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Did you know... that there are "minty white" reproductions of inserts, lobby cards (and other sizes) that you should watch out for? (Part I)

Return to Did You Know Archive
Added: 05/19/2014

We released the below information regarding "minty white" reproductions many years ago in our weekly e-mail club (the first mention of them was in club message #186 when we told of the many "minty white" inserts that were flooding the hobby).
     Some of you have been members here all those years and are aware of these from reading about them here, and others of you have learned of them through one of the online poster forums or through collector friends. But there are surely many other collectors who do NOT know about these, and we want to make sure all of you new collectors are aware of this too! Below is our original "press release", EXACTLY WHAT I WROTE MANY YEARS AGO IN CLUB MESSAGE #186 (and please know that at this time, there were several major sellers selling tons of these through eBay, and they INSISTED they were genuine):
     "Over the past couple of years there has been a great controversy in our hobby over certain insert posters that were constantly being offered on eBay (titles like The Godfather and Blade Runner). The inserts were always mint, and the sellers who offered them almost always re-offered the same titles over and over. After a year or more of constant selling of the same 20 or so titles, the prices on those titles had plummeted, even though many of the titles are very desirable.
     At the time all this was first going on, I had little to do with it, primarily because at that time I sold very very few post-1970 items. But I heard rumblings through the hobby that these inserts were reproductions, and that they had originated from upstate New York. About a year ago, there was a big discussion about these inserts on the Internet discussion group MoPo, and some dealers came to the defense of these inserts, saying that there had been a "warehouse" find, but that the posters were 100% legitimate. There was lots of back-and-forth e-mails (some of it quite heated), but there was no "meeting of the minds". Those dealers who felt they were real were unconvinced, and felt there might well have been a warehouse find.
     In addition to the controversy over the inserts, there also has been much discussion about many other posters that seem to have been copies, including several Star Wars posters and a Pulp Fiction poster. In the past couple of months, two very courageous Canadian collector/dealers have kept bringing the "repros being sold as original" subject issue back up on MoPo, refusing to let it die. They did not do this for personal gain, but rather because it angered them that this selling of repros as originals was causing many collectors to be cheated out of lots of money.
     One of them, Bob, sent many e-mails to MoPo giving his reasons why he felt SURE these various posters were repros, and the other, Dan, started a website where he tried to warn collectors about the many reprints being sold as originals.
     A couple of months ago, something happened to bring me into this discussion. A collector sent me 8 different titles of the disputed inserts to auction for him (he had purchased them one by one from eBay from one of the dealers in question). As soon as I saw them, I knew they were odd. But I couldn't say for 100% they were bogus, just that they were troubling.
     But fortunately for everyone in the hobby, a separate collector had months before consigned around 1000 posters he had gotten from a friend who worked for NSS in the 1970s and 1980s, and that collection included 30 x 40s, 40 x 60s, half-sheets, one-sheets, and some inserts. Incidentally, that collection was just like every other warehouse find I have ever seen. There were good titles and bad, and around 80% were bad titles (anyone want both the A & B style 30x40s of "Slow Dancing in the Big City"?) Maybe 5% to 10% were good titles. (In the disputed inserts warehouse find, 90% of the titles were good, and that alone tells me it is very very doubtful, since over the years I have been in on a huge number of such finds and it is rare that as many as 10% of the items in any "find" are from good titles).
     The collector with the "straight from NSS" stuff had a Blade Runner insert and a Godfather insert, along with many other lesser titles. I took them out and laid them side by side with the disputed inserts of Blade Runner and The Godfather that had been sent to me.
     The comparison was striking! There are three things one looks for when comparing printed items; printing clarity, color matching, and paper matching. Here is what I saw looking side by side:
Printing clarity: The Godfather looked extremely similar, no doubt because it is only one color, and easier to reproduce. The Blade Runner was clearly slightly fuzzy, especially in the credits at bottom. Result Inconclusive.
Color matching: The Godfather appeared to be a perfect match, but it is a black and white poster and how hard is it to match black? The Blade Runner had very slightly different coloration, like someone tried to match the color but couldn't get a perfect match, but who really knows if the originals didn't have several print runs? Result Inconclusive.
