Investing in film memorabilia
Investing in film memorabilia has become a popular form of alternative investment, which offers the chance to own unique, iconic items from cinema history.
Many classic films are considered ‘timeless’ and watched by generation after generation, meaning the interest in their related memorabilia remains strong or grows over the years. The market for film memorabilia has only existed since the 1970s, but the last 40 years have seen prices for many pieces rise enormously. Items such as Humphrey Bogart’s brown mackintosh or Luke Skywalker’s light-sabre are important cultural artefacts of the 20th century, and as each generation grows older a new set of ‘nostalgia collectors’ start investing in the favourite films of their youth.
Most valuable investments
The most valuable items of film memorabilia are iconic props and costumes from famous films, such the ruby slippers from the The Wizard of Oz, or those worn by stars such as Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn. In 2010 Monroe’s dress from the film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ sold for £213,000 by auction house Profiles In History. And Hepburn’s black Givenchy dress from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ sold in 2006 for a record price of £467,200 at a Christie’s memorabilia sale.
Items of memorabilia from films considered classics are the most popular with collectors; films such as ‘Casablanca’ (1942) are still popular almost 70 years after they were made, and are likely to be remembered far into the future meaning their memorabilia will always be sought-after.
Early film posters from the 1930s and 40s are also considered extremely valuable due to their rarity in good condition, along with other promotional material such as lobby cards. In 2009 one of only four-known copies of the advertising poster for ‘Metropolis’, Fritz Lang’s science fiction masterpiece, sold for $690,000.
James Bond memorabilia
The most popular film franchise for memorabilia collectors is James Bond. The character is still as popular today as it was when it first appeared in the 1960s, and a regular stream of new films every few years means Bond remains in the public consciousness.
Anything connected with the films is collectible, but Sean Connery-era Bond films are by far the most popular.
The most valuable piece of film memorabilia ever sold is the 1964 Aston Martin driven by Connery in ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’; in 2010 it was sold by RM Auctions to an American collector for a record price of $4,107,560. And later that year the pistol held by Connery in the poster for ‘From Russia With Love’ sold for £277,250 at a Christie’s auction in London.
For entry-level investors, items from the more modern films starring Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig can be more affordable but could prove to be valuable in the future.
Researching the markets
It is important to research the market when investing in film memorabilia. Deciding which film or star to invest in can depend on whether the market for those items already exists.
Keep an eye on film magazines and websites to see what films are in the production pipeline; if a new film from a well-known franchise is in the works then related memorabilia is likely to rise in value once the film is released.
The anniversary of classic films can often signal a re-release at the cinema, and again this can increase the value of the memorabilia. When it comes to investing in memorabilia timing is everything, and research can help you decided when and what to invest in.
Main article: List of film memorabilia collectors clubs and societies
Issues of authenticity
When looking for investment-grade film memorabilia, the most important things to consider are authenticity and provenance. If you cannot guarantee the authenticity of the item then it is rarely worth investing in.
Dealers should be able to tell you where the item has come from and how it made its way into their possession. Often pieces such as costumes or props will have come from crew that worked on the film; if so this should be verifiable with a little research. Film memorabilia often has signed documentation such as a letter or certificate to accompany it, along with authenticating photographs.
If a dealer cannot supply any such documentation, or is unwilling to say where the item has come from, then it should be regarded with suspicion. Genuine items of memorabilia will always have a solid provenance behind them, and if you are looking for your items to appreciate in value over the years this should be your first priority.
Where to buy investments
There are a number of sources from which to buy film memorabilia, including specialist dealers, dedicated auctions, online auctions and private sales through other collectors. However, the most important factor is to buy from a reputable dealer who offers a guarantee of authenticity.
Sometimes when dealing with online auctions or private sales, there is little or no recourse if the goods you buy are not genuine. If buying items online from sites such as eBay it is important to check the history of the seller. A large number of negative comments should be regarded as a warning to buyers, and any dealers selling fake goods should be reported to the authorities.
Most of the major auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s now have dedicated memorabilia departments and auctions, and there are several auctioneers such as Profiles in History,Julien’s and Heritage Auction Galleries who specialise in memorabilia.