In 2015 a collection of movie posters were discovered under a linoleum floor in southern Pennsylvania, United States. The find of 17 classic and incredibly rare posters holds lost pieces of Hollywood history which includes never-before-seen posters such as Sporting Blood from 1931, which was Clark Gable’s first starring role and the Style D one sheet for Tarzan The Ape Man and have an estimated worth of more than $140,000.
They were discovered by Bob and Dylan Basta who were renovating a back room in their father’s newly-purchased home. Once they removed the floor they discovered of layers of newspapers from the 1940s and movie posters from obscure films they had never heard of. They quickly called their father, Robert, to report the discovery.
Robert said many people would place paper, especially newspapers, under linoleum to help cushion the floor and eliminate wear. But once his sons started researching the movie titles online they quickly learned the posters under the floor were not your average discovery. “It took a day or so to sink in until we realised these weren’t going to a local auction,” Basta said. “That’s when we found Heritage.”
When you work on homes like this all your life you always dream of that day when you actually find something rare and it seldom comes, I’m excited for my boys, now they have a story and a memory that will last their lifetimes.”
Grey Smith, Director of Posters for Heritage Auctions, said he was amazed to see the posters in person, particularly the Style D one sheet for Tarzan The Ape Man. Dubbed the Movie Posters Under the Floor Find, the discovery “is a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen-piece of Hollywood history,” Smith said.
The Pennsylvania discovery holds the only known surviving movie posters for:
- Tarzan The Ape Man (MGM, 1932), a Style D one sheet for the first Tarzan film to star Johnny Weissmuller in the title role
- Congorilla (Fox, 1932), an early 1932 documentary filmed in Africa
- Sporting Blood (MGM, 1931), Clark Gable’s first starring role
- Tess of the Storm Country (Fox, 1932), an Academy Award nominated film starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell
- Any Old Port (MGM, 1932), an MGM short starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy
Rarely seen in such a fantastic condition. The find restores several missing chapters of Hollywood history”
“Like Berwick, the Movie Posters Under the Floor Find all date from the late 1920s to the early 1930s and are rarely seen in such a fantastic condition. The find restores several missing chapters of Hollywood history,” Smith said. “Little did they know they were standing on a small fortune.”
He also added “The posters all date from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. They are rarely seen and are in fantastic condition. They restore several missing chapters of Hollywood history. The highlight is the Tarzan the Ape Man poster – it’s the only one-sheet poster in the world that pictures Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan as they appear in the film. The Red Headed Woman poster is only the third known poster of its kind in the world.”
The collection also holds one of the finest condition posters for MGM’s 1932 bad-girl classic Red Headed Woman, Doctor X (First National, 1932), a cannibal thriller starring Fay Wray. Posters for The Dance of Life (Paramount, 1929), a jazz-age classic; Blondie of the Follies (MGM, 1932), the style C and style D one sheet; and posters for westerns including The Golden West (Fox, 1932); The Rider of Death Valley (Universal,1932); and The Long, Long Trail (Universal, 1929) were also discovered.
Over the weekend of 21st and 22nd November 2015, Heritage Auctions completed the auction of the Pennsylvania find in Dallas. At the auction the posters made $219,000, more than its pre-auction estimate of $140,000. The One Sheet for the Style D version Tarzan The Ape Man (MGM, 1932) sold for $83,650; the only known one sheet poster for Any Old Port, a 1932 MGM short starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy sold for $8,962; and the only-known one sheet poster for Clark Gable’s first starring role in Sporting Blood (MGM, 1931) sold for $2,987.
Within the find was a movie poster for MGM’s 1932 bad-girl classic Red Headed Woman, which sold for $77,675, and a one sheet poster for Doctor X (First National, 1932), which sold for $23,900.
Other notable highlights included The Rider of Death Valley (Universal, 1932) One Sheet: $4,302, The Long, Long Trail (Universal, 1929) One Sheet: $2,987.50, Congorilla (Fox, 1932) One Sheet: $2,390, The Dance of Life (Paramount, 1929) Style A One Sheet: $1,254.75 and Tess of the Storm Country (Fox, 1932) One Sheet: $776.75.
Collectors and historians didn’t even know some of these posters existed before this discovery, rare finds are still out there and you never know when a missing piece of history will be filed in.”
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