Paper Matching: The NSS copies looked like every other inserts I have ever seen from this time period. The suspect inserts were on a different kind of paper (and both were on exactly the same paper!). The paper is slightly different looking so that it appears to be a different shade of white. It is really striking when you compare them side by side (although I don't know if it would show well on a digital image). But the giant difference is in the coating!
     The NSS inserts have a glossy surface on the front, and a much duller finish on the back (just like every other insert I have ever seen from that period). The suspect inserts have a greater gloss on the front, and a similar gloss on the reverse (and I have never seen any insert that has a glossy finish on the back). THIS DIFFERENCE IS SOMETHING MUCH MORE "FELT" THAN SEEN.
     So it wouldn't do much good to put digital images on a website, which is why I didn't do so. But I had one of my employees feel both inserts, and he felt the difference was striking. I don't think anyone could not tell them apart, and they wouldn't have to look at the fronts of either poster!
     Result: Proof in my mind that these are fakes. The paper used is of a kind never used on any other inserts I am aware of, other than these exact disputed titles, which are from different studios and years, so presumably would have been printed at different times.
     Once I had been able to make this side-by-side comparison, I felt I had a "smoking gun" that needed to be presented to this club, MoPo, and the readers of Movie Collectors World.
     So I posted most of the above information to MoPo, and added the following (I am paraphrasing what I wrote, but the meaning is unaltered):
     Those of you who defend these inserts are those who either own bunches of them and/or those who have sold bunches of them. Obviously, you have a huge stake in their being at least questionable. If they are declared fake, then you will both lose on the ones you currently own, but more importantly you will potentially face an angry mob of collectors (no doubt with torches) demanding their money back. I imagine that nothing I (or anyone else) can say will change THOSE dealers' minds, so I am addressing this to everyone else in the hobby.
     First. I ask anyone to find me even ONE insert from any non-disputed title that is on the kind of paper stock that is described above. Second, don't blur this debate into saying that all inserts from this time period are suspect or that all inserts of these titles are suspect. Let me make this perfectly clear! I AM SAYING THAT THE ONLY SUSPECT INSERTS ARE THOSE WHICH APPARENTLY ORIGINATED FROM ONE SPECIFIC REGION (BUT ARE NOW LIKELY SPREAD ALL OVER THE GLOBE).
     It is vital that all of you remember that there are many many authentic copies of these inserts. I am 100% sure that many dealers have inserts that are the real deal (even if they have some of the disputed titles) because many of these guys bought their inserts many years ago, before the fakes were created (which is why I am 100% sure they are real).
     But there are other dealers who I would bet have lots of fakes. If they bought them in the last few years from someone who only sold them the disputed titles, I would bet anything they are fakes. I firmly believe that once you have read what I wrote above, you yourself will be able to know for yourself if you have originals or repros (except for those who own tons of them; "there are none so blind as those who will not see").
     Third, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO GAIN BY THIS. Those who own tons of these (and those who reprinted them in the first place) clearly have much to gain by keeping the possibility alive they are real. But I only gain their anger, so does this not show I must passionately believe in what I am saying? And it is not just me. Dan and Bob (the two Canadian collector/dealers referred to above) have repeatedly brought this issue up, and it almost surely hurts their ability to sell posters. Greg Ferland (trydnt on eBay), who is one of the most major of poster dealers and all-around nice guy, felt a need to post to MoPo that he absolutely believes these to be fakes). Joe Burtis, manager of the MPA Gallery, one of the people in this hobby who probably knows more about posters than I do, says he is sure they are fakes. WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE SO SURE OF THEMSELVES AND WILLING TO GO ON THE RECORD?
     Finally, it is important to realize that these fake inserts do not (and will not) "kill" the prices of the real ones. This is because they can be relatively easily distinguished from the originals, once you know how. Of course this won't stop novice collectors from getting cheated, which is why we all need to expose these fakes (just as Dan's fine site will not keep every new collector from buying the many other fake posters currently circulating). I have sold several ORIGINAL inserts of these titles in the past year and I have gotten good (pre-fake) prices for them.
     Of course, people know I must be selling the originals, which might not be the same for someone off the street, but it shows that the prices will be what they should be once these fakes are exposed. I also just last week auctioned 300 inserts and 300 half-sheets and prices were pretty much "through the roof". The problem is solely with the fake repro inserts, which need to be exposed, by getting the word out to every collector, and you can do your part by spreading the word!"

