There is perhaps no better way to show how much you love a great film than to find an original poster from that film’s theatrical release! However, many scammers would like to cash in on your loyal passion for the movie, so the question is: How to tell if my movie poster is original?

A movie poster can be considered original if it has maintained characteristics of the printing processes of its era, such as a GAU logo on posters from the United States created between the 1970s and the 80s. Additionally, if a poster does not have an NSS number or if it is larger or smaller than 27 inches by 40 inches, it may not be an original movie poster. 

In this article, we will provide an overview of the traits you should look for in an original movie poster, no matter how vintage the sellers claim it is.

We will also provide a list of the telltale signs of a movie poster sale scam and cap it all off with answers to your most frequently asked questions! Let’s get started.

How to Tell if a Movie Poster Is Original

There is nothing more disappointing than spending money on a cool vintage movie poster, perhaps by a significant amount, only to find out that you paid too much for a fake.

I mean, anyone can drive to Walgreens or Wal-Mart to print a bootleg.

In order to make sure you’re getting the real deal for your hard-earned cash, you’ll have an easier time memorizing the signs of an original movie poster. 

  1. Check For Pixels Under a Microscope – Some movie posters are so old, dating back to the 1930s, that they were printed using a lithographic process. This means that instead of pixels that are created digitally, the poster was made with a color layer that will look solid instead of broken up into tiny swatches under a microscope.
  2. Check the Dimensions – Movie posters are created in very exact dimensions when distributed to movie theaters. Most of these are, as previously mentioned, 27 inches by 40 inches. This helps the poster to fit with no seams or ripples into the professional-grade frames of theaters; reproductions usually aren’t as exact.
  3. Check the NSS Number – “NSS” stands for “National Screen Services.” Almost every movie poster from the 1980s, dating all the way back to the 1940s, was printed with these numbers. This only counts for movie posters distributed in the United States, though. The number typically resembles a fraction, such as “77/21-0.”
  4. Check For Signs of Age – An original poster will not look completely unmarred and unused. Posters that were created to be put up at a theater and are then resold usually display this through nail holes, marks of folding, and even some cracks. The older the movie poster allegedly is, the more it should show this, in general. 
  5. Check the Source – Whoever is selling you the poster and claiming it is an original should be a very trustworthy source. This will usually be a site that discloses its identity rather than remaining anonymous and will be invested in protecting its own business’ trustworthiness by sharing any damages to the poster up-front.

By following these steps, you can usually tell that a poster is completely original rather than a fake designed to lure passionate movie lovers and vintage collectors. I mean, it’s soooo easy to download almost any movie poster.

Obviously, if you are planning to spend major money on a poster, it makes sense to have a professional review your potential purchase. It’s definitely worth it!

Also, if you are collecting original Bull Durham movie posters, you will need to read this.

Signs of a Fake Original Poster

In general, it is always better to determine whether or not something is fake by memorizing the traits of the real thing.

It is always much easier to check off a list, like the one above, of things that prove a movie poster than it is to hunt for the thousands of telltale signs of a fake. 

That being said, sometimes it can give you peace of mind to check the list above, then check for a few signs of a fake original poster, too!

If you’d like to go above and beyond in making sure your movie poster is original, here are just a few of the most common clues that you may have a fake on your hands:

  • False Tears – Sometimes, posters, particularly fake movie posters from the 1980s, were copied using scanners that were efficiently designed to replicate every little detail from an original. Sometimes these worked too well; if an original had a tear in it, the fakes would be printed with a false tear, too! These can be quite small, so look carefully!
  • False Folded Lines – One of the same types of mistakes poster copiers will make is printing a false poster from a scan of an original, complete with lines that match the folding the original may have had. This can be hard to authenticate, but see if your poster actually folds easily along those lines or if they are false images!
  • Bright White Backs – If the back of your poster has an intensely white backside, chances are you have a fake. This is undoubtedly true if the quality of the image on the front side of the poster is faulty. The bright white is created by a gloss, which is just as noticeable on the back of the poster as it is on the front; just another telltale sign of a fake!

Frequently Asked Questions

Take a look at some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions below for more information!

How do you authenticate a poster?

If you’ve taken a look at the different signs of an authentic original movie poster above, such as a lack of pixels in older posters or the NSS number on the bottom corner, and still aren’t convinced that you have a tried and true poster, there is one other way to be sure. 

Try asking the seller to not only see images of the poster online but in person.

Scam artists will deny you this option if they are using stock images or files they downloaded from the internet, which includes the above-mentioned signs of authenticity, because they know that their fake poster doesn’t have those things.

But an honest seller will know their original poster is authentic. 

How do I know if my movie poster is worth money?

The first step to telling if your movie poster has a high resale value is determining whether or not it is an authentic poster printed by the marketing officials when the movie was released.

The second step is seeing whether or not the poster came from the original release or a re-release later on in the film’s commercial peak. 

Then, see how much films with similar leading actors and actresses from the same era of film history are selling for and offer a competitive price yourself. 

What is the difference between an original and a reprint poster?

An original poster is one that promotes the original event or location on the poster, with a specific time or place, while any other style of poster is considered a “reprint.”

James Bond Poster

In Conclusion

To sum it all up, you can tell whether or not your movie poster is an original by looking for an NSS number, making sure the dimensions of the poster are correct, and searching for signs of a fake.

These include printed reproductions of actual tears or folding lines. The more original and authentic a movie poster is, the greater its value! Check out the 10 Most Desirable Movie Posters to Have in Your Collection!

Did you know there are ways to get movie posters for free? Check this out.