Movie props and wardrobes that have actually been used in movie productions and seen on the big screen are great collectibles for people who want to own a little piece of their favorite movies, actors, and actresses. In times past, it was very hard for the average movie fan to obtain such items without having a direct connection to the film industry. Now with the internet and especially eBay, anyone with internet access can find and purchase authentic movie memorabilia. Unfortunately, with the advent of the online auction there is also a lot of potential for abuse by dishonest sellers who try to sell fake merchandise passed off as authentic movie props or wardrobe worn by famous people. However, with a little care and the use of the following tips, the average movie memorabilia connoisseur can find good quality original items and avoid the many scams out there.
* Provenance is the key. Provenance simply means an items origin and how well that item can be traced back to its origin. The simplest way to verify provenance is by looking for items that come with a Certificate of Authenticity or a Letter of Authenticity (often abbreviated to COA and LOA). A Certificate of Authenticity is an official document that states that the item was used in a movie or worn by the actor or actress as claimed. The document is usually either signed by a high ranking official or is stamped with the official seal of a company. In the case of movie props and wardrobe, the COA is usually signed or stamped by a movie studio, production company, or the Property Master in charge of a certain film. A Property Master (or Prop Master) is the person in charge of providing or creating all of the props, costumes, and background objects that are to be used in a movie production. Any item that has a dependable COA will have greater value and resell ability. Keep in mind that COAs can also be forged, so ask for pictures of the COA if they are not already provided by the seller. Be wary of items that have shaky provenance with descriptions like “I originally bought this item from a guy at a yard sale who swore it was used in Spider-Man”.
* Buy from trusted sellers. There are several companies that deal exclusively with movie props who sell their wares on eBay. For example, Premiere Props and the Prop Store of London are both high profile prop and wardrobe dealers who work directly with the movie studios. Everything they sell comes with a COA and can be guaranteed authentic. In the cases where an independent seller is auctioning an item you are interested in, check their other listings and their feedback. Do they have a history of selling other movie props? Do they have a lot of negative feedback? If they do, do any of the negative comments have to do with unpleasant buyers receiving badly damaged, fake, or merchandise that did not arrive as described?
* Try out eBay’s Live Auctions. Live Auctions are relatively new on eBay, and provide opportunities for internet users to have access to live events at actual licensed auction houses. Instead of an auction being listed for several days with bids being placed all during that time, a live auction works exactly as if we’re standing in the room where the auction was taking place. There are many different categories for Live Auctions and there are many opportunities to buy very rare movie props and costumes. For instance, Profiles in History give access to their auctions through the Live Auctions interface. These auctions are generally performed by high profile licensed auction houses, so you can feel certain that what is being described is exactly what you are bidding on. The drawbacks to a live auction are that you have to know when the auction is taking place ahead of time or you can easily miss out, and given the rarity of a lot of the movie memorabilia that is on the block, the starting prices can be in the thousands.
* Use common sense and ask questions. Do not ever let yourself be blinded with how good a deal appears to be that you do not view an auction with a critical eye. If something appears too good to be true, there’s a good possibility that is the case. There’s a feature on every eBay auction to ask the seller a question. Use it! If the seller does not seem honest or upfront with their responses, move on. If pictures are provided, examine the pictures in detail and try to match the movie prop or costume with screenshots from the movie the items were allegedly used in. Some of the more helpful sellers will provide many pictures and even include movie screenshots for comparison. Finally, go with your instincts. If after all is said and done there is still something bothering you about the authenticity of a piece of movie memorabilia up for auction, walk away. There are plenty of good, authentic props available out there.
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