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What Types of Vintage Posters are Valuable?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Vintage posters are like any other commodity: their value depends on how many are available and how many people want to own them. Posters can command high prices for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the supply is often limited because they are so easily torn or damaged, making intact copies in good condition quite rare. Secondly, because posters are designed to be attractive, they have an intrinsic value: people will want to own them for reasons other than simply as an investment, for example to display in their homes.

Movie posters tend to be the most commonly collected type. Vintage posters from before the end of the Second World War go for the highest prices, likely because of their rarity. At least 13 different posters have sold for more than $100,000 US Dollars (USD) in auctions.

The most expensive movie poster ever sold is thought to be for the 1927 film Metropolis. There are only three known copies in existence, one of which is in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and one is in the Austrian National Library. The Library had two copies but sold one in 2005 to a private collector for a record setting $690,000 USD.

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Collections can be more valuable than the sum of the individual vintage posters concerned. One example would be a collection of posters from different countries for a single movie. Another is those in a sequence such as a collection auctioned in 2008 with a starting bid price of a million dollars. This collection had 76 of the 79 posters for films which had won the Best Picture award at the Oscars.

Autographs can make vintage posters more valuable. This is particularly true in cases where multiple celebrities are pictured and the poster is signed by several or even all of those featured. The value of an autographed poster will be significantly higher for celebrities who have passed away, as the supply of such autographs will become more limited. However, there is always a risk that such autographs will prove counterfeit, which will heavily reduce the value of a poster.

Political posters can be particularly valuable because they have both historical and aesthetic value. Vintage posters from the Cold War era, particularly from the Soviet Union, can sell for high prices. Another valuable category of political poster is that produced in North Korea. Even more modern North Korean posters can be very valuable simply because so few foreigners visit the country and have an opportunity to take posters away.

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