Is This Treasure Trove of Movie Ads From the Heyday of Newspapers Worth Million?movie ads in newspapers
Is This Treasure Trove of Movie Ads From the Heyday of Newspapers Worth Million?movie ads in newspapersSomeone didnt do their homework and it wasnt the writer!
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If the buyer were to make prints from the original vintage plates, they would be considered restrikes, certainly not reproductions.
For our purposes, Kelleys story begins in the s when he enlisted in the Navy. Right away, that should tell you something about the aspirations of the landlocked Nebraskan. But alas, Kelley did not see the world during his stint in the Navy. In ct, its believed he was stationed in California near Los Angeles for his entire tour.
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I flew out there with my cinematographer, Nathaniel Hansen, and we really hit it off with DJ and Marilyn, Roffman says. Our first half day there was spent doing nothing but looking through boxes, just trying to find things we wanted to film. We had a fun time the movie, and I think DJ and Marilyn were happy with it, but both Nathaniel and I wish we had budgeted three or four more days to be out there. We didnt have nearly enough time to look through the whole collection.
Print blocks, Franchi believes, are similarly immune from the constraints of copyright law. Newspapers wouldnt run stills if they had to get copyright permission every time, he says, so the cuts were not copyrighted. If you were just reprinting them on paper, then you were not changing their use. That was the key.
That quaint little world of finite supply and demand was blown to smithereensas thoroughly as the planet Alderaanin November , when DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner of Omaha were invited into the back room of a local store called Franx Antiques and Art. Thats where they first encountered a cache of plus cardboard boxes filled with more than , assortedd print blocks, plus another , or so printing plates, all featuring advertisements for movies produced from to the early s. It was literally tons of stuff, and it had been sitting in that back room, undisturbed, for roughly two decades, when Franx purchased it for several thousand dollars from its Omaha neighbor KB Typesetting.
Roffman says that the most hes ever spent on a print block is , but Ginsberg and Wagner have seen them sell for much, much more. But even so, where does Franchi get his to million appraisal?
Color residue on the suce of many print blocks is usually not ink. Its a sealer thats intended to protect the metal from oxidizing. Image via The Collection.
A selection of print plates made by KB Typesetting. Image viaGuernseys.
She could wear it in her corset, where it would be a constant reminder of his loveprobably because it was uncomforle.
Print plates, such as this example for King Kong, were used to make paper print sheets so that movietheater managers could choose the ad they wanted to run. Newspapers would then order the print block in that from KB Typesetting. Images viaGuernseys.
And thats why Ginsberg and Wagners collection of print blocks, percent of which Ginsberg says are in good enough condition to be used for restrikes, could easily be worth the million Franchi says it is, if not a whole lot more.
The potential for producing and selling authorized, limitededition restrikes on archival paper for films such as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind are one of the main reasons with Ginberg and Wagners collection is valued so highly. Images viaGuernseys.
A selfdescribed massive movie buff, Roffman let his curiosity lead him on a journey to learn all he could about print blocks, including where to find more. I started hunting for them in antiques stores, at thrift shops, and at antiques irs, he says, but I wasnt finding very many. A few people online had small collections, so I started buying from them. Eventually my wife bought me two movie blocks for Christmas, and included with those blocks was a Xerox of a newspaper article about DJ and Marilyn from the Omaha World Herald. When I read it, I was like, Oh, my God, I have to see that collection! And if I was going to see it, I knew I should make a movie about it.
During depositions prior to the trial, Warner Bros. got schooled on the limits of its ownership of The Wizard of Oz. Among other things, they learned that movie posters were never copyrighted because, as Franchi puts it, The last thing the studios wanted to do was copyright a poster because that would inhibit its distribution. No copyright, no copyright protection. Warner Bros. dropped the case before it even went to trial.
Marilyn Wagner checks a print plate against its inventory entry. Image via The Collection.
I wish they would sell the blocks inidually. I wont be bidding on the entire collection; but, Id pay a few hundred bucks, each, for the few blocks plates that I would love to have.
I have a Coca Cola war printing plate , bronze, w/two soldiers, one Canadian, one American, drinking CocaCola.
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Naturally, Ginsberg and Wagner had to have it all. So, they scraped together the money to purchase the collection from Franx and find a place to store it, and proceeded to load all those boxes, albeit a few at a time, into Ginsbergs car.
Personally, Ive seen these cuts go as high as dollars each when sold separately.
While some documentarians view themselves as journalists, Roffman is hardly a dispassionate observer when it comes to print blockshis personal horde of print blocks is up to about pieces, all of which he has collected in the last four years.
Franchi learned firsthand about this strange corner of copyright law when he was hired as an expert witness in the trial of an entrepreneur who was reprinting old movie posters. It was a massive lawsuit, Franchi says. This fellow was selling his reprints in Walmart and Target by the tens of thousands. So Warner Bros., which had the rights to The Wizard of Oz, sued him.
