This article appeared in an earlier form in issue #26 of The Star Wars Collector.

Factors Hildebrandt

The very first Star Wars item I ever owned was a poster. In 1978 my Dad had come across a somewhat torn Hildebrandt Factors poster at a flea market and picked it up for his son who was caught up in "this Star Wars thing". Having that poster pinned up on my wall is one of the most potently nostalgic memories I have of my childhood. Strangely enough in the year that Kenner was finally releasing the first in a long line of toys, I had no interest in them. I was nine then, and I LOVED Star Wars, but the toys were not the thing for me. Instead, that Christmas I asked for the Kenner Star Wars movie viewer and the soundtrack album. As an adult looking back it becomes apparent that access to Star Wars in my imagination was reached through sight and sound rather than interaction with toys. I suppose it was for these reasons that my Star Wars collecting experience has always focused on the posters and music, since for me these were the next best things to the films themselves. Satisfying the music side was easy--I bought the three albums. Satisfying the visual, on the other hand, has taken the better part of twenty years of collecting with no end in sight. There is something so incredibly evocative in the artistic imagery the Trilogy has produced, be it in the formal renderings of the release posters or in the often campy art of many of its mass-market pin-ups. What makes Star Wars poster collecting so exciting is the vast array of imagery that is available to the collector, as well as the enormous potential to discover a long lost piece of art.

There are several categories of Star Wars posters, including film release, foreign, advertising, commercial, premium, and commemorative posters. Collecting these requires a knowledge of detecting fakes, and a feel for determining when condition is important and when it can be somewhat overlooked. Finally, one must know how to properly store or display them so that they may retain their beauty for years to come.

Theatrical Release Posters Are Popular With Collectors

Star Wars Style A

The first and most commonly sought after Star Wars Trilogy posters are the release, or theater lobby posters. These are printed by the National Screen Service (N.S.S.) and distributed in a number of sizes: insert (14x36), half-sheet (22x28), one-sheet (27x41), windowbox (30x40), and two-sheet (40x60). Also printed by N.S.S but distributed for marquee and billboard display are the three-sheet (41x81), six-sheet (81x81), and various larger sizes. All theater lobby release posters are printed on heavy cardstock paper with the exception of the one-sheet, which is printed in greater quantity and so requires a less costly, thinner stock. The only exception to this among Star Wars posters is a final printing of the style A poster (PO0015), which adopted the heavy cardstock paper. Marquee and billboard posters are always printed on a duller paper stock and come folded in two or more separate sheets. Poster "styles", or versions, simply designate different poster artwork in a poster ad campaign. They are often labeled alphabetically according to order of distribution: Style A, B, C, D, and so on.

Star Wars Style A Half-Sheet

Of special interest to collectors is the fact that not all poster styles are printed in every format. For example, the domestic Star Wars style C (PO0030) was printed only in one-sheet form while the style D was only available in one-sheet (PO0040), windowbox (PO0041), and two-sheet (PO0042) format. And most importantly, the Star Wars style A half-sheet (PO0017) used a totally unique piece of art specifically designed for its horizontal format. Because of so many variations in artwork and format, the collector has a choice in determining which would suit his or her aesthetic tastes best. For example, I personally feel the Star Wars style D artwork is the boldest and most dramatic of the entire Trilogy, and so I have sought out the large 40x60 to represent it in my collection. On the other hand, the Return of the Jedi style A, with the raised hands and lightsaber, becomes slightly less mundane when slimmed down to the 14x36 insert format (PO0221). Of course, the completist will need to get every format for every style, although displaying them all would be out of the question.

Look for Foreign Release Posters with Unique Imagery

Polish Darth Vader

Foreign release posters are a welcome expansion of the universe of Star Wars artwork and are often lavishly composed for eye-grabbing appeal. Most foreign release posters are folded and printed on a thinner, duller paper stock and their image quality is often subordinate to that of their American counterparts. Also, they are printed in a huge variety of sizes, as each country has its own unique formatting standards. This can be frustrating when it comes to collecting the posters of Italy and France, both of which often employ wonderfully unique artwork but are printed either too large to conveniently display or too small to fully appreciate. For example, the only poster exhibiting the cartoon-like Papuzza art is an awkwardly large 39x55 print from Italy (PO2482). But the thrill of adding an incredible Polish Jedi (PO4525 and PO4526) or a gorgeous Austalian Empire Strikes Back poster (PO1323) to one's collection far outweighs any frustrations collecting foreign posters might create.

