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Movie Lobby Cards

Movie lobby cards are a uniquely American creation. They are a hybrid of movie posters and, usually, movie star photos. Back in the early 1910’s, the small nickelodeons, where films were first shown, started morphing into larger, more permanent, and more elegant venues. As a result of this growth, more advertising was needed to promote the movies these new movie palaces were offering. So, in addition to the beautiful, colorful lithographic movie posters, there came a need for photographic images.

Lobby Cards Beginning

Sometime around 1913, lobby card sets started to be produced, and they were, basically, photographs printed on a heavy paper resembling cardboard. For several years, lobby sets were done in both an 11″ x 14″ (about 28 x 36 cm.) format and also a smaller 8″ x 10″ (about 20 x 26 cm.) version. Eventually, the larger 11″ x 14″ size became the standard size for American lobby cards. Sets usually contained 8 cards, but sets of as few as four and as many as 15 have been produced.

The Colorful 20s

By the 1920’s, these initially simple photo sets evolved into a very advanced, decorative art form. (One early author on the subject described them as akin to antique Persian miniatures.) As the technology to print them in color did not yet exist, the coloring was done by hand, sometimes with a stencil and sometimes by a water colonist individually adding hues to each card. The silent lobby cards, of the 1920’s, and the cards of the early talking film era, represent a high point in the pure aesthetics of lobby cards as an art form in their own right.

Building A Lobby Card Collection

There are as many reasons to collect lobby cards as there are collectors. Since lobby cards are small, they are inexpensive to frame. A display of framed lobby cards on a well-lit wall can be both beautiful and impressive. Here are some of the basics:

  • THE BEAUTY — Collections can be built of lobby cards that are gorgeous. This would most often be cards dating from the 1920s and 1930s. These can encompass very obscure movies, with no familiar stars but with a phenomenal image.
  • THE SUBJECT — Many people enjoy collecting lobby cards on a specific subject. A few examples the area of interest could be: 1950’s science-fiction, African American film, LGBTQ film, horror, westerns, or pre-Code movies. This specifically refers to American films made between 1929 and 1934, after which a rigid morality was imposed by a new Motion Picture Production Code. During that five-year period, lobby cards and posters’ artwork was often very bold and sexually suggestive. And when it comes to specialized collecting, we have worked on such pinpointed subjects as: hockey, boxing, Ireland, cigarette smoking, robots, aviation, circus, just to mention a few.
  • THE ACTOR — The actor is the star of the movie and many collectors focus excursively on that actor, such as Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Dorothy Dandridge, John Wayne and Bela Lugosi, which is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • THE STUDIO — There are also collectors of the films of one particular studio. As a result, we have worked with collectors who focused only on MGM, Paramount, Fox, and, of course, Universal (a particularly popular studio with horror collectors because they produced so many of the historical classics in that genre).

Complimentary Client Consultation

We love to share our knowledge and experience, so, if you have a question about a particular item or would like to know more about it or the project it relates to, we would be happy to provide you with whatever we know. Just click on the “Contact Us” button and fill out the “Client Consultation Form” and we’ll be in touch!