Movie posters were used to advertise the theatrical release of a movie. Prior to about 1980, movie posters were produced in various shapes and sizes for various promotional venues. Of all the movie poster styles, the lobby cards are some of the most sought after by collectors today. These vintage Hollywood treasures, no longer used today, usually were produced in sets of eight cards. Most lobby card sets had seven scene cards and one title card, although this was not always the case, some movies had eight scenes cards and no title card. The scene cards had, as expected, scenes from the movie whereas the title card was often similar to the one sheet design with credits and exhibiting eye-catching artwork.
Original Lobby cards are 11x14”. There were mini and jumbo lobby cards that were smaller and larger respectively but most lobby cards were standard size. As the name indicates, lobby cards were used to display in movie theatre lobbies, often in a lighted showcase, promoting the current or upcoming attractions.
What determines the value (or more accurately market desirability) of a lobby card?
There are many factors that play into what collectors are willing to pay for lobby cards. First and foremost, the quality of the artwork and graphics is what most collectors are attracted to. Many lobby cards had much better graphics then the standard one sheets. Also, lobby cards would highlight some of the most memorable scenes from the movie. For example, the “Wizard of Oz” lobby cards consisted of scenes of the Lion crying, the Tin Man dancing with Dorothy and Scarecrow, and the Wizard in the Hot Air Balloon. What also is appealing to collectors (and gift buyers) is the lobby card’s ideal frame-able size. Unlike the 27x41” one sheets, the lobby card can be easily and inexpensively framed and only require a small area of wall space. And, if framed the right way, lobby cards can be as beautiful , exciting and engaging as a costly painting.
Another value added feature of lobby cards is some sets have a “prized” card. For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” Cary Grant “share cropper’ scene lobby card sells for much more then the one sheet. It is a historical scene that collectors are willing to pay a premium for. Another example is the “Wicked Witch” scene in the 1949 “Wizard of OZ” lobby card set. Of the three Oz theatrical releases (1939, 1949 & 1955) only 1949 released a lobby card with the Witch. Hence, collectors responded by paying $7800 for this one lobby card (sold for $7800 at Heritage in March 2008).
What to look for when considering buying a lobby card?
First, it is best to buy from a reputable source that guarantees authenticity and condition. There are many reprints floating around particularly on places like eBay which is flooded with unqualified sellers of lobby cards. One way to determine an authentic lobby card from a reprint is the feel of the paper. This is something only an experienced collector can really detect, but on reprints the paper is usually a cheaper, thinner paper. Also, the aging of the paper is usually obvious on reprints. And, most original lobby cards have some wear from when they were displayed in the movie theatres. Copyright information and NSS markings are usually on originals, but some reprints do copy this information. In the end experience will be the advantage, which is why it is always best to deal with an experienced dealer who guarantees authenticity which most eBay sellers do not. Also, we have found over the years that some dealers are very sloppy about documenting all the defects and damage on a movie poster. Hence, make sure the dealer has a return policy should a glaring defect not be mentioned in the product description.