NOW NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE ABOVE WAS QUITE CONTROVERSIAL AT THE TIME, MOSTLY BECAUSE THOSE WHO HAD MADE FORTUNES SELLING THESE REFUSED TO ACCEPT THEY WERE FAKE! Nearly a full year later, there were still discussions about whether these were fake or not (and there were still tons of them being sold as originals on eBay), so I held a poll in this club (in message #357 asking members if they thought they were real, fakes, or "re-strikes", and here were the results:
     I believe the "minty white" inserts are genuine posters that were printed at the time of release. 4 votes
     I believe the "minty white" inserts are re-strike posters that were printed at the time of release. 2 votes
     I believe the "minty white" inserts are re-strike posters that were printed after the time of release. 22 votes
     I believe the "minty white" inserts are reproductions that were printed long after the time of release. 82 votes
     I believe there is not enough evidence to make an absolute decision on these either way. 20 votes

Certainly, that was a substantial majority who believed the minty white inserts to be fake, and along with the results of the above poll I also gave my current views on why these were surely fakes (re-telling and expanding on the above story, and adding much more I had learned over that previous year) as follows:
     "I first heard of these posters somewhere in the late 1990s. A very prominent dealer (a longtime friend) called me to warn me that two dealers from the same city had approached him about buying a "warehouse" find of inserts. He told me that they told him they had several hundred of each, with exact varying quantities of each, like 246 of one, and 371 of another, exactly the kind of numbers you would expect from a real "find" of this sort. But he also told me that the "find" seemed to consist ONLY of mostly all top titles, which at first got him excited, but, after reflection, it bothered him, for he knew (as I do) that "warehouse" finds virtually always consist of "the good, the bad, and the ugly" and, if anything, they usually have far MORE lesser or lousy titles, partially because these were the ones that were in the least demand and partially because, if any knowledgeable person had ever gone through them, they would likely have removed those titles. He also stated that he was bothered by WHO the people were who approached him, because he knew them to be "ethically challenged".
     But he went ahead and met with them, hoping against hope that somehow this WAS a wonderful "find", but he felt convinced otherwise the moment he saw them, for he is someone who had handled tens of thousands of posters, and these were clearly "too new" and somehow "not right", and so he "passed" on buying them, doing so as diplomatically as possible. His purpose in calling me was to warn me about them, and possibly save me some time and money if they would contact me and I might either go see them, or worse yet buy them. I clearly remember him telling me that they were "not right", and kind of "fuzzy and blurry" and also I remember him saying the paper was all wrong.
     Now at this time I was primarily selling pre-1970 posters and lobby cards (both in my auctions and sales lists), and so this topic seemed only marginally interesting to my business (at that time there were also fakes of one-sheets starting to turn up, and I was very glad that I did not sell what I then referred to as "newer" posters!). But a short time later I began selling on eBay, and I quickly saw that several dealers had endless supplies of the very same insert titles my friend had warned me about. I called him up and he told me that, at the same time he was offered the "find", other major dealers he knew well had also been contacted buy the same individuals, and that, interestingly, the quantities they were offered varied quite a bit, as though there truly was an endless supply, and that the numbers seemed to be just made up to make the story "look good".
     My best guess of what happened is this. Those two dealers printed up repros of the inserts in question, and then tried to sell large quantities of each to many major dealers, and make a quick "score" (the most important thing to remember is that the bulk of color printing costs occurs during "set-up"; it costs little more to make 5,000 of each repro as it does 500 of each, so it is EXTREMELY likely LOTS of each were printed). They may well have misjudged the size of the collecting community and the naivete of the major dealers in being able to spot repros (or their willingness to participate in major fraud), and they likely THOUGHT they could quickly "wholesale" out thousands of each and be done with them, having made a substantial profit.
     But it seems that very few (if any) major dealers were willing to buy any of these. It seems likely that at this point, the people who created them went to several individuals who had acquired the remnants of a poster exchange, and TRADED them huge quantities of the "minty white" inserts for huge quantities of lesser posters these fellows had sitting in storage, items which had barely sold in decades.
