POSTER CONDITION GRADING
Explanation of our system for grading the condition of posters.
All posters offered for sale on this site are photographed and the picture that appears alongside the description is the actual poster offered. We do not use generic images. We also provide a full written note of the poster’s condition and an explanation of our grading system is given below:
At various times, all sorts of systems have been proposed for describing the condition of vintage film posters. Some of these are fairly cumbersome and slightly ridiculous (one such proposal suggests as many as 30 grades, designed to accommodate any combination of defects). We think that, in practice, such a system is unworkable. In our view, there can be no substitute for a written description of each poster and a simple grading system based on accepted trade norms. For this reason we provide a note on the condition of each poster we are offering for sale. This note will refer to any specific defect such as pinholes, tape or tape residue (the marks left on paper after the removal of any pressure tape, such as Scotch tape or Sellotape), weak or brittle folds, stains, edge chips or other paper loss, etc. In addition to the description, we give a general grade A to C, for which a glossary follows:-
GRADE A: Posters graded A are free from defect and will be in first class, collectable condition. Most posters will have been displayed by the cinema at the time of the film’s release and will have been stored. Signs of such display and storage will, therefore, not disqualify a poster from an A grading. These might include pinholes or the name of the film written on the reverse side for filing purposes. Posters falling just short of an A grade but still in nice, collectable condition will be denoted by A-. Our description might also include additional terms, which are defined as follows:
- MINT. A perfect poster in the same condition that it was in when it left the printers. Bright with no fading or discolouration, fold lines (if present) will be crisp and firm, no dirt, handling or storage marks, no pin or staple holes and no other defects. (Equivalent to Christies’ A grade).
- FINE: A poster that is in excellent condition but which may bear slight signs of its age or of having been used or displayed. A fine poster will be generally free from wear and will have no tears, fold separations or paper loss. It will have only the lightest handling or storage marking and will be free from tape residue or significant blemish. An unobtrusive pin hole in each corner will not disqualify a poster from this grade but the presence of pin holes will be mentioned in the description. (Equivalent to Christies’ A to A- grade range).
- VERY GOOD (VG): A poster classified as VG will show clear signs of having been used and displayed. It might have tiny edge nicks and tears but these should not penetrate through to any part of the posters artwork or typography. It might have pinholes or traces of tape residue at the edges from its original display in the cinema. There may be some slight darkening or discolouration of the paper (commonly along the fold lines). Posters that are more than 40 years old might have some degree of paper ageing or brittleness (especially American posters of this age) but the general structure and integrity of the poster will be sound and robust. There may be some light to medium handling or storage marking (most commonly on the blank reverse side of the poster along the outer fold line). Any paper loss will be minor and confined to the very edges of the poster and not affecting the artwork or typography. A VG poster will be in acceptable, collectable condition. (Equivalent to Christies’ A- to B+ grade range).
Grade B: Posters graded B will show clear signs of use or repeated use and may also have some significant defect. Posters might have significant tears or fold separation that encroaches into the printed areas. There may be appreciable discolouration, fading or marking. There might be heavy tape residue at the edges or light tape residue to the body of the poster. Significant paper loss might have occurred at edges and corners. Any paper loss to the body of the poster will, however, be relatively minor and will usually be confined to areas of weakness, such as cross-folds or around multiple pin holes. There might be localised surface paper loss such as that encountered following the removal of a “snipe” (a later advertisement pasted to the poster amending the credits or giving Academy Award information, etc). Posters better than B but not quite A- are denoted B+ and those falling just short of a B grade but better than C are denoted B-. Our description might also include the term “good”, which is defined as follows:
- GOOD: A poster described as “good” is substantially complete but will have one or more defects or blemishes that detract from its desirability. In the case of expensive rarities, a poster in this condition can provide the collector with a cheaper option or project for linen backing or restoration. (Equivalent to Christies’ B to B- grade range).
Grade C: Posters graded C will have one or more major defect. The poster might have unsightly staining, writing or other graffiti over the image. It might be heavily soiled, water damaged, discoloured or faded. There could be major areas of body paper loss affecting artwork or typography. A “poor” poster might suffer from extreme brittleness of paper and could have complete separation along fold lines. Put simply, a poster in this category is a bit of a wreck. It is likely only to be of interest to collectors if posters for the film are sought after and of significant rarity. However, such posters are usually capable of restoration to a greater or lesser degree depending on the nature of the defect. (Equivalent to Christies’ B- to C grade range).
Folds in posters are not considered a defect provided that they were originally issued in this condition by the poster distributor. Prior to 1985 posters issued in the UK and US were invariably machine-folded at the time they were printed. This made them easier to distribute. British Quads have generally been folded twice vertically and either once or twice horizontally (giving a grid fold pattern of 8 or 16 rectangles). US one-sheets are generally folded twice horizontally and once vertically (giving a grid fold pattern of 8 rectangles). Unfolded posters issued prior to the mid 1980s are rare and command a premium.
After 1985 most quads and one-sheets were issued unfolded and mailed to cinemas in a cardboard tube. However it is still common to encounter posters from this period that have been folded (particularly British quads). We suspect that the majority of these were folded after distribution by the cinema manager or other recipient, for ease of storage, but some were folded at source by the original distributor. The glossy surface of post-1980 posters makes them particularly prone to fold wear which often results in a fine, white line across the image. For this reason folded posters from this era are valued below that of an unfolded example.
Linen Backed Posters:
Linen backed posters present their own particular difficulties when it comes to an assessment of their condition. Does one describe the poster’s linen backed condition or it’s condition prior to linen backing? A newly linen backed poster can be described as Fine and in spanking condition and so it might be – but that does not tell the collector anything about the work that might have been carried out to render it thus.
Where linen backed posters are offered for sale by us, we strive to describe the work that has been carried out as part of the process. For the most part, however, the linen backed posters we offer have had no major restoration work carried out on them beyond necessary repairs to slight edge tears and fold separations, light attention to fold lines and similar works that are universally acknowledged as being wholly acceptable. Prior to linen backing, the majority of the posters would have been at least VG or Near VG, within the meanings given in our above glossary.