The price of the blocks themselves depends on the film being advertised and the condition of the block. Sometimes print blocks are in great shape, like that first one Roffman bought in , but others are not, or at least they dont look it. That means a sharpeyed collector can get a good deal if they know what they are looking at. I bought a Lawrence of Arabia once, Roffman says. The person selling it didnt seem to realize that all of the dried ink on it was not permanent. It looked really rough and beatup when I received it in the mail, but after I soaked it in vinegar for a minute and wiped it off, it was as good as new. It probably would have sold for times the price I paid if the seller had known how to clean it.
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What happens to the collection next is anyones guess, but before we speculate on its future, lets take a moment to look back at how several tons of print blocks found their way into the back room of Franx Antiques and Art in the first place. To do that, we need to meet a man named Loren Kelley, whose halfcentury of unheralded doggedness and diligence is one of those classic American stories that Hollywood loves.
This article needs more research. First, very, very few large, rare, original, movie posters are selling for more than ,, much less more than ,. By definition, none of these cuts meet any of these criteria. Second, the better analogy is to reproduction photographs. What a rare original photo of say Ansel Adams sells for is in no way related to what a reproduction will sell for even from the original negative. And by the way, what do original cuts from newspapers sell for? Very little. percent of these cuts as reproductions will not sell and arent worth very much and if someone wanted to put hundreds, much less thousands of the blocks on the market it would soon be flooded with them as the market of collectors for negative zinc blocks is very thin. Consider how few people have the ability and means to produce in any kind of commercial way genuine prints from these blocks to monetize them. Further, the lack of a copyright, as suggested, if accurate, also works against the creation of reproductions by whomever buys these. I dont think the writer has done sufficient research on copyright the mous Mickey Mouse copyright case may also apply, for example, to other Disney cuts, reducing any value they have in their reproduction. One avenue that might be monitizable would be the use and availability of these s through a Getty, Thinkstock or other services, but again, percent of these s have little or no commercial value even in this kind of venue. I do not think any credible auction house would put a value at more than a fraction of the figures bandied about in this article, and none would guarantee it, and thats a guarantee
My poor Corsica got beat to death, Ginsberg tells me when we spoke over the phone recently. But the Corsica was the least of Ginsberg and Wagners worries Like the proverbial dog chasing the milk truck, the bigger question confronting the two friends was what to do with their prize now that they had caught it.
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I have fifty years in dealing in this sort of thing.
By , when A Hard Days Night was released, print plates were mostly glued to their blocks, so this print block has no visible nails. Images via The Collection.
At one point my wife said to me, Exactly how many of these are you going to buy?
After checking out the website on this collection and doing a little homework about the appraiser, Im surprised the appraisal wasnt much higher. I also learned that even IMDb doesnt have some of these s. i.e. Lost Art!
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The ct that Roffman was a collector helped him gain Ginsberg and Wagners trust. Coincidentally, the pair was also getting ready to put their collection on the market, so the timing was perfect for a film.
Youre comparing apples to oranges since you dont know the difference between a reproduction vs a restrike.
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Its also what makes the collection of some , objects coming up for auction worth the to million that Franchi says theyre worth and that Guernseys hopes theyll bring. Its not only what they are, but also their potential. Indeed, the future value of the print blocks as a group is an important part of Franchis appraisal calculation.
For his part, Roffman has made a few restrikes of his own with the print blocks that hes collected. In ct, the poster for The Collection is composed of more than restrikes, featuring ads for everything fromElvis Presleyin Girl Happy to Natalie Wood in West Side Story.
I was like, Oh, my God, I have to see that collection!
Some of the blocks in the collection are iconic films such as Casablanca and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Images viaGuernseys.
A well known movie poster appraiser put the value on this collection based on the ct that its the only collection of its kind in existence and the ct that the s can be printed on several different substraits.
Obviously, thats a lot of money, but restrikes are not movie posters. And, Franchi says, Appraisals cant predict the future. In general, when you appraise something, you appraise whats in front of you, not its potential. But here, the real value was that one could print thousands of limitededition prints. In other words, the potential value of what Ginsberg and Wagner had collected, a cache that is almost certainly oneofakind, could not be ignored.
They called me in , Franchi explains, and they said, Maybe you can help us. I knew right away what they had because Id seen cuts over the years, but never more than three or four at a time. They were regarded as curiosities from the Stone Age ofprinting. But all of a sudden, here were thousands of them, from The Mummy through Star Wars. We talked for quite a while.
As for the copyright, the appraiser of this collection was called as an expert witness on several cases involving copyright issues and probably knows more about the laws governing the restrikes and this collection of original movie material then most attorneys.
