Collecting Movie Memorabilia On A Budget

My hints and tips for collecting movie memorabilia on a budget.

Part three of my Definitive guide to screen used props. This doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, especially for those of you just starting out. So please read on for my best tips on collecting movie memorabilia on a budget!

In this post I focus mainly on production made / used props and wardrobe. I share my tips to save you money, give some entry level ideas, discuss where and how to look for inexpensive memorabilia and offer some handy hints and first steps to help you establish industry contacts.

Keeping it real

First, always opt for an original authentic piece! For example, If you can’t afford the whole “Krayt Dragon” skeleton (who could?), settle for a small inexpensive piece of it! It’s still real, and nothing will ever beat real!

Krayt Dragon Fragment.
Krayt Dragon Fragment.

Where to start

  • Trading cards are a great inexpensive entry to owning props and wardrobe. You can expect to find relic pieces, costume swatches, autographs, etc. There are thousands to choose from. They are inexpensive, take up a brief amount of space and are easy to display.
Trading Card Treasures.
Trading Card Treasures.
  • Production “Set Dec Sales” (liquidation sales) are where and when production used props & wardrobe are at their cheapest! Production just want it cleared out! Check your local studios and production companies’ Facebook pages etc for early notification of sales. Often, local auction houses are used. Contact your local auction houses & join their mailing lists.
  • Place a “Wanted to buynotice on your local Facebook / Gumtree marketplace, stipulate what you collect. By doing this, you are inviting direct contact with the seller and effectively removing a lot of competition.

How unexpected

  • Props & wardrobe can often end up in thrift & charity shops. It’s always worth a look. It’s surprising just how many pieces (along with “production crew gifts” such as caps / shirts etc) you’re likely to come across.
Movie memorabilia on a budget
Charity Find

For example, I once owned an outfit worn by Andy Serkis for his hilarious 2003 MTV Awards acceptance speech – Here on YouTube. He’d donated it to a charity shop, it sold & subsequently made its way to the Prop Store. A hand signed note on a postcard accompanied the piece.

  • Estate sale items of memorabilia, are generally always worth more to the poor soul who collected them, than to the eager people who are now disposing of them. This is so true of screen used props & wardrobe. You will very likely pick up bargains here. Remembering We are very much a part of a “niche” hobby that has relatively little understanding from those people outside of the hobby.

As a side note, I continually stress the importance and value of my own collection to my children. This is to prevent my wife from hiring and filling a giant skip bin when my time comes!!! [I jest sweetheart]!

Gotta have friends

  • Make friends in this hobby! Join social media communities and let members know what type of memorabilia you are collecting and have them look out on your behalf. Invite them to tip you off about pieces they’ve passed on – maybe those pieces interest you! I personally know of many collectors who will offer an incentive or spotter’s fee in order to find that special item!
Movie memorabilia on a budget
Bulk Buy Blaster Bargains!
  • Once you’ve established a group of friends, look at “splitting upbuys between members of your group. Buying a “job lot” privately or at auction and sharing pieces among your group, can seriously reduce your individual spend.
  • Shameless plug! My ebay store always has lots of great inexpensive pieces! Please check it out if you’re interested in collecting movie memorabilia on a budget.

Best buying experience

  • In my experience, the more passionate collectors are, the more realistic their prices. Let me explain: A collector always wants to improve the “collection” generally by selling pieces to acquire better pieces. Most collectors, I know, usually lose (or at best, break even). Unlike dealers, they’re less about profit and more about the hobby. I shudder at how many hours and repeated viewings it’s taken for me to “screen match” particular pieces that I end up selling for less than fifty bucks! That is definitely not a good hourly rate! However, over time, I get to invest in a better piece.
  • Dealers who are “passionate collectors” are the best to deal with! They both understand what you want & will often have what you want (or know where to locate it)! They will happily “deal” with new collectors to them get started in the hobby. Please ask about dealers I’d recommend!
  • As a general rule, I suggest you steer away from “make me an offer” deals. The seller knows what price they want and they are simply hoping you will offer more. Only offer a price if the seller provides a starting price & invites lower offers.

