Machine Of Desire: Metropolis And The $1.2 Million Movie Memorabilia Auction

As reported on Friday by the Hollywood Reporter, an original Metropolis 3-Sheet — one of 4 known copies of this particular poster for the ground-breaking Fritz Lang film,  and considered one of the most desirable and important movie posters in the world — just sold along with a group of other vintage movie memorabilia for $1.2 Million at a bankruptcy auction.

Bleeding Cool first told you about this specific poster — and what makes it so desirable and valuable — back in March 2012. Vintage collectibles expert Sean Linkenback of the Movie Poster Exchange told us then that four copies are known to exist – one is in the Museum of Modern Art, one is in the Austrian National Library Museum, another is rumored to be owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, and then there’s the one shown here:

It was designed by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm and used only for the 3-sheet (both the German and International version). The International version does not have the German credits printed on the poster. The copy in the Austrian National Library Museum is a “credits” version, and I guess the argument could be made it might even be more valuable than this, but since the museum isn’t selling we will likely never know.

Most countries created their own posters for the film and were not forced by UFA to use the German designs. There is an excellent site here that shows many of these designs. Interestingly there isn’t even a US one-sheet known on this film. There is a half sheet and an insert and several lobbies, but I don’t even think a complete set of the lobbies exist.

Subsequent to the March 5 BC post, the 3-sheet got caught up in a bankruptcy filing involving the man who owned it at that time (a filing unrelated to Linkenback or his company), and ultimately resulting in the December 13 $1.2 million bankruptcy auction.

I asked Linkenback to give us his assessment of the sale:

9 pieces sold in the Bankruptcy auction today for 1.2 million (Metropolis 3-sheet, King Kong 3-sheet, Invisible Man advance 1-sheet, Beauty & the Beast French poster, Jailhouse Rock painting, Charles Addams painting, Unholy 3 window card, Arsenic & Old Lace theatre poster, and a set of door panel posters from The Beatles’ Help!).

I think anyway you divide up the prices on the above items it was an excellent deal.

Heritage sold a lesser style King Kong 3-sheet for a record (for them) $388,000 just over a week ago and the general consensus is that the King Kong poster in this auction would be worth significantly more money (some estimates have said $500-600K), The Invisible Man teaser should be an easy sale in the low six figures ($100-125K) and one of the potential gems here is the original painting used for the Jailhouse Rock movie. It’s an iconic portrait of Elvis in his most popular role and with the way comic art and original art in general has exploded over the past couple of years the sky really is the limit on this piece. The Help set should retail around $15,000 (as well as the Addams painting), the Beauty and the Beast at least $5K and the last two pieces are “just” filler at $1,000 or so each.

So the price realized today wasn’t the low wholesale of the initial offer, but still a very healthy dealer offer with some room for profit and my understanding is that the purchaser has a buyer in mind for the Metropolis.

So congrats to collector Ralph DeLuca for what sounds like a very good deal at this auction.