Why should I buy a vintage poster?
Vintage posters make a real impact in any home or decorating scheme. They come in fantastic wall-friendly sizes, a whole spectrum of exquisite colours and will immediately transform a room with their eye-catching design and retro charm. We warn you - once you buy your first poster you may just become addicted. They offer a unique combination of great design, value for money and investment potential.
The record shattering $450 million achieved at auction for Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi in 2017 shows just how far out of reach the traditional art market has become for many of us. Vintage posters, on the other hand, can be a fantastically affordable and accessible form of art, often designed by some of the best and most original artists of the time. Up to the 1960s posters were printed using lithography or silkscreen techniques - printing methods that continue to be used by fine artists up to this day. Although printed in unlimited editions, the runs were usually small and surviving examples in good condition can be rare. Unlike fine art, you don't have to have any expert knowledge or understanding to appreciate them - everyone has a favourite film or band. The movies and music of the past have a universal appeal that transcends time and spans generations.
An original poster can cost hundreds or thousands more than a reproduction, although at first glance they can look the same. So why buy an original? Modern reproductions or mass produced 'wall art' are essentially worthless, whereas investment quality originals have historical and artistic value that can increase over time. Originals look and feel so much better - with deeper colours, superior printing, tactile paper and a historical and cultural resonance that often elicits an emotional reaction, providing a tangible link to the past.
In terms of investment, vintage posters have seen a steady growth over the last 30 years, often outperforming the financial markets and proving their value as an alternative asset, with the added bonus that you can display and enjoy them as they appreciate. We don't have a crystal ball, but the nostalgia factor suggests they will continue to hold their value in years to come.
How can I be sure a poster is authentic?
At Rock Paper Film, we only sell original posters that were printed in limited quantities for display in cinemas at the time the film was shown, in concert venues at the time of the show or for promotional purposes in advance of an album or tour. We do not sell reproductions of any kind. With a decade of experience at international auction, literally thousands of the world's finest vintage posters have passed through our hands and we use this invaluable experience to source, research and authenticate each item that we offer for sale.
If we have any doubt as to the authenticity of a poster, we won't offer it for sale. Our reputation is so important to us that everything we sell is covered by a lifetime guarantee of authenticity.
What's the difference between a re-release, reprint or reproduction?
After their initial release, popular films were often given a second or third theatrical release by the studios, sometimes decades after the original release. As part of the marketing campaign for these re-releases, the studios would issue a new series of advertising materials, often with entirely new poster designs. Although usually less valuable than the original release poster, these re-release posters are still valued by collectors as originals, because they were studio issued for theatrical release. Some re-release posters are more sought after than the original release if the artwork or design is significantly better.
A reprint is a commercial reproduction of an original poster with no collectable value. Even if these reproductions were authorised by the studio, artist or distributor, they cannot be considered original because they were not produced for a theatrical release or, in the case of music posters, were not produced for promotion prior to a concert, tour or release. Reprints will often have differing dimensions to the original or different markings in the margins. Many music poster dealers sell authorised reprints and they do have value among collectors, but we do not class these as original and do not sell them at Rock Paper Film. An unauthorised or counterfeit poster is sometimes called a bootleg.
Are posters a good investment?
Vintage posters were never made to be collected - they were printed on thin, low quality paper as advertising tools, made to be thrown away at the end of a concert or when a film finished its run. As such, they can be extremely rare, sometimes only a handful have survived for a particular film or gig. A collector's market has developed over the years, and many of the most sought-after posters now change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As well as the rarity of a poster, the value is determined by the quality of the design, it's condition, historical significance and the popularity of the film, star or band. Prices for the best examples have steadily increased over the past 20 years. In 1999 a British quad poster for Star Wars would sell for £100, but today it would be worth over £3000. However, returns are never guaranteed, so we always advise our customers to buy what they love. Investment should be secondary to a passion for the poster. If you love it, there's a good chance someone else will too!
How do you grade the condition of a poster?
The value of a poster can be greatly affected by its condition. Posters were never made to be collected, but made to be pinned, taped, or pasted up for display as disposable advertising material, so their condition can vary and it's unusual to find a poster in mint condition. Common flaws can include handling and fold wear, creases, wrinkles, pinholes, nicks, tears, stains, tape or tape residue, trimming and fading. Most film posters were issued machine-folded from the distributor, so these fold lines are not considered defects unless there is excessive wear or splits. Dealers and auction specialists often assign a grade for posters based on the existence and severity of these common flaws.
