Saturday, August 10, 2019

Storing paper-based film collectibles

Note: This article has been modified from my original article written for Hubpages on October 10, 2017.

ESCO Arcade card from "The Arizona Streak", 1926
For those of you who collect paper-based film memorabilia on Tom Tyler, perhaps some of the most important questions are, “What is the best way to store these? Can I display this item in a frame?” The answer to the first question takes preservation into consideration, and contrary to popular belief, storage materials for film collectibles from the mid-1920’s to the 1940’s are not expensive at all. In fact, acid-free paper envelopes and polyethylene bags are affordable, found in office supply stores, and websites like Amazon. Similar items should always be stored together, such as arcade/exhibit/postcards, lobby cards, film booklets, and film stills. For the ambitious collector, a cataloguing system might also be used to keep track of what is being collected. Regardless if you have only a handful of colorful arcade cards of Tom Tyler, or an extensive film still collection, following is a list of different paper-based film collectibles and the ideal way to store them.

ESCO postcard, "When the Law Rides" 1928
Arcade/Exhibit cards and postcards

These movie collector cards, manufactured by the Chicago Exhibit Supply Company (ESCO), were dispensed through vending machines for a penny each back in the 1920's and 1930's. Western stars were very popular subjects on these cards. Many times film scenes were reproduced on these cards too, especially silent films. Each arcade/exhibit card measured 5.2” x 3.2” in size, about the same size as a postcard produced during the same time period. What makes arcade/exhibit cards stand out is the number of colors a single image would be available in. These cards usually came in duotone; for example, an arcade card of Tom Tyler and Frankie Darro in a scene from “Cyclone of the Range” comes in yellow/orange as well as gray/purple. A very wide range of colors were used to manufacture these cards, which range from red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, lime green, navy, even aqua. A small photo album with acid-free poly sleeves is an ideal way to store these intriguing film collectibles.


Photo of Tom Tyler, 1927
Cigarette, chocolate and biscuit cards

Also referred to as tobacco cards, a number of companies used to produce film star photos on these small cards, using bright colors, although very early cards were produced in black and white. The original purpose of cigarette cards was to provide a stiff package so the product would not get crushed. Cigarette companies like Rothmans (England), Player (England), and Ogden's (England) are just a few names popular among cigarette card collectors. The average size of these cards was usually 2” x 3” in size, sometimes even smaller. Some companies like A & M Wix issued several different sized cards with film stars on them. In addition to cigarette cards, film star cards like those produced by Cloetta, a Swedish candy company, were included in their chocolate products, and similar cards produced by De Beukelaer found in their biscuit (cookie) packages, were very close in card size. Most cigarette cards are stored in baseball card plastic pages, especially those seen at ephemera shows.

Biblioteca Films, "The Man from Death Valley"
Film stills and film star photos

Most film stills and film star publicity photos measure 8” x 10” in size, on glossy photo paper. Those which contain autographs of a star are usually worth a few bucks. Film stills have long been used as marketing tools for recently released films and are sought after by favorite film collectors. Depending upon the age of the film still or publicity photo, there may be a little surface wear, as well as wear along the edges of the photo. There might also be writing along the edge either in pen or pre-printed on the film still to identify which movie it is from. Acid-free plastic sleeves that measure 8 1/2” x 11” in size are an ideal way to store a large collection of film stills. One particular favorite still, or publicity photo, might also be framed and hung on the wall.

Film booklets

Often seen at ephemera shows and in antique shops, film booklets come in a variety of sizes depending upon the publisher, and nation of origin. Basically, a film booklet is a thin publication with a stapled binding, containing a film story. Usually, several film shots are also included in the publication. One of the most popular film booklets in English is Boy's Cinema, published in the UK from 1919 to 1940 and contained several film stories, often profiling one film on the front cover. Spy films, war dramas, and westerns were favorite genres for this publication. An issue of Boy's Cinema measures 7 1/2” x 10 7/8” in size. Another popular film booklet was Biblioteca Films, published in Barcelona, Spain. In this case, each issue was devoted to an entire movie, with the film title in Spanish. For example, the film booklet for “Galloping Thru”, a 1931 Tom Tyler talkie, translates as “Deuda de Sangre”. These film booklets measure 4 3/4” x 6 7/8” in size, smaller than Boy's Cinema.
Lobby card for "Honor of the Mounted" 1932
Spain also came out with a series of western film booklets, Los Films del Far-West, numbered in a series. Other examples of film booklets also include Photo Aventures, in French, similar to the Biblioteca Films, and Film-Kurier, in German. Like film stills, 8 1/2” x 11” acid free clear plastic binder sleeves are the ideal way to store film booklets. If a film booklet is starting to separate from its binding, or the paper is frail and crumbles when touched, it can also be stored in an acid-free envelope that is 5” x 7” in size.

Lobby cards

Lobby cards produced in the United States measure a standard 11” x 14” in size, although cards produced before 1930 also measured 8” x 10”. Usually produced in a series of eight, these lobby cards were displayed in the lobby of movie theatres across the country.
One sheet, "Tracy Rides" 1935
Nowadays, Tom Tyler silent film lobby cards can have a market value of $300.00 to $500.00, depending upon the movie. Older lobby cards may have thin paper base, which is prone to tearing due to its age. Lobby cards that are in excellent shape without any tears along the edge can be displayed in a frame; more fragile ones not in use can be stored in an 11” x 14” Itoya portfolio book.

One sheets, half sheets, and larger posters

Probably the most popular popular sized movie poster being produced today is the one sheet. Measuring 27” x 40” in size, these are easily displayable in a frame; when they are not is use they can be rolled up and stored inside a polyethylene bag that covers the entire poster. Other movie poster sizes include the following: insert (14” x 36”), window card (14” x 22”), half sheet (22” x 28”), two sheet (41” x 54”), three sheet (41” x 81”), six sheet (81” x 81”), and twenty-four sheet (246” x 108”). If you have the wall space for one of these larger posters, then display in a frame is the perfect choice; if not, they should be stored rolled inside a polyethylene bag the width of the poster.

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