    I am sure that if this occurred (and circumstantial evidence seems clearly to say it likely did) then it seemed at the time like a giant "win-win" for both sides. The makers of the repros got rid of lots of them, and acquired lots of lesser titles that could then be mixed into their inventory, giving the image that they themselves had the remnants of an exchange, thus further giving credibility to the possible legitimacy of the "minty white" inserts. Those who traded for the  "minty white" inserts got rid of pretty dead inventory, and got titles that were in super-high demand.
     Then eBay came along in full swing (I can't remember if the  "minty white" inserts showed up right before eBay took off or right after, but either the  "minty white" inserts were created to take advantage of the huge eBay demand or they were created first, and the eBay coming along was just wonderful good fortune. But suddenly all of these dealers (the ones who created the  "minty whites" and the ones who traded for them) suddenly had a HUGE new market both for the  "minty whites" AND for the pretty dead inventory that all of these dealers now had, and the new eBay buyers were EXTREMELY unsophisticated and they paid top dollar for just about everything.
     Suddenly, just about all of the "minty whites" were on eBay every day, often several of each, and they often went for super-high prices. At this time I was becoming the foremost eBay seller, and it wasn't long before the first of these were consigned to me. They jumped out at me as being "not right", just as they had to my longtime dealer friend who had first alerted me to them.
     Exactly what was wrong with them? Most noticeably, the paper stock was clearly different from that of any other insert I had ever seen. It seemed to be around the right weight as other inserts, but the paper was "whiter than white" (which means it is a brighter white than regular insert paper, even mint ones), and the stock was glossy on the front (with a similar amount of gloss to that of genuine inserts from the same period), but the paper had the SAME degree of glossiness on the back, something that was never true for genuine inserts of this period (genuine inserts from this period have a somewhat flat finish on the back, with only a small degree of glossiness). THIS DIFFERENCE IS SO SIGNIFICANT THAT I CAN TELL A "MINTY WHITE" FROM A GENUINE INSERT IN TOTAL DARKNESS, JUST BY FEELING BOTH SIDES OF THE POSTER WITH MY FINGERS!
     There are other differences as well. All of them have a varying amount of "fuzziness" or "blurring" to the printing. It is something you can't easily describe in words, because your eyes pick it up subliminally. This is best seen when you look at a genuine insert and a "minty white" of the same title side by side (and some people, usually those with a printing background, are far better than seeing this than others). There is also a problem with some of the "minty whites" where the art is slightly cropped as opposed to known originals.
     To me, the fact that they are on a different paper from that of ANY known originals says that there is no chance these were created by any printer who printed for the studios, for why, for this one time, would they turn to a different type of paper? And the fuzziness" or "blurring" to the printing, plus the different tighter cropping eliminates ANY chance of these being any sort of "re-strikes", for this is EXACTLY what would happen if you reproduced them off of known originals, and this NEVER would happen if you had the original printing plates (authorized or not).
     Then why do some people have trouble accepting what seems so painfully obvious to me? First, I have had 35 years of printing experience, having printed 43 movie poster books, 12 exact comic book reproductions (authorized of course!) and lots of fan publications and sales catalogs, printing on all sorts of paper stocks, from the cheapest pulp paper to the very finest 100 pound paper. While most people can easily see major differences between paper quality and printing, MANY have trouble seeing subtle differences between quality of printing and paper weight (for example, most full-color books are printed in Hong Kong these days, and I personally can quickly tell if most art books were printed there, but many people can not).
     Another reason some people think we need to "keep an open mind" when it comes to the "minty whites" is because they have a vested interest in their being "real"! There are those who created them and those who traded for or bought them in large quantities, of course, and these people have the most at stake, for if they are established as being repros, they may well face criminal or civil prosecution. But there are also many others who either own some or many of these in their collection, or those who bought them and re-sold small numbers of them, and these people too very much want them to be "real" as well.
     The very same people who sell the "minty white" inserts also sell a "minty white" half-sheet to The Enforcer (1977, Clint Eastwood). Now I have recently had a chance to examine a known original side by side with a "minty white". First off, there are the paper differences, just like with the inserts. But there are MASSIVE printing differences too! On the known original, the windshield has several long fine cracks which run to the right side of the poster, past Eastwood's face. The left of the dashboard of the car has a fine grid of metal on the left that looks like chicken wire. On the "minty white" , the fine cracks in the windshield stop several inches before those of the original, and on the "minty white", the grid in the left of the dashboard is mostly just a black blur!
