With over one hundred wonderful examples on our website, we thought it high time to give praise to the miniature hero of the poster collecting world – the lobby card. Now scarcely seen in cinemas, the lobby card has been a crucial cog in the movie publicity wheel since the nineteen teens. These days, these beautifully proportioned cards measuring a modest 11×14 inches, are a collectible slice of film history and a great place for a budding collector to begin his or her journey.
What is a lobby card?
As their name suggests, lobby cards were typically located in the lobby or foyer of a cinema. Their purpose was to highlight the key plot elements of a movie and showcase its stars via a series of freeze frames – akin to a modern-day movie trailer shown as carefully selected stills. Lobby cards were traditionally made in sets of 8 – featuring a title card, 6 or 7 scene cards, and in many of the older sets, a portrait card. The portrait card was a studio staged portrait photograph of the film’s leading stars – see Sunset Boulevard as a good example. Barbarella is a wonderful full set available on the website, also see Ghostbusters. Lady and the Tramp bucks the trend as a larger set of 9 – with 8 scene cards.
Are they still in use today?
The gallery cannot find any US lobby cards produced after 2012. It would appear that even lobby cards produced a few years before 2012 were only used in South America, as the ones that have surfaced are only from this location. British lobby cards are very thin on the ground, and the gallery has not come across any after 2007.
How do they fit into the collector’s market?
Lobby cards have unique aspects that movie posters do not, and as such, attract collectors that exclusively specialise in them. Firstly, their size – uniform and compact – makes their display incredibly easy and full of scope. We have known collectors create full galleries covering entire walls or sets carefully sequenced down the side of home cinema rooms. We have also commissioned bespoke albums made specially for the 11 x 14-inch size – and collectors can rotate their collection between album and display as they choose.
Secondly, unlike posters that often take a more artistic approach to the film, lobby cards always feature the stars themselves and are more closely illustrative of the film itself. In some cases, the poster may be a poor or unremarkable design, and collectors will then look to the lobby card for a more attractive option to collect on that title.
Describe the top end of the market?
The record for a title card is in excess of £40,000 for a Universal Horror card for Dracula (1931). The scene card for the same film sold for over £25,000 .
Signed cards can drastically lift the value too and their collectibility.
Tips for amateur collectors?
Their affordably and petit size make them a clever place to start collecting. You also have the added interest of deciding whether to go for full sets, or collect scene or title cards individually. The full sets often get split up because they are easier to sell. We recommend framing lobby cards with a mount – you will notice some of our selection is framed and unframed. The gallery can assist with all your framing needs.
Lobby cards also make exquisite gifts, as they are easy to wrap and transport – ideal for lovers of a particular title featuring the movie stars and the action in glorious technicolour.