On the heels of the vintage poster scandal reported on earlier this month (see Charges of Fraud Rock The Collectible Movie Poster Market and Hobby), there has been more controversy in the collectible poster memorabilia field as yet another scandal – and altogether different kind of fraud – has been uncovered by members of that community.
The Dracula poster adorning the cover of the latest Profiles in History catalog, authenticated by John Davis of Poster Mountain, has been pulled from next week’s auction event and declared a fake.
The following is the original catalog page from the Profiles in History catalog:
Below is the original assessment and analysis from John Davis at Poster Mountain, serving as the basis of his authentication:
Coincidentally, I did discuss the preceding fraud controversy with Joe Maddalena of Profiles in History earlier this month, during my preview of the “Hollywood Auction 37″ offerings. Part of this discussion was memorialized on video (filmed 09/15/09), which was published in an earlier article (see Vintage Universal Horror Poster Fraud Update: Video Interview with Joe Maddalena, Profiles in History). This interview segment used the Dracula poster as subject for the discussion, and following discussion with hobbyists in that field, I subsequently published a “Reader Comment” to that article with native, high resolution, 1920×1080 video stills of the poster from my footage.
As noted in preface to the video and prior articles, I personally do not collect posters or know very much at all about that pursuit, but I do believe that these developments are notable and of interest to the original prop and wardrobe collecting field. As such, my attempt with this article is to summarize the recent events as best as possible.
My primary sources of information are the following:
- Not Suitable for General Exhibition (Yuku Board Topic)
- MoPo-L mailing list (Movie Poster Discussion) (Listserv by Scott Burns)
- Comic-Art.com [Richard Halegua]
As I understand it from my reading of these various sources, questions and concerns about the authenticity of the “1931 Dracula” one sheet first materialized on the MoPo mailing list, and the discussion spilled over into a dedicated topic on the ‘Not Suitable for General Exhibition” Yuku Board discussion forum a little more than one week ago.
Diane Jeffrey, President and CEO of Studio Conservation Inc. (“Studio C”), explained that she had performed a “linenbacking” of a Dracula poster a few months earlier, and wanted to determine if the one sheet offered for sale at auction was the same piece. She stated that she had contacted John Davis at Poster Mountain and published their e-mail exchange, in which Mr. Davis reiterated that the piece was “irrefutable authentic”.
Below is an excerpt from her message published via MoPo Listserv and republished in the Yuku board discussion (see [MOPO] DRACULA – Maybe relevent, maybe not | Diane Jeffrey | Tue, 22 Sep 2009 17:15:08 -0700):
My main concern, and still is, the fact that I questioned the piece I had in here, at the time, due to several items. The piece did not have the “feel”,: of normal poster paper, and it also had some type of remnant backing on the back, sort of like a layer of cardboard. Also, both bottom corners had been meticulously ripped out, only in the section where the text would have been in the borders causing me to think it might be a re-issue or something. I questioned my client on this at the time. He offered little insight to all of this, and stated, its just going to be framed. I did the restoration, and when it came time for the text issue, he dictated what he wanted us to write in that area, which we did, knowing that it probably was not correct.
When the news broke about the Universal fakes, I immediately thought about that poster, especially since my client was new, I knew nothing about him and he lived in New Jersey.
I was surprised to see the exact same title in Profiles Auction. As stated above, I was alarmed when I had a Dracula poster in my shop, for the above reasons, and since hearing about the terrible fake scam.
My call to you was to simply find out if it might be the same poster, and if it was, to offer any information I had.
On the Yuku board discussion, Richard C. Evans (username “evansrc“) published a very detailed analysis between the Dracula one sheet consigned to the Profiles auction and the genuine poster owned by Todd Feiertag (see eBay Auction: “DRACULA ’31 Original BELA LUGOSI 27×41 UNIVERSAL HORROR” | ARCHIVE), as well as a third image from “Graven Images: The Best of Horror, Fantasy, and Science-Fiction Film Art from the Collection of Ronald V. Borst“. Mr. Evans used Photoshop to overlay the images in as best a matching scale as possible. See analysis beginning with Page One of the Yuku forum topic (also see FOOTNOTE following article for archive of initial analysis):
Ultimately, there were discrepancies between the Profiles consigned piece and the other two examples, most significantly the panel of credits beneath the primary image as well as the spacing of the title, DRACULA.
With this ongoing discussion, different possibilities were raised about an alternate source for the poster images and layout represented in the Profiles consigned piece, from the original pressbook to various modern day reproductions. Significant contributions by way of analysis were also made by Richard Halegua of MoviePosterBid.com.