Direct route

  • Most Tradesmen, Production Assistants & Crew members are contracted only to the completion of a particular film or project. So between engagements, they have lives outside of the industry. That includes having the odd garage / yard sale. Don’t be surprised if you discover the odd prop or piece of set decoration at their home, in their shed or workshop, etc.
  • I was once checking Facebook marketplace garage sale ads and noticed, in the background of one photo, an instantly recognisable piece from a major blockbuster. It was production made (unpainted). I contacted the seller, who explained he had worked as a set painter on two (huge) films! My excitement somewhat amused him, but he was however able to offer me some really nice production made pieces & even a couple of delightful crew gifts he’d received.


  • If you get the chance to acquire a piece directly from a member of a production, check their IMDB (Internet Movie Database) page entry. Not only does that help establish their bona fides, it will give you an insight into other productions they’ve worked on. Chances are they will respect that you’ve researched their work & they may be open to discussing their other projects, which may result in more leads to more items.
  • An excellent example of this: I responded to a Gumtree ad with the seller offering a hand signed (by the cast) movie script from a favourite film of mine. I asked him about provenance. He happened to be the producer! I picked up the script and through further conversations it turned out he had been storing props and wardrobe from several of his productions that he was willing to let go. It pays to engage!

I’m happy to say I regularly get calls from my industry contacts who offer me pieces from time to time.

So important

Please remember, In order to maintain relationships with production crew, be discreet and never be pushy! It’s also okay to ask for a note of provenance but don’t always expect to receive one.

Being a part of this hobby, we have the opportunity to meet and connect with some amazing people involved in the film industry, along with some awesome collectors. I hope this guide helps you in collecting movie memorabilia on a budget!

Thank you.

This is part three of my Definitive guide to screen used props. Here you will find more guides packed with helpful hints and tips.. I hope you find it of value.

Check out my “YourProps” page to see more of my collection.

Why Collect Movie Props?

Why collect movie props? Part two of my Definitive guide to screen used props.

By Stuart D. of Showreel Relics 23rd June 2020

Movie Prop Collecting For Fun….. And Profit?

Why collect movie props? Well, it’s certainly for fun! But do we collect for profit? Apparently, genuine production props from motion picture films and television shows have tripled in value compared with ten years ago, according to industry sources. Add to this, the increase in interest & record number of collectors & collector groups out there, it’s timely to look at some factors affecting this hobby and their likely impacts. 

Why collect movie props? Every collector has their own motivation and reasons to be a part of this hobby, and I’m sure we could fill a book with tales of how we all got started. 

For me, I was that child in the cinema who never left until after the closing credits ended. The sheer number of people involved in each motion picture production amazed and inspired me. The artisans building the props, designing the sets, producing the storyboards, etc. To me, prop collecting is more than just having something seen on screen or “touched” by a star. It’s also about celebrating the behind-the-scenes creativity and processes. The thousands of hours and the hundreds of talented people who contribute to bringing us that ninety-odd minutes of entertainment.

My art analogy….

If a completed film is the finished masterpiece, then the production pieces are the brushes & palettes that go towards creating it!

Who wouldn’t want to own Picasso’s brushes & palettes?

Saved from The Bin!

Over the years, I have been lucky to connect with so many of these talented industry people. Their stories are (to me) fascinating, yet many of them remain somewhat bemused by the interest & attention their work attracts from us collectors. I guess, after all, it is just a job!

Sadly, one of those “jobs” often involves summarily tossing production used items into skip bins! 

Thankfully, these previously all too-easy-to-discard pieces are increasingly finding their way to market and into the hands of collectors through official studio sales, auctions (via prop houses) and sales by private individuals.

More studios/production companies realise the growing potential of selling production used items through their own wrap sales or through auction houses.

