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Magic of Memorabilia

Posted by Preloved

It’s been one of the biggest book and film franchises of all times, spawning global blockbusters, record book demands and lucrative spin-off merchandising that have created a multi-million pound empire.

And while Harry, Hermione and Ron are battling it out for one last time with the evil Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the franchise will feed into the burgeoning market for film, TV and pop culture memorabilia.

From film posters and autographs, to clothes, stills, props and toys, memorabilia is big business. According to antiques expert, Judith Miller, writing in The Telegraph it was the 1970s that saw demand for film memorabilia reach new heights with the sale of thousands of items by the film studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As Miller writes, “Tapping into nostalgia can be a highly lucrative exercise.”

Esteemed UK auction houses soon got in on the act, with Sotheby’s holding a rock and pop memorabilia auction in 1981, including lots from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. More recently, collectors have clamoured for such items as Michael Jackson’s white, rhinestone-studded glove, sold for £212,000 in 2009; James Bond’s Walther PPK pistol used in a publicity shot for ‘From Russia With Love’, reached £227,250 at Christies; and the John Lennon’s hand-written lyrics to ‘A Day in the Life, which were snapped up for £810,000 last year at Sotheby’s.

Movie Memories

Neil Roberts, Director of Popular Culture at Christies, believes that film memorabilia is now a well-established market that is driven by a variety of factors. “I think people get so involved in the films and the story-making so it becomes about getting a more intimate memory.” He continues, “It can be about the films or the film stars themselves. They recall these films from their youth and as they get older they have the liquid assets to buy and as more people are attracted the price becomes enhanced.”

Stuart Livermore of Maximus Memorabilia runs one of the few memorabilia shops in the UK. He started his collection as a boy when his father was taking part in strong man competitions and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Geoff Capes. “It gave me the opportunity to meet celebrities such as the casts from Emmerdale and Eastenders,” Stuart explains.

So what does he think is the appeal of collecting memorabilia? “It appeals to all ages because everyone has an idol, whether it’s someone who has passed away or someone or something featured in the newspapers on a daily basis. It’s about owning something that has been touched by the celebrity themselves and you feel privileged to be in that position. It’s also amazing to have something that people dream of owning.”

Poster Boy

With all the excitement surrounding the release of the last instalment of the Harry Potter series it also highlights the growing interest in such memorabilia as the posters that have been used to promote films in cinema foyers for decades. As a collector of film posters or over twenty years, Steve Kennedy, Managing Director of, believes that they are more than mere marketing materials. “Film posters in themselves are works of art and pieces of social history that deserve to be preserved.” He continues, “When looking at older images there’s a terrific amount of time and detail afforded by a whole team of people.”

It’s this sought-after level of creativity and imagination that recently saw the original concept artwork by artist Robert McGinnis for the James Bond film, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ sell for an impressive £79,250 at Christies. While such record-breaking prices are rare, Steve says it’s easy to start a collection without breaking the bank. “For a film poster you could be paying anything from £5 to £10 and upwards. There are still plenty of posters about for under £100 which are very collectable and good items to have for the future, although there’s no guarantee that prices will increase in value, so always buy because you like it.” And like the poster, there’s a huge variety of collectors from all walks of life. “Most are considerate people who respect social history and many buy film posters for friends and relatives. I’ve even sold film posters to be the focal point of a wedding where a particular film was pivotal in a marriage and holds strong memories.”

Picture Perfect

If you’re looking to buy a poster, Steve points out some things to consider. “Condition is important, but you must not forget that many of the best film posters will be thirty to forty years old and as they are paper products allow for pin holes and a bit of fold wear. Love it for the life and journey it has had.” These older versions are also more likely to command a higher price. “As there are more modern film posters printed their opportunity to increase in value may be less. With older films, fewer posters were printed or survive, so it’s a case of supply and demand. If you wanted a poster for Casablanca you could expect for pay over £20,000.”

It’s a similar scenario with wider memorabilia, as Stuart Livermore explains, “Memorabilia doesn’t have to be in any condition to be collectable, however, it does make a difference to the value.” He advises buyers to do their homework to avoid being caught out. “They need to consider the authenticity of the item, such as vintage items were not generally signed in permanent marker. They need to look for blobs or ink gathered where people are copying autographs and stopping to have a look as they copy. The pitfalls are that often people spend a lot of money on something which is not worth the paper it is written on.”

Collect Yourself

Memorabilia comes in various forms, so how does a would-be collector get started and what should they be concentrating on? Stuart says, “To me, memorabilia is anything which is collectible, rare or unique and can come in many forms, from a signed photo, to a celebrity’s worn piece of clothing or an item from an historical event.” He continues, “As for what is more sought after, it is completely down the individual’s personal preference. Obviously the vintage items are far more collectible and harder to obtain as they are few and far between nowadays, but the younger generation who love the reality stars or X Factor winners these are also great sellers.”

Meanwhile, in the film world, Christies are still seeing good demand for an evergreen agent, and Neil Roberts says, “James Bond is probably the top of the tree.”

Dream Finds

Every collector has their dream find, which would be the pinnacle of their collection and, for Stuart it’s some iconic items from the worlds of sport and rock and roll. “If money were no object my dream item of memorabilia would be a fight-worn pair of Rocky Marciano’s boxing gloves or Elvis’ white jumpsuit.”

For Steve at, it’s about finding posters that hold a special appeal to the buyer. “Acquire a film poster that you like. And the general rule of thumb is that when you have a film released in a series, the further you go back the more the desirable the poster is. The same will be true of Harry Potter, and there are some wonderful posters from the films.”

Ones to Watch

While it’s challenging to predict which items will be the must-haves of the future, Stuart believes that older pieces will continue to hold a particular appeal. “The memorabilia of the future will always be vintage items as they will never go out of fashion and will only become more sought after, valuable and rare as time goes on.”

Steve says that while older film posters will continue to hold sway over the market, there is still room for modern versions. “Many of the modern-day designs of film posters are less desirable than those of former years because there has been a decline in the quality of imagination and design, Harry Potter accepted! But the good designs are still well worth picking up.”

For Neil at Christies it’s about finding memorabilia that will stand the test of time. “While Harry Potter is in vogue at the moment and people will be buying it now, whether it will be recognisable in ten years’ time is the real question. But as long as we keep making films people are attracted to and can empathise with, such as the new James Bond film coming out next year which is the fiftieth anniversary, so you could hedge your bets on that!”

If you’re just starting out with your collection or have been collecting for a number of years it seems clear that you’re part of a growing number of memorabilia addicts out there. Stuart says, “The industry has grown as everyone is searching for the ultimate piece of memorabilia and certain items can be worth an absolute fortune. Collecting memorabilia is a like an addiction and once you start you can’t stop just like myself.

Get Collecting

Preloved is packed with unusual items of memorabilia from the world of entertainment, so get browsing our Collecting category to see what memorabilia you can find!

Tweet your quirky items to us @Preloved.

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old shep
7 December 2011 at 10:57 AM

I used to work in the cinema trade, for nearly 20 years, somewhere I still have 2 Press preview tickets for a Star Trek film, can't remember the title, it's the one where they came back in time to earth to nick a whale, also just before I left
I went to a royal premier in Leicester Sq Odeon, somewhere I have the Booklet for this, the film was "84 Charing Cross road",Staring Anne Bankcroft & Anthony Hopkins, about a bookshop manager & a book reader in New york, I have never seen it again on TV or video.
I have seen worse.

Preloved is a site where you can buy and sell all your second hand and vintage goods! It offers a great alternative to the hassle and expense of auction sites, and is a friendly alternative to other more anonymous classifieds.

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