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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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.