneering collector Clark Wilkinson, who shellacked extremely rare 1910s one-sheets into the floor of his house in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Instead, we’re pruning our collection and hope these lobby cards and one-sheets find good homes. 

The official auction days are Thursday and Friday, but the entire catalog is available for browsing HERE.

Images of a few One Sheets and Lobby Cards at Heritage

  • 1 of 6

    Charlie Chaplin in A DOG'S LIFE

  • 2 of 6

    SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN

  • 3 of 6

    Mutt and Jeff in OCCULTISM

  • 4 of 6

    CHARLIE McCARTHY, DETECTIVE

  • 5 of 6

    Lena Horne in THE BRONZE VENUS

  • 6 of 6

    BROADWAY THRU A KEYHOLE

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6 Comments

  • sid | December 17, 2012 8:34 PMReply

    dear mr maltin,
    i was wondering why disney animation one sheets from the 90's (that would be aladdin through toy story 2 from when i was there and handled the one sheets) only run for about $35 on ebay when, i know that a limited run of a number i won't disclose were produced of any given series, all for theatrical distribution except for a small allotment to be used elsewhere. that makes them limited edition runs. of course, they are all ultimately the property of disney studios as that is how it is, but even with that, these are not the store sold posters, and posters are not one sheets. posters are printed on one side, one sheets are printed on both sides to enrich the color. just curious. it seems strange.

  • Dylan Chumleigh | November 30, 2012 11:40 PMReply

    It reminds me my childhood, when i was such a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin and always waiting for Charlie Chaplin in front of TV screen, those were golden days and happiest days just because of Charlie Chaplin.

  • Walt Mitchell | November 27, 2012 5:50 PMReply

    Hello, Leonard! Wish I could afford to participate in this auction--but I can at least look at it and drool! On my first trip to Hollywood in 1969, I hit the Hollywood Boulevard bookstores and found some gems: Original Stooges stills, including one for "The Big Idea" in pristine condition! Also got some of the Columbias--the kind with the extended border containing binder holes! During my meeting with Moe and Larry, each man autographed a couple of them for me! I found two of the three portrait shots which, I believe, were posed for the sign outside the restaurant in the opening camera shot of "Nutty But Nice," which dates them at 1940. (Moe's was the one that had already been sold. The treasured Curly pose is ubiquitous in later reproductions, books, etc.) No early one-sheets, but I did find and buy the one for "Stop, Look, and Laugh!" Although my main collections of more than 50 years are 78 rpm records, sheet music of the era, and 16mm films--mostly cartoons, shorts, and 1950s TV shows--along the way, I have accumulated Hollywood paper memorabilia; stills and portrait shots, trade ads including Disney animation and miscellany. At the last Cinefest, the last things I found were 5 large magazine ads from 1955, each introducing a character from "Lady and the Tramp," promoting Pard dog food--which my dog AND cat(!) were eating at the time! (Oscar the cat loved the stuff!) Best of luck with your auction items! (Good idea to sell them now, while the majority of the people still have money!)

  • Jonathan | November 27, 2012 5:49 PMReply

    Now I want to see the Pete Smith Specialties posters.

  • Norm | November 27, 2012 4:10 PMReply

    Why not start a Museum ? You could always donate to a wing, heck, even Disney would welcome the Leonard Maltin Wing . As much promo as you have done for them , the least they could do is honor your legacy with personal items from your Treasure Chest. Right nest to Mr. Lincoln. Someone call the Disney Office...

  • marc S. | November 27, 2012 5:43 PM

    'cause museums don't usually pay if it (the wing) carries the patrons name.

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