Fake Movie Posters – A WARNING.
Below is a brief general guide to buying vintage posters circa 1950-1980 and whilst faking the older posters is generally unusual, we have now started to notice a specific trend in UK public auctions which came to our attention 3 or so years ago, but now appears to be worth mentioning.
Some of the points below are true for modern posters, so its worth understanding how the fraudster thinks. Whilst we dont state this is a definitive guide, it gives basic principles which will stop you wasting your money on worthless tat offered for sale by inexperienced sellers, who naively believe they now what they are doing because they bought them off an "old lady whos husband worked in the theatre" or bought them from an auction, which we know means absolutely nothing and does not guarantee authenticity. In fact, anyone trying too hard to tell you the posters are genuine, describing some meaningless drivel about an "old bloke who turned on the lights in the cinema sold me his entire collection" and so desperate to prove they are not trying to cheat, should raise an eyebrow. Caveat Emptor.
Firstly we add a note on the Carry On Film posters.
Carry On Films.
The common repro is the “Carry On Cowboy” wanted poster, with Sid James holding a gun. The descriptions sometimes refer to a ‘similar one’ seen on the wall behind the Sheriff in the film. Whereas, it’s a poster printed in the 1990s for a promotion at the studio. There are always the same, clean & without damage. Beware. They are worth £5-10 and for your amusement or dartboard and being black and white, easily and cheaply copied.
The other one, which has more recently surfaced, is the Sid James Theatre poster, we have seen 3 of these in Southern UK auctions in 2008, most often found within a bundle of older posters. All are crisp and perfect, none are folded, paper is generally thick and the finish is well, just too good for a poster proproted to be 40 years old. In some cases the colour is too deep and different from the original. We shall probably see more of these appear over 2008. Again, buy for amusement only.
In the case of Australian Carry On Film daybills, we have formed a rarity rating for these based upon very good to mint condition without tears or stains in private hands, again our opinion not a definitive work (comments are welcome so we can amend as required).
Carry On Sergeant - Rare.
Nurse - does not exist
Teacher - Rare
Constable - Rare
Regardless - does not exist
Cruising - Scarce
Cabby - Rare
Jack - does not exist
Spying - Rare
Cleo - Scarce
Cowboy - Very Scarce
Screaming - Rare
Dont Loose your Head - does not exist
Follow that Camel - Uncommon
Doctor - Uncommon
Up the Khyber - Scarce
Camping - Uncommon
Again Doctor - Uncommon
Up the Jungle - Relatively common
Loving - Scarce
Henry - Relatively common
At your Convenience - Relatively common
Matron - Uncommon
Abroad - Scarce
Girls - Relatively common
Dick - Uncommon
Behind - Scarce
England - Uncommon
Thats Carry on - Relatively common
Emmanuel - Uncommon
Columbus - does not exist
HOW TO IDENTIFY A FAKE POSTER - SOME POINTERS.
Its near impossible to obtain 1960/70 stock paper to print fakes from, so one pointer is the ‘energy’ within the paper and colour, which in almost 100% of the time will be much whiter than the originals. Modern paper is quite hard and when folded may resist a little. Unlike the vintage paper, which tends to be tired and is generally a pale whitish yellow. Fake folds will also tend to be sharper and flatter, due to modern paper, whereas the vintage folds tend to be more rounded. A faker can have a really hard time trying to make new paper look old, so this is a good place to start.
In the case of Aussie daybills, the back of their vintage posters tends to have a smooth glossy feel, whereas the front is quite rough. Not sure why, perhaps it gave the ink a better surface with which to bond. Specifically this is the case with R.Burton and MAPS litho.
Sometimes the modern fraudster is so keen to get these fakes away, they forget the smell associated with modern VOC based inks. If your poster smells inky or smoky, beware. Sometimes they will comment about the poster being found within a stack of modern ones, or it came from a shop selling reprints or similar. If it smells run a mile.
Poster & Design Size.
Do your homework. Smaller or bigger than what you have or have read about being the correct size would tend to point towards a reprint or a fake. Fakes tend to be smaller. In the case of a standard 1 sheet 27”x41” poster being offered at 20”x40”, alarm bells should ring, unless the seller has specifically mentioned the word reprint or copy or given a reprint date of say late 1980’s. Reprints of a later date tend to be smaller. Having said this, we know the collectors circles and forums sometimes mention size variants and such like, but our experience, specifically with pre 1980 posters tends to suggest the Printer followed exact sizes. Again though, stock paper size might vary and poster designs from different countries might vary in size, so its not an exact science. Size is a good pointer.
Fakes of old posters may also have their artwork changed or slightly modified or even removed. So check the artwork carefully and compare with an original. Anything to suggest that it’s not quite right, should result in you running away and keeping you money in your pocket. Remember, if you have a second thought someone else will, but it’s too late.
Autographed Posters & Prints.
Occasionally these do turn up, but these are very rare. 3 years ago we witnessed several lots come under the hammer at various locations in English auction houses. They have not surfaced since. These include famous 1950-60s movie stars, English comedians, Laural & Hardy and several lots of Formula1 drivers from the 60's and 70's. All were sold without any provenance and when pushed, the auctioneer could not state anything of their origin.
If you are offered a signed poster, make sure you have all the provenance.
Letters of Guarantee/Authenticity.