     Why are there these differences? Because the missing lines are very fine, and the original that was used to create the "minty white" had them, but the photographer that shot it did not use a fine enough image, and the printer did not use a fine enough "screen" during printing and so these fine details were lost. Of course, it would be great if ALL the "minty whites" had these differences, but many do not have such obvious "markers" (although all show some clear slight signs of these kinds of differences, and they all can be seen under magnification). But given that some of the "minty whites" have substantial differences, and given that all are printed on the same sort of paper, I think this is more than enough reason to accept that all are clearly repros that were reproduced from originals, and NOT from original printing plates. They are copies, and should have no more value than any other reproduction, like those from Portal Publications.
     What can be done about this? I really can't say exactly, but here are my thoughts. Some of those commenting on the poll asked why scientific methods could not be used to absolutely tell when these were created, but sadly science is not yet up to finding differences of just 20 years (regardless of what you see on CSI type shows!). So that is out. If the FBI were to get involved, they could likely quickly get to the bottom of this, for they could spend much time and money going to the possible printers, and it is VERY likely that there would be many of the people who were only slightly involved in this who would cooperate, rather than risk possible prosecution, so it might just take a short time for the full truth to come out,
     But this is very unlikely to happen, for most of these have sold for $25-$100 each, and I would say that any law enforcement agency would put this very low on their list of priorities (there have been many similar scandals in other collectibles fields, and the authorities rarely take the slightest action, other than telling those involved to stop). And I feel certain there is NO chance eBay will get involved, for they would want to see some sort of "smoking gun" proof, which does not exist as of yet.
     So what can be done? I would say the best course for now is for everyone to spread the word about these as much as possible, so that fewer and fewer collectors get tricked into buying them (I give everyone reading this the permission to quote it on any newsgroup or website, AS LONG AS IT IS QUOTED IN FULL, AND AS LONG AS IT IS CLEARLY CREDITED AS BEING FROM EMOVIEPOSTER.COM). Certainly this will help a lot to spread the word, and one would hope that, eventually, as those who sell these reproductions as originals are stigmatized, at least some of them will stop selling them, for any profits they make from continuing to do so is likely more than outweighed by the fewer number of sales of legitimate posters, and the lower prices they get for  legitimate posters at auction. Once there are just a couple of people left selling them, they will become less and less of a problem.
    I WISH that the sellers of the "minty whites" would realize that these are hurting their business, and that continuing to sell them opens them up to more and more potential legal liability (it is going to be harder and harder to use a "I didn't know they were repros" defense as more and more time goes by). I wish they would just trash (or put away) their remaining "minty whites" (or sell them as likely repros), and then they could "clean up their act" and over time completely rehabilitate themselves in the collecting world (they can say they didn't know they were repros and that once they found out they stopped selling them; they can boast of how much they lost, using a "we're a victim too" defense!).
    But sadly, there are lots of signs that they are going in exactly the opposite direction! They have suddenly made "warehouse finds" of many popular 1970s and 1980s lobby card titles (complete sets) and they have learned the wrong lesson from the  "minty white" insert episode. These lobby cards repros are on a much better paper stock than the inserts, and are not nearly as easy to tell from known originals (but once again, these were reproduced from originals and not from original printing plates, so there are subtle differences, but you need some education or time in the hobby to see them.
    So please, everyone do your part and spread the word of what is written here. If this is not stopped (at least to some degree), then our entire hobby will be much the worse for it. If you own any of these "minty whites", please DON'T sell them as originals (but don't throw them away either; but rather sell them as repros, and if you were sold them as originals, say so when you list them, and that would do LOTS towards spreading the word! If we all work together, we can do as I outlined above and get every collector the knowledge they need to avoid buying these, and we can also ostracize the dealers who continue to sell them, so that hopefully they will see the wisdom of stopping!

I WISH that the above was "the end of the story", but amazingly those who made the "minty white inserts" followed up a while later with "minty white lobby card sets"! I will report on them in full in Part II of this article next week!

See Also:
Did you know... that there are "minty white" reproductions of inserts, lobby cards (and other sizes) that you should watch out for (Part II of II)

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