The poster Tod Browning’s Dracula recently sold at auction and became the most valuable movie poster in the world. The iconic horror film released in 1931 – based on the play of the same name by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which was loosely based on the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker – and famously starred Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Browning’s movie is not only considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece, but it also helped expand Universal Pictures’ burgeoning horror franchise at the time.
Considering that Dracula released 86 years ago, not many of the film’s original posters exist today, especially not in near mint condition. The vast majority of posters that people see for the movie are reprints, but two examples of a particular style are known to have survived all these years – and one of them was just sold at auction for an unbelievable amount of money.
Heritage Auctions sold the poster for Dracula at a public auction on Saturday, November 18, for a whopping $525,800, thus setting a new world record for the most valuable poster. The sale surpassed the previous auction record of $478,000, which was tied by an Italian issued poster – 55 x 78 inches and printed in 1946 – for Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca and Browning’s London After Midnight, which was a standard 27 x 41 inches and printed in 1927.
A number of factors can go into a poster’s value. For one, if a poster is an original copy in near mint condition – rather than a reprint – it may fetch a hefty amount at auction, especially if it was rolled from the moment it was shipped instead of being folded, as was customary for movie marketing materials prior to the 1980s. Considering that posters are typically 27 x 41 inches, they would be folded down to approximately 11 x 14 inches and shipped flat.
Another reason is the number of original prints issued and the popularity of the film itself. If, say, a movie flopped or didn’t have an immense impact on the filmmaking industry (e.g. Michael Bay’s Armageddon), its posters may have a much lower value compared to a movie that earned big bucks at the worldwide box office and had an impact on Hollywood (e.g. George Lucas’ Star Wars). Still, any sort of rare item may elicit a high asking price from auctioneers. What’s interesting is that 12 of the top 15 most expensive movie posters ever sold at auction belong to Universal’s Monster movies, including Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Black Cat.
The aforementioned 1931 Dracula poster is currently the most expensive movie poster sold at auction, but that may change with time. At the moment, the most valued poster in the world, overall, is still the German international print for Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis, which sold for $690,000 at a verified gallery sale in 2005.