It was ultimately determined that the Dracula one sheet consigned to Profiles in History matched a modern day reproduction currently available from a company called S2 Art Group Limited (see S2Art.com). S2 Art offer a one sheet 27″ x 41″ reproduction of the Dracula poster for $325.00 (Direct Link to Current Page):
The S2 Art website also includes a page that explains how they produce their high quality lithographs using vintage machinery (“crafted on the same flatbed presses used in the legendary ateliers of Paris“) – one of only seven such presses estimated left in the world.
There is also a video feature available showing this work on The Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” series:
Again, I am not well versed in the poster field, but reading these sources of information and discussions about the Profiles poster, it appears that Mr. Davis was fooled in that he was testing the poster for the type of fraud uncovered last month (in which high resolution images were affixed to authentic posters of lesser value which had the front sides sanded down), whereas this poster was actually newly produced using vintage machinery.
Additionally, per these community discussions, it was discovered that the two corners of the consigned Dracula poster were removed and replaced, with the person who brought the poster to Studio C directing her to restore the wording “Country of Origin USA” and the litho number. Apparently, Morgan Litho plate numbers provided was incorrect, which provided further evidence that the one sheet was suspect. More information can be found in this information and photos provided by Richard Halegua (Go To Direct Source for High Resolution Jumps: Comic-Art.com/s2art_dracula/):
More, it appears that the source image for the S2 Art reproductions was based on images from the American Film Institute, not the original poster, so the comparative analysis performed by Mr. Evans was instrumental in raising questions about the discrepancies in comparing with the two known and genuine examples. Per research, it also appears that the artwork was intentionally changed from the source for these reproductions as well, in part to prevent one being passed off as an authentic example.
Per a message posted on the MoPo Listserv tonight, Mr. Halegua states, in an open letter to John Davis (see MoPo Archive for full letter: [MOPO] An Open Letter to John Davis of Poster Mountain | Richard Halegua Comic Art & Movie Posters | Wed, 30 Sep 2009 21:35:01 -0700):
Jack [Soloman, owner of S2 Art Gallery] and I also discussed that the type on the AFI Litho Series posters, which are the same images licensed to Art.com, were reset when necessary to clean up much hand written original type, one reason being that the artist wanted to make sure that there was a difference between the original posters and these lithographed art prints so that they cannot be sold as forgeries. The press operator who I also spoke to mentioned that many times they see some of their art print from other areas being sold as original prints by scammers on eBay.
The initiative of Diane Jeffrey, Richard C. Evans, Richard Halegua, and others in openly scrutinizing the poster and its authenticity can be credited in helping to stop the fake piece from being sold at auction for likely hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will perhaps lead to the discovery of additional fraudulent pieces sold into the marketplace, as well as prevent more fraud in the future.
Today, John Davis of Poster Mountain, who authenticated the Dracula poster consigned to Profiles in History, published on his website his own update on the piece that he had previously determined to be genuine (see PosterMountain.com):
**REPRODUCTION** Entirely different type of fake poster, which, due to the dissimilarities to all of the other fakes we have uncovered, this one fooled us until we learned more about it. This once legitimate S2 reproduction one sheet was sanded thin by the “restorer” then lined with canvas and paper (“linen backed”) with airbrush restoration throughout the border and title. The two bottom corners which would have had vital reproduction information printed as identification were removed and replaced in a restorative fashion and the fine print from an original Dracula poster was then added by hand. Fold lines have been touched up with colored pencil. Minor paper loss in spots only in border and center fold line intersection near the eye. Poster presents very nicely, though some restoration has worn off in the fold lines. Bela Lugosi, Universal Horror.
As seen in the MoPo letter by Mr. Halegua above, some in that community are surprised that the poster was misauthenticated via a hands on analysis, when others were able to raise material questions based on photos made available, and further dismayed by the subsequent follow-up by Poster Mountain in the past week as this has unfolded.
With regards to Profiles in History, they relied on the professional authentication of the poster by an expert prior to placement in the auction catalog. As questions were raised upon release of photos to the public, Joe Maddalena has been in contact with many in the poster collecting community and also got in touch with me days ago to let me know that the lot was pulled from the auction pending further review, prior to the revised conclusion published today by Mr. Davis.
Should Profiles make a statement in the coming days, I will be sure to publish it on the Original Prop Blog as a follow-up to this report.
Past related articles published by the Original Prop Blog can be found via the link below (Market Watch | Posters, One Sheets, Lobby Cards):