"Casablanca," that 1942 Warner Bros. classic, still induces wet eyes among its thousands of devotees. It's the ultimate nostalgia trip. Bogart, Bergman, Greenstreet, Lorre, Henreid, Rains--they made it a film legend.
Little wonder then that "Casablanca" advertising posters have brought a small fortune over the years. Those that were used inside or in front of a theater, known as lobby cards, were usually returned to the distributor. Billboard-size advertising posters are even harder to find and bring premium prices in the collectible market.
The recent auction sale of a rare, full-color "Casablanca" poster nearly eclipsed a Guinness record for poster sales--$5,000, just $400 off the record price.
The sale, by Collectors Showcase (7014 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood) from its November catalogue, was made to a Boston salesman.
"I collect old, nostalgic things," said the Boston resident, who, in a telephone interview, asked that his name not be used. " 'Casablanca' is one of my all-time favorite posters. I'm not going to sell it. I'm just going to enjoy it and keep it for my estate. I'll frame it and put it in my family room."
Well, he better have a big family room, because the billboard-size poster, perhaps one of only a handful in existence, measures 80 by 78 inches. And it's in mint condition.
"We bought (the poster) as part of a collection" that hadn't changed hands in 40 years, said Malcolm Willits, owner of Collectors Showcase. He added that the private collection also contained a set of eight "Casablanca" theater lobby cards, a smaller "Casablanca" poster and about 33,000 unrelated film stills.
Willits reports that the smaller poster, 27 by 41 inches, was sold for $3,500 to a Westwood dealer, who then turned around and sold it for $5,000. And the lobby-card set was sold to a Vancouver collector for $3,500.
"So I made $12,000 (just) off of 'Casablanca' " posters in the estate, he said, while paying $12,500 for the entire estate.
Willits said he wasn't terribly surprised by the high-dollar sales.
" 'Casablanca' has a mystique about it," he said. "A fatalistic, existential view of life. There was something about this crazy movie that came together. It was a different type of movie, a nostalgia trip. It just fit the times."
A certificate of authenticity will be issued with the poster, which has been examined to make sure it is not a reproduction.
For poster collectors, the Guinness record was set in 1980 when a San Francisco collector bought at auction a poster of Walt Disney's "Alice in the Jungle" (produced in 1925) for $5,400. Willits noted that the production cost of this early Disney film was only $1,900.
"This was the only case in which the movie poster sold for more than the cost of the movie," he said.
Topps Baseball Cards, the Complete Picture Collection: A 35 Year History, 1951-1985 (Warner Books: $79.95). This elaborately produced coffeetable-size work by Frank Slocum, features an introduction and card history by Sy Berger and a foreword by Willie Mays. The book weighs more than nine pounds and contains full-color reproductions of every baseball card--about 21,000--issued by Topps Chewing Gum Inc. from 1951 through this year.
Ronald L. Soble cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to questions of general interest about collectibles. Do not telephone. Write to Your Collectibles, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.