How to tell if movie posters are original

Written by lawrence lannoo
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How to tell if movie posters are original
Movie posters played a key promotional role for studios before television and the Internet. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Authenticating a movie poster is an uncertain science. Advances in printing technology have made the process increasingly difficult by flooding the market with cheap, deceptive reproductions. An original movie poster may be defined as an artwork printed specifically by a movie studio or associated company for purposes of promoting a film's theatrical release. These posters were not meant to be sold to the public. Factors including size, print clarity and paper condition can be used as guides in deciding whether a movie poster is an original or a reproduction.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Tabletop
  • Measuring tape
  • Magnifying glass

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  1. 1

    Open the poster on a clean, dry tabletop and measure its width and length. Before 1985, most original movie posters were sized 27 by 41 inches for one-sheets (the most widely used promotional material for display outside movie theatres). One-sheets from this period usually had a white border framing the artwork of the poster. After 1985, the size was changed to 27 by 40 inches for most one-sheets, often eliminating the white border completely, with the artwork covering the entire sheet. Consider the year the film was released and judge the authenticity of the poster accordingly.

  2. 2

    Study the print quality of the poster using a magnifying glass. Concentrate on the crew credits provided in the bottom portion of the artwork. If the letters forming the credits appear to be in any way blurred or "soft" in focus, the poster is likely a reproduction. The lettering at the bottom of an original will be crisp and clear. Reproductions are often created by taking a picture of an original and the lettering resolution is softened by the process.

  3. 3

    Consider the paper quality of the poster, especially if the film was released many years or decades ago. Follow the general rule that if it appears too new to be old, then it probably is. Acidic paper was used to produce original posters. Over time, this paper will change in appearance to an off-white hue from ageing. Posters for older films reproduced by digital technology have a "pure" white appearance, with no "tanning" whatsoever of the paper.

  4. 4

    Look for fold creases from shipping or repeated use. Before 1985, original posters were folded before being shipped to movie theatres. Since then, studios have rolled the posters and shipped them in tubes. Proceed with caution when making this evaluation, however, because some reproductions of old film posters have been folded to give the appearance of authenticity. These reprints have light creases to suggest they are genuine, but they are not.

  5. 5

    Examine the poster for copyright information, which will be listed along the bottom edge of the artwork. Before 2000, most original film posters had an NSS (National Screen Service) number along the border. Original posters produced since then do not have an NSS number. As well, many originals have "Printed in the USA" along the bottom. Generally, reproductions will instead display the name of the company producing the reprint.

Tips and warnings

  • When in doubt, consult a professional dealer or collector regarding the authenticity of your posters.

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