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 8×10 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 Dwarfs—with 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.