Grading and Terminology

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Website Item Grading and description terminology.

What do paper film advertising and the late-great comedian Rodney Dangerfield have in common...they both “never got any respect”.

Posters and lobby cards were typically pinned, tacked, stapled, or taped to wood or cork display boards during the release/showing of a film.  These paper items were often simply torn off the wall after a film left a theater, which is the main reason we find so many items with missing corners and tears. This treatment is a double-edged sword....many posters, lobbies, etc were abused and thrown out (we've all heard those horror stories), but if everyone would have carefully filed them away, their rarity, desireability and value just wouldn't be where it is today.


Condition “grading” is often subjective, meaning that one person’s opinion of condition can vary greatly from another’s.  In order to avoid any confusion (or disappointment), we want to articulate what we consider condition grades to be. Between these descriptions and the provided photo of an item, collectors can make their own determination of the condition of an item, and ultimately use this to base their decision on whether or not to purchase an item. Being collectors ourselves, we tend to be overly critical in our condition grading (more so than many major auction sites), which means that an item that we rate as “Very Good”, could in fact be graded as “Fine” by others.  Conversely, if we grade an item as “Good”, purchasers should not expect to receive a vintage film collectible that looks “perfect”.


Poor – This is our lowest rating, and represents items that have major damage including, but not limited to, long tears (which may or may not be taped on the front or reverse), missing pieces of the paper, severe staining, etc.

Fair – Posters that could have significant damage, which in some cases may not be glaringly obvious or visually a major issue. Condition could include several inch clean tears, which do not detract from the main image, or small sections of border missing.

Good – Displays well, but may have issues such as multiple pin/tack/staple holes, small creases, noticeable corner or edge wear, minor discoloration, ¼”- ½” tear in the edge of a border, or small pieces of tape/tape residue.

Very Good – Displays very well, but may contain corner pin holes, very light staining/soiling, light/small creases, corner bumps…overall no major issues.

Fine – An excellent example with only very minor issues, like a small corner bump.

Very Fine – Mainly reserved for items that look almost like they did when they originally arrived at a theater.  In many cases this class of item may never have been displayed.

Note: We do not reference the overused grade of “mint”, as this is the most subjective of all grades. Some people may feel that a “mint” item has to be absolutely (and often unrealistically) perfect, when in fact extremely small issues like a spec/dot or minor print error that was originally printed on the item could make the item less than “perfect”.  We sell vintage items, some of which could be 100 years or more old, so it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to find an absolutely perfect/looks like it was made yesterday, 80 year old piece of paper.

In our effort to provide as detailed and accurate condition descriptions as possible, we try to use consistent terminology (some of which may be common/standard, and others we may have developed on our own).

Chip – A small (typically ¼"- ½”) piece of paper missing…most often from a corner

Corner Bump – This is very minor damage to the corner points, where it looks like something “bumped into” the corner, making it no longer perfectly square. The corner may be slightly turned under, but all paper would still be in place.

Crease – A paper item that has damage from being folded (either accidentally, or on purpose). This can refer to a corner that has been “bent” (not torn), multiple small lines on a border (typically from rough handing or poor storage). In some cases we may note that a lobby card has “vertical and horizontal creases”*, which means that at some point the card was folded top to bottom and side to side (quartered).
*We have several lobby cards that unfortunately have this sort of damage. This was most likely the result of a particular theater folding the cards up after use, to prevent re-use or simply their process when discarding them.

Edge Wear – The border/outside edges of a paper item has minor damage, typically causing the line of the edge to no longer be perfectly flat/straight. In many cases, depending on the degree of wear, this condition is barely noticeable.

Paper Loss – Some amount of the physical paper is missing, causing a hole or some amount of an edge to be missing.

Rippling – Typically caused by exposure to moisture of some sort, which has caused the paper to no longer lay perfectly flat.

Soiling – This is the appearance of dirt on the front surface of a paper item.

Staining – This is a physical stain from water or some other liquid.

Scuff – A mark on the front surface of a paper item, which does not break the paper surface. Typically caused by something brushing over the surface leaving some sort of residual marking.

Scratch – A mark on the front surface of a paper item, which may/does break the surface of the paper. Typically caused by something sharp running across the surface.

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