Old movie posters mean big bucks for Madison, NJ collector Ralph DeLuca, movie poster expert and collector from Madison, NJ, was interviewed at his home by the Associated Press in regards to his passion for movie posters, and their great investment potential.
News-Antique.com - May 10,2009 - Old movie posters mean big bucks for NJ collector
The Associated Press
MADISON, N.J. - While many lose sleep over each twist and turn of today's economy, New Jersey collector Ralph DeLuca has found a hedge against the recession in the musty memorabilia of Hollywood's past.
A former private investment consultant, DeLuca hardly batted an eye when he bought a vintage poster from the 1932 cult movie "Freaks" at auction in March for more than $100,000. The poster had cost $10 in the early 1970s.
A few minutes later he outbid competitors for a rare poster of the original "Dracula" from 1931, owned by actor Nicolas Cage, snapping it up for more than $300,000.
"It's just a matter of what your passion is," DeLuca said. "I don't have bad vices. I don't gamble. I don't drink. This is like enforced savings for me. People tell me, 'You could sell some of your stuff and buy a Bentley,' but to me a car is a depreciating asset."
Icons of American pop culture adorn DeLuca's still-being-furnished town house: Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane" (signed by the director); the Marx Brothers in garish caricature in "Duck Soup"; Charlie Chaplin in "City Lights"; Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca."
All the posters date back to the movies' original release, and give the room the feel of an old theater lobby.
DeLuca's first purchase was in the early 1990s , a poster for Mel Brooks' "The Producers." He figures he now owns tens of thousands of archival pieces, including rare photographs, original movie scripts and concert posters, for a collection worth upward of $10 million.
Far fewer posters were printed in Hollywood's early years, he said, and often they were leased to the theaters and were not intended for public collecting in the same way as baseball cards or comic books. Consequently, finding posters can take years, even with the coming of online auction sites.
DeLuca has bought posters from people who saved them for decades without realizing their worth; one seller used them for insulation.
Grey Smith, director of vintage movie posters at Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries, said the subculture of collectors who specialize in movie poster art has managed to keep prices steady even during the economic downturn.
"When you get to the much rarer pieces such as the "Freaks" insert, there doesn't seem to be any decline," said Smith, who conducted the March auction. "Many collectors realize that when something comes up that is a rarity, they have to jump or else they may never have an opportunity again."
DeLuca concedes the hobby isn't recession-proof and is subject to the vagaries of any collectors' market. He notes, for example, that interest in Western movie collectibles has fallen off in recent years.
Still, he feels vindicated when he recalls his decision to cash out of the market before it collapsed and focus on collecting.
"All my friends said I was nuts, but I'd rather have this," he said, gesturing toward