There is a great mystery about vintage movie posters that has baffled long time collectors for decades, and I doubt that even Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Charlie Chan, Hercule Poirot, or Sam Spade could solve it, either! What is this unsolvable mystery?
It is exactly WHY it is that the pricing of the very best movie posters lags SO far behind that of EVERY other collectible. One by one, EVERY other major collectible has in the last few years (at the latest), first shattered the million dollar mark for the most wonderful item in that hobby, and then, there are not only ones that then sell for two or three million or more, but there are also other "not as wonderful" items that start selling for stratospheric prices as well.
Yet not only has this NOT happened in the movie poster hobby, but we are not even very close. Many of the very highest priced reported sales are often items that later sell for FAR lower amounts of money, and it is still rare to see even a $50,000 or $100,000 poster, and many of the very best ones can still be purchased in the $10,000 to $25,000 range.
IS it "just a matter of time" before movie posters catch up to those other hobbies? There are clear signs it might. The last couple of years have seen some wealthy collectors surface and buy lots of the best of a specific type of poster or other movie paper collectible (in many different areas) and it seems very likely that, even if they are primarily doing so for the love of what they collect, they likely also think these are very undervalued, when compared to top items from other types of collectibles.
Look at it this way. Two million dollars won't get you even ONE of the best items in those other fields, but not only WILL it get you one of the very finest movie posters known to exist, but you would have enough left over to buy an entire amazing collection, maybe hundreds or thousands of great items! And movie paper is now including a lot of items over a century old (making them "antique", rather than "collectible" and in just 21 years EVERY pre-1940 movie paper item will be an antique)!
And this is not just limited to the very best movie posters, but it EVEN MORE applies to more affordable ones! There are LOTS of very enjoyable movie posters (even ones that are 50 or 75 years old) that can be purchased for well under $100, and some are in the $20 to $50 range! Ones that can be displayed on your wall, and which will elicit comments and positive reactions from those who view them. The same can't be said for a coin, stamp, baseball card, or comic book, both because they are too small to be displayed, and because the prices have risen so much that $20, $50, or even $100 doesn't get you very much in those collectible areas!
And only a small segment of the population can relate to comic books, or baseball cards, or the rest, but EVERYONE has favorite movies, and the vast majority of people spent a major portion of their youth watching movies, and in today's world, movies are bigger than ever before! I believe the question is not IF movie paper will catch up to those other fields, but rather WHEN just a small number of the world's top collectors realize how massively undervalued the best movie paper is!
And of course consider the fine art market. The prices there have been exploding the past few years, and there is now a $500 MILLION DOLLAR painting (and one that is massively restored with somewhat questionable provenance) and there are $100 MILLION DOLLAR paintings by living artists, and a million dollars doesn't get you a really first-rate painting anymore!
Some people say, "But paintings are one-of-a-kind, and movie posters were mass produced", and yes, that is true to an extent, but ANY long time collector can tell you that for the vast majority of great posters from the 1910s to the 1930s there are usually one example to a handful of examples known to exist (and in many cases, not even ONE is known to exist), so yes, there is that difference, but does it account for the difference between one painting selling for a million dollars and a poster selling for $10,000?
So I think it will be, as I said above, a question of when some new collectors with both vision and lots of money to spend enter the vintage poster hobby, not a question of IF it ever happens! But when will this be? Will it be in a year, or decades from now? I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that when that happens, many collectors will be shaking their heads and looking back at auctions, and saying, "if only I had known"!