In , Franchi says, many vintage movie posters were selling for around , rarely into the thousands. But the week that I did my second appraisal, Heritage Auctions sold a Dracula for half a million dollars. These days, its not uncommon for posters advertising major films to sell for , to ,.
Upon returning to Omaha in around , Kelley set up shop as KB Typesetting, leveraging the relationships he had eslished with numerous Hollywood studios. The studios already liked Kelley for the quality of his work, but now that he was in Omaha, KB Typesetting became a preferred place to manucture these allimportant Hollywood advertising assetsfrom Omaha, it was as easy to send print blocks to Chicago as it was to send them to New Orleans or New York. As luck would have it, KB would become one of only a handful of companies that made print blocks, and it may have been the biggest. Thus, in his own quiet way, Loren Kelley became one of the most influential movie marketers of the first half of the th century.
Prints blocks manuctured by KB Typesetting, such as this one for Fiddler on the Roof, have numbers stamped into the sides so that they were easily identifiable by compositors working in busy newspaper press rooms. Image via The Collection.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy suspiciously similar to our own, people decided whatmoviesto see on Friday nights and at Saturday matinees by thumbing the s of their dailynewspapersuntil their fingers were dark with ink. Eventually, after much rustling and folding, theyd arrive at the papers entertainment section, where single, andgraphics advertisements for the latest flickers from Hollywood promised thrills, chills, action, laughs, and romance. There were no multimilliondollar marketing campaigns, no targeted ads on social media guided by insidious psychometric profiles. Primitive as it sounds, black ink on white newsprint was the primary means of enticing people to spend two bits on a movie ticket.
Cleaning the suce of an old print block is easily accomplished with vinegar and a wire brush. Image via The Collection.
All the genres are represented in the KB Typesetting collection, includingWesterns. Images viaGuernseys.
Fortunately, one night after their weighty acquisition, Ginsberg and Wagner were watching Antiques Roadshow on television, and in that episode, movieposter expertRudy Franchihappened to be doing an appraisal.
Casablanca Poster sold for ,
Metal and wood , the cabinets designed to hold these blocky letters and
Filmmaker Adam Roffman made the poster for his movie out of restrikes of print blocks in his personal collection. Image via The Collection.
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King Kong Poster sold for ,
For Franchi, the answer lies in what new prints, or restrikes, made from all those , print blocks could be worth, and that number, he believes, is closely related to the market for movie posters.
The Black Cat Poster sold for ,
To supplement his Navy pay and give purpose to what must have been a grindingly dull peacetime tour, Kelley spent his offduty hours working for printing companies, which meant he did a lot of projects for Hollywood movie studios. In those days, as the silentfilm era was becoming the age of the talkies, studios hired printers to produce everything fromlobby cardstomovie postersfor their films. These materials did a good job of catching the eyes of patrons already in movie theaters, but what about lesscaptive audiences? To reach this larger pool of potential customers, the studios needed to get into peoples living rooms and join them for breakst at their kitchen les. Studios quickly learned that they could do both by advertising their upcoming motion pictures in newspapers.
While Roffmans film focuses almost exclusively on the print blocks, Ginsberg and Wagners collection also includes thousands of print plates, which were used to print one sample sheets showing all the possible ad configurations for a given film. Take a movie like Gone With the Wind, Roffman says. The print plate for a movie like that would be an byinch metal sheet that would have seven or eight ad s on it, in different shapes and designs, too. A paper print from that plate would be sent to the movie theaters so the managers could decide what they wanted to run on week one, week two, and so on. The movietheater manager would then take that print to their local newspaper and say, I want this ad on this date, and that ad on that date, which was the information the newspaper needed before they ordered print blocks from KB Typesettingnewspapers only ordered the s they needed.
Franchi was due to be in Des Moines, Iowa, soon for a Roadshow taping, so he offered to swing by Omaha, which is not too r away. Meanwhile, Franchi says, I was talking to the people at Roadshow about the collection, and they said, Well, if youre going there, why dont you bring back a few blocks, and well do a special segment on them. So, I went to Omaha and saw the collection, which was amazing, grabbed some cuts, and headed back to Des Moines. In the end, Ginsberg and Wagner joined Franchi for the segment. Then they hired me to do a formal appraisal of the whole collection. At that time, , I estimated its value at . million. Thats when things got out of hand. They went on Oprah, they were all over television, in newspapers, everything.
If Kelleys story is a bit of a mystery, Ginsberg and Wagners is less so, thanks to Oprah, all that publicity the pair received in the early s, and Roffmans minute documentary. Screened in at film festivals from Austin to Anchorage, and available for free viewing anytime onVimeo, The Collection has introduced an entirely new audience to Ginsberg and Wagners story, as well as to the role print blocks once played in promoting movies.
