Charges of Fraud Rock The Collectible Movie Poster Market and Hobby
September 13, 2009 by Jason DeBord
Various reports have surfaced in recent weeks about a scandal involving what experts claim are counterfeit ’30s-’40s horror movie posters, window cards, and lobby cards. Some reporting on this story estimate that several million dollars worth of this material has been sold and traded into the marketplace, which has purportedly resulted in at least two lawsuits.
Note: As a preface to this article, I do not personally collect movie posters of any kind, and do not follow this hobby with any regularity. Therefore, this is merely a summary of information based on a variety of sources within the movie poster collecting hobby. Having said that, I do believe it is of interest to original prop and costume collectors.
The following summary information is culled from three sources:
- RalphDeluca.com: Horror Movie Fakes
- LearnAboutMoviePosters.com: DISCOVERY OF HIGH-PRICED FAKE COLLECTIBLE MOVIE POSTERS
- eMoviePoster.com: Website and Three Part Mailing List (registration required – not available online)
Below is one of the listserve messages archived at mail-archive.org (see “[MOPO] Horror Poster Fakes”):
[MOPO] Horror Poster Fakes
Thu, 27 Aug 2009 16:52:59 -0700
Rather than be a spectator I should report the following:
The ONLY items being faked are 1930’s-1940’s, Horror movie posters, window cards, and lobby cards, including all known reissues for the Universal horror films. This has been going on for less than 3 years as far as we can tell and involves at least one known collector and a west coast poster restorer. It was being done using original posters and lobby cards of little to no value and the restorer sanded or peeled the image off (I am not aware of the exact science to this) and glued quality reproduction from to the old original backing. These were meant to defraud us collectors. The people behind this have sold other non horror posters and lobbies, but they all checked out to be good so far. I really think it is limited to Horror ONLY, and if you did not buy (or trade for) any horror cards or posters in the last 3 years or less, you have nothing to worry about. I myself was burned by 2 very expensive cards which turned out to be high quality forgeries; but my losses were small (around 20k) compared to some friends who are out $100,000’s. Most people, myself included can not name names as directed by our attorneys, but without to much asking around you could find this information out. It does not makes sense to spook everyone in our hobby, especially those who DO NOT collect horror material, just to feel important by spreading gossip. Many serious horror collectors are taking some big hits right now, but speaking for myself I still love the hobby and will continue to buy all genres (even horror), just with a bit more caution in who I deal with. This problem will sting for awhile but I think it will be under control very soon, and the guilty parties will be brought to justice. Anyone who feels they material that may be fake can send it to John Davis at Poster Mountain, or Carol Tincup in Orange CA. They are the only restoration professionals that I know of who handled and authenticated all the posters so far and help expose this crime.
Visit the MoPo Mailing List Web Site at www.filmfan.com
Below is an image from LearnAboutMoviePosters.com which shows the results of their analysis of one of the purported counterfeit posters, which depicts two layers fused together (see originating site for full resolution):
Two lawsuit filings have been found online which some in this hobby believe are related to this issue:
Plaintiff: Ronald Magid
Defendant: Kerry Haggard
Case Number: 2:2009cv05154
Filed: July 15, 2009
Court: California Central District Court
Office: Western Division – Los Angeles Office
County: Los Angeles
Nature of Suit: Other Statutes – Other Fraud
Cause: 28:1332 Diversity-(Citizenship)
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff
Plaintiff: James A. Gresham
Defendant: Kerry T. Haggard, Tiffany Haggard, Jaime Mendez, Jamie Mendez Restoration & Conservation, John Doe and Jane Doe
Case Number: 2:2009cv13405
Filed: August 27, 2009
Court: Michigan Eastern District Court
Office: Detroit Office
Nature of Suit: Other Statutes – Other Contract
Cause: 28:1332 Diversity-Other Contract
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff
Amount Demanded: $852,000.00
eMoviePoster.com obtained some of the suspect and identified material for examination from Heritage Auction Galleries and was able to also take high resolution scans and publish them on their website, which can be found here:
Below is an excerpt from one of the very detailed and extensive three part series of e-mails sent to Club members by eMoviePosters.com:
*HOW CAN THE FAKES BE DISTINGUISHED FROM ORIGINALS?:* (Much of the following info comes to me from Grey Smith, during our phone conversation). There is no simple 100% dead giveaway that tells you for sure that an item is a fake or an original, and I certainly wish there was!
Sadly, there are only two *SURE* ways to know, and one involves buying expensive equipment, and the other involves slightly damaging the item. The first is to buy a micrometer, which measures the thickness of the item. The fakes made thus far (because they involve merging an original item and a repro) measure slightly thicker than a vintage item alone (you can tell this difference for certain with the micrometer, but to your simple touch, you have a sensation of slightly greater thickness, but not enough to make a good decision from). In addition to the micrometer, you need a quality microscope. When you look at the repros under sufficient amplification, you can see super fine differences in the print quality that you can’s see with the naked eye.
The second method (which can of course be used in conjunction with the above method) is to take a needle and scratch the surface of the item. On a real item, the ink will have slightly permeated below the surface of the item, so when you scratch it, you see slight traces of the ink under the surface, plus the aged sub-surface of the item. But when you scratch a doctored combined repro, the ink from the glued on repro is solely on the surface of the item, so when you scratch it you see NO ink trace beneath, plus you don’t see the aged sub-surface of the item below, but rather you see the sanded surface of the item, which looks different).
So someone with the above equipment and sufficient expertise *CAN* tell for certain if an item is real or a doctored fake, but most collectors surely can *NOT* say with any degree of certainty.
Though this is not directly related to the original prop collecting hobby, this type of memorabilia is often sold in the same auctions that props, costumes, and other original movie and television production material is made available, and many collectors participate in both hobbies. It also illustrates the risks involved in collecting expensive memorabilia of any kind.
I would recommend that readers follow these developments and also seek out the very lengthy and details club member e-mails that provide a lot more information.