In 2011 a collection of movie posters were found. Within the find of 33 classic and incredibly rare posters dating back as far as 1930 were some examples previously thought to have been lost forever.
They were found in a small county auction in Berwick, Pennsylvania, United States in several lots stuck together with wallpaper paste. Prior to the auction they were being used in a loft as insulation. The anonymous purchaser who paid approximately $30,000, split one of the stacks and realised they were movie posters.
These posters are among the rarest, most sought after ‘Holy Grail’ pieces.”
When the purchaser saw the posters, they called Grey Smith, Director of Movie Posters at Heritage, “When he described what he was looking at, I knew this was a huge discovery and that poster collectors around the country would want to own these,” said Smith. “What’s even more amazing is that the posters were found in the attic of the house and had apparently been unsuspectingly used as insulation.”
The jewel in the find was a one sheet for the Universal horror Dracula. Released in 1931, this was only the fourth Style F ever to be discovered and had a resale estimate of $200,000. In 2009, Heritage Auctions sold a Style F Dracula for $310,000. Also in the find was the only known copy of the 1931 films, The Public Enemy and Little Caesar.
“These posters, including some of the most important titles in Hollywood history, were pasted to boards and used to promote original releases in late 1930 and early 1931,” said Grey Smith, Director of Heritage Vintage Movie Poster Auctions. “When a new release came to town the exhibitor simply plastered the new poster over the previous one.”
Each new layer revealed treasures beyond our wildest expectations.”
Smith and his staff personally and painstakingly separated the movie posters over the course of several weeks, marvelling at the continued emergence of cinematic history.
“It was, literally, like removing wallpaper,” Smith said, “only the wallpaper, in this case, was extremely valuable. After carefully moistening the top layer, we used steam to melt the glue and very gently remove one poster from another. Each new layer revealed treasures beyond our wildest expectations.”
The pictures below show the in there original unrestored condition with the restored image alongside. The images are provided by Heritage Auctions.
The rare Style B one sheet for Warner Brothers’ 1931 seminal gangster film, Little Caesar. Also, the one sheets for The Public Enemy, Style A and Style B, both from 1931, were the ones that really caught Smith’s eye.
“These posters are among the rarest, most sought after ‘Holy Grail’ pieces,” said Smith. “The Public Enemy one sheet picturing James Cagney and Jean Harlow is particularly stunning and has never been offered at auction and the Little Caesar one sheet is one of only two known copies, making this a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the right collector.”
Among the other items in the find was the only known copy for Warner Brothers’ 1931 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s classic mystery, The Maltese Falcon and a one sheet for RKO’s 1931 Cimarron, the first Western to garner a Best Picture Academy Award and the very definition of scarce.
“This marks, to the best of our knowledge, the first and only time collectors have had a chance to add this stunning beauty to their collection.”
Other titles included were one sheets for The Front Page (1931), The Bat Whispers (1930), Ten Cents a Dance (1931), one of Barbara Stanwyck’s earliest roles, and two different style one sheets each for Seed (1931), an early Bette Davis picture, The Criminal Code (1931), and Dishonored (1931), featuring Marlene Dietrich.
Over the weekend of 23rd and 24th March 2012, Heritage Auctions completed the auction of the Berwick find in Dallas. At the auction the posters made $503,035, more than double its pre-auction estimate of $250,000+. The Dracula Style F One Sheet, which sold to an anonymous overseas collector, fetched $143,400. One of the biggest surprises of auction was for the 1931’s Cimarron, the first Western to win the Best Picture Academy Award, at $101,575.
The two previously unseen versions for the 1931 film The Public Enemy were also the object of intense collector attention. The Style B Public Enemy poster was brought $59,750, while the other poster, featuring James Cagney, achieved $55,269. The style B poster for 1931’s Little Caesar, one of only two known, achieved $41,825.
Other notable highlights included Ten Cents a Dance (Columbia, 1931) Style A One Sheet: $16,730, Dishonored (Paramount, 1931) Style B One Sheet: $10,157.50, The Front Page (United Artists, 1931) One Sheet: $9,560, The Bat Whispers (United Artists, 1930) One Sheet: $7,767.50, The Criminal Code (Columbia, 1931) Style A One Sheet: $3,107 and Seed (Universal, 1931) One Sheet: $2,868.
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