Our heroplayed, perhaps, by a young Henry Fondais a son of Omaha, and if you have not figured it out by now, he would one day become the K in KB Typesetting the B was his partner, Joseph Bondi. Hes also the guy who sold all those tons of print blocks and plates to Franx some time in the early s.
Creating the zinc plates that made these intrusions possible became one of Kelleys chief nonnaval skills. In ct, according to DJ Ginsberg, Kelley was very good at the art of photo etching zinc that metal was eventually replaced by magnesium and mounting these reversed s of movie advertisements onto blocks of wood, which were cut into numerous, standard, newspapercolumn s. When these print blocks were sent to newspapers, they would be placed amid rows and columns of and other blocks, given a coat of ink, and run through a press, resulting in a positive on the . In this way, print blocks helped people answer the question of what movie to see on Friday night or at the Saturday matinee.
To learn more about Ginsberg and Wagners collection, visittheir websiteorGuernseys. You can also watch Adam Roffmans short documentary, The Collection, atVimeo. Special thanks to Tim Sawyer.
The owner of this print block could start selling prints of this Star Wars ad tomorrow. Image via The Collection.
As for collecting, Roffmans slowed down. At one point my wife said to me, Exactly how many of these are you going to buy? Still, Roffman does keep an eye out for obscure titles. I saw a print block for sale of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken with Don Knotts, he says. The seller wanted something like for it. I offered because Im a n of that movie, but they said, No thanks, somebody will buy it. And somebody did.
Even more primitive were the physical advertising assets themselves, which were initially made out of etched zinc plates that were subsequently mounted onto blocks of wood. One of the handful of companies that manuctured these print blocks or cuts, as they were variously known, was KB Typesetting, whose location in Omaha, Nebraska, made it a convenient hub from which to ship print blocks to newspapers around the country. Typically, these blocks were tossed in the trash when a newspaper had finished with them, but enough of these articts of movieadvertising history survived to create a small market for print blocks among diehard moviememorabilia collectors.
DJ Ginsberg, Omaha, Nebraska, . Image via The Collection.
Think about that for a minute In Hollywood, actors, directors, and producers are only as good as their last hit, yet Kelley treated all of the ads he produced for the more than , movies that crossed his work le with equal regard, from runofthemill Bmovies to The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind. Did he do it out of pride of workmanship? Was he secretly a devoted movie n? The truth is, well never know, because other than the foregoing, little is known about Loren Kelley. Still, its a safe bet that when he retired in the early s and decided to unload his lifes work for a relatively paltry sum at Franx, it did not cross his mind that one day the physical products of his career would be valued at million.
The plates stayed in Omaha, where they were saved for posterity by Kelley. The blocks were sent to the newspapers, where they were used and then, in most cases, tossed in a furnace, which is what makes Kelleys decision to keep an extra archival set of every block he made at KB such a gift to movie historians and collectors.
Guernseys wouldnt be involved if they harbored great doubts about the salability of the collection.
Top A selection of the , or so print blocks owned by DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner. Above When purchased in , their blocks filled more than boxes weighing several tons. Both s via The Collection.
But what was really weird, amazing, and even inexplicable about Kelley was his early decision to save at least one example of every block and plate he produced.
In the top , one can see the small nails that have been pounded through the zinc plate and into the block. Because the heads of the nails are not raised as high above the plate as its inked suces, they do not appear on the final ad bottom . Images via The Collection.
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I was shooting a short documentary in Connecticut, Roffman tells me, referring to the day in when he purchased his first print block. One of the people I interviewed owned an antiques store in Waterbury. It looked like a hoarders house, filled wall to wall with these mounds of perhaps objects apiece, pile after pile. After we finished the interview, while my cameraman was breaking down the lights, I went over to one of the piles and gave it a little push at the top to see what treasures might lie underneath. Thats when I found my first print block. It was for a Claudette Colbert movie from called Imitation of Life. It was in pristine condition, all shiny and beautiful. I knew it was a movie advertisement, but I didnt understand how it had been used, why everything on it was backwards, or any of that.
Eventually, life quieted down for Ginsberg and Wagner, but in , a short documentary by filmmaker Adam Roffman called The Collection refocused the spotlight on their cache, and earlier this year, Franchi was hired to update his appraisal, which now stands at between and million. Not surprisingly, thats the range currently being trumpeted byGuernseysin advance of its upcoming auction of Ginsberg and Wagners horde, which is being sold as a single collection.
The Mummy Poster sold for ,
Franchi says the case law on this potential value is clear. Movieadvertising materials are basically exempt from copyright protection, he says, because they never copyrighted this stuff. Studios copyrighted their movies, he says, but they didnt copyright the advertising materials because they wanted newspapers and other outlets to spread the word r and wide. To put it in contemporary terms, studios wanted the advance buzz about their movies to go viral.