Friday, January 19, 2007

History of Collecting Movie Memorabilia

In the early days of film most people who were interested in keeping a memento from a particular movie, or actor, did so by acquiring autographs or original photos or posters. Through the years, the passion for cinema has grown and now the movie memorabilia collecting community is a fairly large, interconnected entity that exists for the love of cinema and related artwork.

When the collecting of movie memorabilia was in its infancy, collectors had to rely on a handful of news magazines that were full of various sellers offering mail order catelogues or asking to buy bulk lots, or particular items of interest. Occasionally, events would be organised 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; the development of the internet changed this situation significantly.

In the early days of the internet the larger community began to get in touch with one another through UseNet newsgroups, some of which still exist today and continue to provide information (e.g., As the internet grew, and more people began using computers and the internet, collectors began communicating in ways never thought possible. In 1995, popular on-line email group MoPo was formed, creating a central place for anyone with email to keep in touch about things and events important to the community. This group continues to provide invaluable 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. All of a sudden people had a way to sell pieces of their collection easily, and with consistently better results. 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 movie memorabilia has mostly stabilised. While one can still see a rare movie 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.
Movie memorabilia consist of anything related to cinema that one considers valuable, whether sentimentally or financially. Items may include original autographs, original theatre posters used to advertise the movie, movie props, photo stills, original costumes, original film scripts and presskits, and more.

The concept of movie memorabilia began with such things as scrap-books, autographs, photographs, and industry magazines, but quickly expanded in the post-World War II era. Collectors began seeking out original advertising material, and the classic "onesheet" movie poster became a popular object to own for any given film. Other material, such as lobby cards, international posters, personality posters, and glass slides also became sought after. Today, the field of movie memorabilia collecting has grown into an internationally recognised community of increasingly serious collectors, and also commonly includes props, costumes, and production materials such as concept art, call sheets, and screenplays. Auctions of memorabilia from such franchises as Star Trek and the James Bond films often net millions of dollars in revenue from auction houses such as Christies and Sotheby's.