The Film Art Gallery Poster Condition Guide
There are a number of things to bear in mind when considering how a poster is graded. Most significantly, please be aware that until 1980 or so, the vast majority of U.S. film posters were issued folded and in most cases this should not be considered a significant flaw. There were some standard U.S. sizes which were printed on a heavier card stock and not always factory-folded: the Window Card (14”x22”), Insert (14”x36”), Half Sheet (22”x28”), 30”x40 and 40”x60” sizes. These sizes were produced for most major releases before being phased out in the late 1970’s - mid 1980’s, and can more readily be found in unfolded condition. Also, most U.S. 1 Sheets from the 1980’s onward can be found unfolded, and beginning around 1990 or so, it became common practice to print double-sided posters (for use in theater lightboxes)
Note that the folding issue is different throughout the world of movie posters: in Japan, vintage posters were often lightly “tri-folded”, with three light bends (as opposed to hard fold lines) and no vertical fold whatsoever. In Italy and France, the vintage large format posters are almost exclusively found folded.
Besides typically having been folded, even unused/never posted vintage movie posters often have writing or ink stamps on the reverse, indicating a title or NSS (National Screen Service) number and/or distributor info. In most cases, we would not consider this a major flaw, although in some cases the writing or stamp on reverse may be heavy enough to bleed thru to the front. In such instances, we try to indicate when this condition is present.
While we try to indicate major flaws or condition issues, but in many cases the photo is a better guide to a poster’s condition. In rare occasions, poster may incur handling wear after the photo was taken and/or condition was written; if the wear or damage is significant, we will try to alert you before shipment.
And finally, please note that almost all posters can be flattened and their appearance improved by our professional restorer - via paper-backing, linen-backing, gel mounting etc. To learn more about linen-backing & poster restoration, please see our FAQ page.
Below is a a general guide to grading. Please bear in mind that our grading typically acknowledges the relative age, history and/or rarity of a poster: a rare theater-used poster from the 1950’s will be held to a somewhat less rigid standard than an unused, unfolded poster for STAR WARS or PULP FICTION.
Finally, like all human endeavors, the grading system is ultimately - to some degree, at least - subjective, and our system may be stricter or less strict than another collector or dealer’s grade scale. Having said that, we are happy to answer specific questions about any poster’s condition, and that all of our posters are sold with a guarantee of customer satisfaction.
MINT / C-10:
Essentially flawless, and thus extremely rare. Even if a poster is rolled and shows no signs of having been used, there is typically some form of handling wear, so we hesitate to use this grade in most cases.
NEAR MINT / C-9:
A poster in this grade must be virtually unused, with fresh, saturated colors. On folded posters, may show the most minimal wear at the folds. The poster should have no holes, significant tears nor paper loss.
EXCELLENT / C-8.5:
A poster in this grade can exhibit slight signs of use, but no significant wear. Flaws might include very minor fold separation and fold wear, some pinholes or very minor tears.
VERY FINE / C-8:
A poster showing light wear; gently used but not abused.
FINE / C-7:
An above-average used poster. Flaws may include small pieces of tape, wear and color loss along fold lines, pinholes, border wear, cross-fold separation and very minor paper loss.
VERY GOOD / C-5/6:
Average vintage theater-used poster. May have brittle paper, tears, fold separation, tape, small areas of paper loss, bleed-thru from writing on reverse, staining.
GOOD / C-3/4:
An obviously used poster which may have tears, paper loss, some trimmed borders and a significant degree of general age wear. It may have some color fading, stains, tape or tape stains, and be in need of restoration. It may have significant restoration.
FAIR / C-2:
A very heavily used poster,usually with significant paper loss and/or some fading. A poster in this grade would be heavily restored or in great need of major restoration.
POOR / C-1:
Major paper loss, extreme fading, etc. A poster in this condition would most likely be worthless and/or not worth the effort and expense required to restore it. Unless it is an extraordinarily rare poster, avoid at all costs.