The irony is not lost on me, yet I certainly don’t care that currently gracing my walls & filling my cabinets is apparently lots of other people’s trash…. And very expensive trash at that!

Anyway, most importantly, for now at least, lots more production pieces are available for lots more collectors!…. This is an excellent outcome!

Seven Reasons More People Are Collecting Movie Props.

Apart from us simply wanting to own a “piece” of a celebrity or a movie we love, some significant changes are attracting more collectors to the hobby.

For example:

  • Increased use of CGI in the movies means less practical fx, resulting in fewer props! This could severely limit the number of screen used props into the future and significantly increase prices. The savvy collectors are aware of this.
  • We now have more and varied social media groups for prop collectors across all platforms. Record numbers of members offering expert advice, debate, guidance and connecting buyers with sellers. Quality information has never been so accessible, nor has there been more effective ways to showcase your collection.
  • Screen matching your props and wardrobe has become easier through higher resolution images. It’s easier now to see your prop on 4K blu-ray than your old VHS tape! After all, we want to see our prop in its natural habitat!
  • Recent high profile celebrity memorabilia auctions have increased awareness of prop collecting. Think of the late Debbie Reynolds or Russell Crowe auctions. Often, the publicity surrounding these events drives prices up. So on a cautionary note, the private collector relying on their ebay auctions should probably not expect to reach similar prices!
  • Dedicated cinema / media rooms in our homes invites and allows for specialised prop displays. Everything from fully outfitted mannequins to framed props, production artwork, scripts & cinema relics add to the experience.
Hugh Jackman's Custom Akubra
Australia (2008) Hugh Jackman’s Hand Signed Custom Akubra Hat
  • An increase in fan conventions (before Covid-19) offers the collector an opportunity to have their props signed (not my preferred choice, but there’s a whole other article on that subject later).
  • And of course, the “investment” side of prop collecting! More on that next.

Is Movie Prop Collecting A Good Investment?

Any financial investment requires serious consideration and consultation with qualified individuals. The following points are personal observations based purely on my experiences in this hobby. They are general in nature and do not constitute any form of financial advice.

It’s hard to dismiss the apparent increase in prop prices. But buying production used items as pure investment pieces means relying on many factors we, as collectors, cannot control.

The following points assume that the prop is 100% genuine and due diligence has been done!

In general terms, the value of a prop spikes around the time of the film’s release. If the film is popular, maybe wins some awards and attracts a following, then it’s probably a sound investment.

If a film reaches cult status, it was probably an excellent investment and over time should easily appreciate in value.

Blockbuster titles will usually be a safe bet.

Jaws (1975) Section of Sinking Orca.

Horror, fantasy, action-adventure & sci-fi props are (with very few exceptions), the most popular and therefore financially viable pieces in the marketplace. The good news is, the Horror genre has grown considerably in the last ten years!

It’s a sad truth that props and wardrobe attributed to and offered for sale immediately after the demise of someone famous will almost always be overpriced. The seller is attempting to cash in and it likely will not achieve that price again.

It’s also important to understand that things can (and sometimes do) occur to damage a prop’s value.

For example, I remember scooping up a number of key pieces from a certain production. The props arrived on the very day the star became embroiled in controversy (not the good kind). I could hardly give the stuff away!

In Short

Why collect movie props? Simple! if you’re a fan of a particular movie, television show, star, director etc. Buy the piece because you love it and want it in your collection! That way, it hardly matters what happens with its value. Because chances are, you won’t ever be getting rid of it!


As with any valued collection, please consider updating your home’s “contents insurance” and possibly your security arrangements.


If you read this far, please leave a comment, share your own story. If you disagree with anything or believe I have missed something, please let me know, I would love to hear from you.



Don’t forget to check out my Definitive guide to screen used props. Here you will find more guides packed with helpful hints and tips.

Want to see more of my props & relics? Click here for my “YourProps” page. Please consider subscribing to receive periodic news, updates and stay informed of exclusive members draws.