James Bond is still a draw for collectors

James Bond Thunderball poster © Sotheby's

An astonishing collection of vintage film posters has just gone under the hammer. Chris Carter reports.

“My name’s Elba, Idris Elba.” That was the Bond-style tweet from the 45-year-old actor, the lead in crime drama Luther, who had been tipped to take over Martini-sipping duties from Daniel Craig after 2019, that got 007 fans in a tizz last Sunday. But never mind the Twitter chatter. Collectors of vintage Bond film posters will always prefer Sean Connery and Roger Moore to whichever Jimmy-come-lately happens to be playing the Bond of the moment. After all, which modern film poster could rival the original artwork of, say, 1965’s Thunderball, created by artists Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy?

Derek East is one such collector. When he retired from teaching maths in Basingstoke, the “brightly coloured world of hyperbole and dramatic cinematic taglines took over from his old school life”, says Vanessa Thorpe in The Observer. By the time of his death in 2011 at the age of 72, he had amassed “an astonishingly comprehensive collection of vintage film posters”.

It was this collection that went under the hammer at Surrey-based auction house Ewbanks at the start of the month. While the star of the sale was a Get Carter poster from 1971, which fetched £2,800 (not including the buyer’s premium), almost all 16 Bond posters in the 69-lot sale smashed their upper estimates.

A 1974 poster advertising The Man With The Golden Gun, for example, valued at up to £600, sold for £1,200; another from You Only Live Twice from 1967, valued at up to £1,200, made £1,800; but the top billing went to a rather plain-looking poster declaring “Sean Connery as James Bond 007”, which sold for £1,900 (the upper estimate had been £400). In fact, the only Bond poster to “disappoint” was a slightly tired poster from Thunderball, which fetched £1,800 – below its £2,500 upper estimate, yet comfortably above the £1,500 lower valuation.

Another copy of the Thunderball poster, in “very good condition”, forms part of Sotheby’s upcoming online sale of “Original Film Posters” on 28 August. This one is valued at between £4,000 and £6,000 – the highest valuation of all the Bond posters on sale (although the original artwork by Joseph Benari of Sean Connery clutching his pistol and space helmet for a French “advance” (ie, teaser) poster for You Only Live Twice is expected to fetch between £30,000 and £40,000).

Other Bond posters in the sale include an American poster of the first Bond film, Dr. No, valued at up to £2,400, Goldfinger (1964, £1,200-£1,800) and Casino Royale (1967, £800-£1,200). The posters, all of which are now on display at Sotheby’s in London, “play an important part in illustrating how Bond has changed since the release of Dr. No in 1962”, Nicolette Tomkinson, posters expert at Tomkinson Churcher Art Consultants, tells the auction house’s online magazine. “The unique combination of cultural significance and visual appeal gives the poster a special place in the eye of a collector.”

Stellar prices

The Sotheby’s sale (see left) isn’t all James Bond-related. Two different versions of Star Wars posters from 1977 – one bearing signatures by Harrison Ford, (who played Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and a secretarial signature of Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), by the actress’s mother, Debbie Reynolds – are valued at up to £6,000. A US version of a poster for Return of the Jedi (1983), the third film made in the original trilogy, is expected to fetch up to £2,600. Like the Bond posters, Sotheby’s may well be in for a pleasant surprise as Star Wars posters have set a couple of recent sales records.

First, at the end of June, a rare Cantonese version of the Star Wars poster, used to advertise the sci-fi film to cinemagoers in Hong Kong, fetched £10,455 at Prop Store’s Rare Film Poster & Original Artwork auction in London. Then, at the end of July at Heritage Auctions in Texas, a rare “concept” poster (ie, not the final version) of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Roger Kastel sold for $26,400 (£20,700) – a record price for a film poster sold at auction. The pre-sale estimate had been $10,000. All eyes will be on the Sotheby’s sale to see whether Star Wars retains its appeal.

Auctions

Going…

A Swiss-made open-face silver-on-brass watch © Heritage AuctionsA Swiss-made open-face silver-on-brass watch (pictured right), with the numerals written in Hebrew letters, is expected to sell for around $12,000 at Heritage Auctions in Texas on 25 August. The watch was recovered from the body of Sinai Kantor, a 34-year-old Russian immigrant, who had been heading to New York aboard the Titanic, when it sank in April 1912. The following May it was handed to his 24-year-old wife, Miriam, who had escaped aboard one of the lifeboats.

The back cover of the rusted and stained watch is embossed with a design showing Moses holding the Ten Commandments. “A piece that was aboard the ship and a documented history from the family makes this a bittersweet and really rare opportunity for collectors,” says Don Ackerman of Heritage Auctions.

Gone…

A watch containing the world’s oldest rum sold for £14,674 (including the buyer’s premium) at Fellows in Birmingham on 31 July. The Speake-Marin limited-edition gentleman’s titanium “Rum” watch had been given an estimate of £5,000-£7,000. It contains a capsule at the 11-hour mark containing 1780 Harewood Rum, certified by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest rum.