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Movie Memorabilia Collector

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Sometime this year it will happen. One movie will capture the attention of the public. People will be lining up to buy tickets and scooping up related items. Avatar did it in 2009 -- the film raked in $75.6 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend alone in the United States. In its first four months those numbers shot up to over $2.7 billion worldwide.

Memorabilia collectors keep old movies alive. They search out, collect, preserve and share posters, photographs, merchandise, scripts, props and background decorations.

Don Smith has been a collector since he was a kid. Now, he owns a business specializing in Marilyn Monroe items. "When I started collecting, it wasn't cool to collect Marilyn Monroe. I was a closet collector," he remembers.

How times have changed! Today, Smith sells his collectibles with pride and continually upgrades his knowledge of Monroe memorabilia. "If you have an interest, you're going to learn. And if you learn, you're going to teach others," he says.

Collectors may pursue clothing, wigs and masks worn in a film, or related cups or T-shirts. Furniture that once decorated movie sets now decorates the living rooms of some collectors. And smaller items, such as a cel -- a single frame of animated film -- can be just as valuable.

Carole Sampeck collects autographs. She started as a child -- her father was a prominent medical practitioner with well-known patients, like Charlie Pride. Sampeck thought she'd use her paternal connections to get some autographs. "When I grew up and actually had money, it went a little further than that!" laughs Sampeck.

One of the dangers of collecting, warns Sampeck, is phony merchandise and forged signatures.

Meanwhile, she's learned how to avoid getting duped. "We have to know exactly where it came from, exactly who signed it and when and how. Mostly we're doing contracts and signed checks because it's almost impossible to get stumped on those things."

Collecting memorabilia isn't limited to the big screen. Television shows can become hot commodities at trade shows.

And despite the rise of the Internet in selling movie-related merchandise, shows are still the place to go -- especially so collectors can get to do a hands-on inspection for authenticity.

Getting Started

According to George Weinpold, co-owner of a collectibles business, the best way to get started is to eat, breathe and sleep movies. Watch them, read about them and learn everything you can.

"You've got to really know what you're talking about. People who just do it for the money or because they have nothing better to do are probably going to sell out because their heart's not in it."

According to Weinpold, collecting seems to be a male-dominated hobby.

And he's got a theory as to why this is the case. "Men are collectors in general....The majority of women are thrower-outers. How many times have you gone through a guy's garage and he's got stuff from 12 years ago?"

Weinpold would love to figure out what kinds of collectibles women would go crazy about. "I would love to see more women in the hobby!"

Links to celebrity items and movie memorabilia

The Numbers
Find out which movies are lighting up the box office

The Internet Movie Database
Online database for movie, television and entertainment information

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