Worthless tat not worth the paper they are written on. Whereas, a clearly worded invoice from a company, gives you rights for getting your money back.
Anyone that is not a recognised poster dealer, selling a rare or highly collectable poster in exceptional condition, irrespective of their feedback, when carefully describing its rarity, condition and size, should also include their backup. Like explaining, why the size is correct for the print and the date of printing (this can be to a specific year or over a specific time). Any genuine seller will be able to give you this information, if they cannot then be cautious. Ask the seller to include the year in the auction description. Or if you are really tempted but you still have that niggle in the back of your mind, then only pay with Paypal, NEVER EVER with a cheque, money order or bank draft. See below regarding forums.
Be careful of size. Always make sure that the poster is not cropped or ‘embelished’. Smaller fake posters may be linen backed to achieve a correct size. So ALWAYS ensure that the description states the posters size, not overall dimensions. Anyone selling a poster framed, should always include a picture of the poster out of the frame. If not , don’t touch it. Beware.
Country of Origin.
Just because a poster is in French, don’t believe it is French. There are a huge variety of designs, some that look the same and hide a different origin. So a ‘French’ poster might infact be Canadian or Flemish (Belgian) as of course an English one might be American. Ask the seller first.
Popularity & Price.
Fakers tend to reproduce more interesting titles and or the more collectable ones, like Star Wars, The Matrix, Spiderman & Sweeny Todd, etc. So, again, if offered a perfect Spiderman with a ‘Buy it Now’ which appears to good to be true, then in all probability it is. Ebay is a world market, the chances of something scarce or rare, or a perfect poster that no one else has seen, going for a song or being offered at below market price, well it wont happen, unless there is something wrong.
In comparison, if we look back to 1998 before the collectables market started to take off, Beswick china animals like pigs, horses and cows were hardly ever seen. Now, 10 years on, youll see literally thousands of Beswick animals in UK auctions every week, the majority are genuine but a rising percentage are fakes. Popularity as a consequence generates fakes, and even the cheapest animals are faked, so when that rare poster youve been searching for turns up, pristine, with too cheap a price. Be careful.
The modern fraudster is a cunning chap but his attention to detail can let him down, purely because the printing machines used today don’t use the same process of 50 years ago. As in the case of the vintage printers ‘x’&’y’ axis positional markings, which will be found on genuine vintage posters, but which don’t tend to appear in modern repros.
The lines, which can be black or multicoloured, appear as small crosses or L shaped markings, just away from the design or right on its corner. They tend to be in 1, 2 or 4 places at each corner of the poster. They are the printing co-ordinates for 0:0, this ensures that the machine knows where 0:0 is each time the printing takes place. In the case of multicoloured posters, each colour will be printed on the poster during a subsequent print operation. Modern colour printers don’t need to do multiple runs, hence they don’t need to fix a 0:0 start point and come back to it each time, so that the whole design lines up and is not messy. If there are no lines, alarm bells should ring.
Marks & Damage.
The Printer or Film Promotion company frequently printed their own company logo or name within the border of a vintage poster, there might also be censors stamps, hand writing, pin holes, tape or scribbles on the back. Whilst not having one or all of these features does not automatically suggest a fake, a collector should buy a poster with all the right detail first and consider buying a ‘lesser’ perfect but questionable poster second.
As in the case of Aussie daybills, we have never ever seen an unfolded one and have handled hundreds. Some web forums occasionally state they can be rolled, but not in our opinion. Always folded. In the case of Robert Burton, MAPS litho, we have never ever seen a flat one, and this extends right back to Will Hay posters. Remember, poster tubes did not exist for the Australian Royal Mail way back then. Even in the case of 1980s films, the Aussies daybills we have seen and owned have all been folded.
For more modern posters, some devious individuals have taken to folding the repros to gain authenticity. But, with modern paper, you will see the freshness of folds and the memory of modern paper, like the poster wants to unfold itself. For a poster that’s been folded for 20-40 years, time changes the ‘springy-ness’ of the paper. In some case the folds are just too exact or cumbersome. The older posters were a throwaway promotion, they did not need to be exact as would be up pinned to a board for a month then dumped.
NEVER BUY POSTERS FROM ANYONE SELLING REPRINTS, REISSUES AS WELL AS GENUINE. DON’T EVER BUY FROM WAREHOUSES.
Buy a couple of real vintage posters from proper antique or vintage dealers, start with a cheapy, hold, feel and look at the printing. Once you’ve held a real one, its far easier spotting one of dubious origin.
Double Sided posters appear to be a better bet than single sided, purely because it’s a lot more effort to fake 2 sides rather than 1.
Do your homework and if ever you think that’s a fantastically good buy, then think again, check the description and if the most important details are excluded, walk away. Don’t even bother to ask a question.
Most recently, we have compared Australian Daybill posters from pre 1950 to circa 1970 and surprisingly, apart from a minor change to paper quality and feel, the printing, colour and general design concept appeared to remain fairly consistent throughout this period.
We would say the turning point may have been the introduction of modern printing processes circa 1980, which changed the poster from a ‘handraulic’ produced art form, to a mass produced one. This ‘improvement’ saw the demise of your local Cinema and the birth of multiplex entertainment venues for the masses. As a consequence, more posters were needed in more venues unrelated to the cinema and were required to grab attention with deeper colours and with more detailed design.