There is no universal, regulated grading scale for vintage posters - some dealers use a similar scale to coins and comic books, grading from poor to mint, others use a 10-point scale from C1 to C10, while many auction houses use a letter based scale from A-C. We use the letter based scale, because we believe it is the easiest for non-experts to understand. Please review our detailed condition grading scale here. However, our grading is intended as a guideline only - we provide detailed and honest condition notes on every item we sell, so nothing should be a surprise when you receive your order. If a poster has had any restoration, we do our best to describe its condition before and after backing where possible.
We strongly advise that you carefully view the condition and appearance of a poster using our high-resolution zoom. All photographs represent the actual poster sold - we do not use stock images on our site.
What is linen backing?
Vintage posters were usually printed on poor quality paper which over time becomes acidic and brittle. They were made for use as disposable advertising material, so were often pasted, pinned or taped for display, and film posters in particular were usually machine folded by the distributor for ease of shipping to theatres. Linen backing is an archival conservation method that not only helps to preserve a poster, preventing further deterioration, but also dramatically improves its appearance for display and makes it much safer and easier to handle, store and frame.
The poster is de-acidified and then mounted with wheat paste onto acid-free rice paper and laid onto a PH neutral linen or rollable cotton canvas. The process stabilises the poster, smooths out creases and reduces the visibility of folds and minor tears, in some cases almost completely. If done by a professional restorer, the process is entirely reversible and can increase the value of the poster. Professional restoration can then be done to repair any tears or losses, disguise stains, or touch up fold lines with water soluble pigments. The level of restoration is a personal preference. Some dealers and collectors heavily restore and sometimes spray paint their posters to bring them as close as possible to their original brightness, however at Rock Paper Film we lean towards a more honest appearance, with restoration kept to a minimum to preserve the original integrity of the poster.
An alternative to linen backing is paper backing, which is the preferred method for items on thick paper or card stock like US inserts or boxing style posters. The method is the same except the poster is backed on acid-free backing board rather than canvas. Some collectors and museums prefer that a poster only be mounted on to a piece of thin high quality acid free Japanese rice paper, which retains the paper-like feel of the original poster, but does not provide the same stability and flexibility for handling, storage and framing.
We believe original posters are meant to be displayed, so we only sell posters in ready to frame condition. This means that all of our posters have been backed for display and preservation, unless they are in excellent unfolded condition. We can arrange backing for unfolded posters on request.
What are the standard film poster sizes?
Original film posters have always been produced in a range of shapes and sizes, varying from country to country. Each country would produce different designs in different sizes, and often a number of different sizes for different uses. Please see our guide to the most common formats, although it is important to note that sizes are approximate and actual sizes can vary depending on date, studio and printer. At Rock Paper Film, we will always state the exact dimensions of the poster. Linen backed posters will also have an additional border of up to 1 inch all around.
The poster from the country in which the film was made is known as the country of origin poster and is usually the most highly valued, for example a British James Bond poster would be more sought after than the American version. Sometimes other countries would re-use the country of origin artwork in some form, but more often they would produce their own artwork. Many European poster artists would produce strikingly creative and beautiful artwork far superior to the original release, yet they are usually more affordable, offering a great alternative to the more expensive country of origin posters. At Rock Paper Film we have a soft spot for posters from the communist Eastern Bloc.
How should I display my poster?
Use a reputable framer that is experienced with conservation framing methods. Your vintage poster should be framed with acid-free mount and backing board to prevent deterioration and discolouration. We strongly recommend opting for UV filtering glass or plexiglass, which will protect your investment from fading due to sunlight or artificial light. If you choose to frame without a mount, we advise opting for plexiglass, as glass can stick to the surface of the poster over time. Never let your framer dry mount your poster as it's irreversible.
Do you offer custom framing?
Yes, please contact us to request a quote. We do not recommend framing for international orders.
Do you accept returns?
Your order should arrive in perfect condition, and we hope that you will be delighted with your acquisition. However, in the unlikely event that there is an issue or you are unhappy with your order, please let us know as soon as possible and we will resolve the issue as soon as we can. Buyers may return posters for a full refund for any reason within 14 days, subject to our Delivery and Returns policy.
Do you accept posters on consignment?
Yes, we will offer posters on a consignment basis, where they meet the high standards of value and condition required on our site. Please contact us for more information.
Do you buy posters?
Yes, we are always interested in buying individual posters or complete collections. Please contact us with images and details and we'll get back to you. If we aren't able to offer a price for your item, we'll be happy to advise you on the best way to sell it.