Condition is an important factor in purchasing release posters, especially when it comes to the domestics. Some latitude is granted the collector in the condition of the white border areas, where pin holes and tape marks are common, but the image area must be intact. There should be no tears, creases (other than factory folds), scuffs, foxing (mildew stains), water stains, or serious kinks within the image area. Above all do not buy posters which have been trimmed or dry-mounted to a backing board unless the investment nature of the poster is irrelevant. There is only one form of mounting which is acceptable, and this will be discussed at a later point in the article.

Advertising Posters Are Varied, Scarce and Interesting

Duel at the Death Star.

I personally find that posters printed to advertise various Star Wars products and promotions are the most exciting to collect. There were so many of these printed and so few of them saved that making a new discovery is almost guaranteed if one looks hard enough. For example, a couple of months ago I stumbled upon a very early, very scarce, toy store poster for the Fundimensions Duel at the Death Star Racing Set (poster unlisted). What makes the piece appealing beyond its rarity is that the artwork on the poster is different than the box art. It is truly a red letter day in collecting when an unknown piece of Star Wars artwork can be experienced for the first time in twenty years. Although most advertising posters like this are tough to find, they are usually pretty affordable since there is, for the most part, no guide to price them by. Also, condition is not as important a consideration when it comes to these as their scarcity foregoes the need to be overly critical. Any ad poster, especially an older one, which is not so damaged that eye-appeal is compromised, should be considered acceptable. Only those which are perhaps severely torn or suffering from major water damage should be passed over.

Mass Market Posters Make for Great Nostalgia

Factors Cantina

Commercial mass-market posters seem to evoke the most nostalgia among collectors. It seems that everyone who experienced the films during their initial run can remember pinning up a poster of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, or that Star Wars Hildebrandt that first opened my senses to the wonders of great illustrative art. It is notable that Han Solo did not enjoy the status of pop-culture pin-up even though he was recently voted the Trilogy's most popular character. He did, however, make an appearance or two in the run of Official Star Wars Poster Monthly magazines, which ran eighteen issues from the first film (PT3001-18), five from Empire (PT3031-5), and four from Jedi (PT3071-4). These all came folded and are today collected more for their articles than for the posters themselves. Factors Inc. was responsible for printing all mass-market posters for Star Wars and Empire while Sales Corp. of America slipped in to handle the Jedi line.

Star Wars Fanclub

It must be admitted that most of these posters are a bit hokey in an amusing sort of way, except for three that seem to transcend the "pin-up" function for which they were designed: The Factors McQuarrie-illustrated fan club poster (PO5065) from 1978 conveys the intensity of the Death Star trench battle with a superbly unexpected composition; the Selby print for the elusive Factors cantina poster (PO5059) is a wonderful testament to the color and otherworldliness of that locale; and finally, the Factors Boba Fett poster is...well, it's a BOBA FETT poster...need more be said?! Condition varies greatly on these posters since many were actually pinned or taped up (imagine!), while others have spent many lonely years locked away in warehouse stashes only to be recently discovered. These posters should always be found rolled (except for those from the poster magazines) as they were all originally sold this way. In the case of the posters that result from warehouse finds, many have been tightly rolled for so long that a bit of warping is unavoidable. Again, the same rule applies here as for ad posters: If eye-appeal is not compromised, it is an acceptable poster. Most can still be purchased for under $20 except for a couple of the more elusive styles.

Premium Posters Offer a Number of Choices

Burger Chef Chewbacca

Premium posters are those which are awarded as an incentive to buy a related product. Typically, these are distinguished by rather pedestrian art, as is the case with the set of three Star Wars posters (PO5085-7) put out by Proctor and Gamble as part of a Cheer/Dawn promotion in 1978. Another example is the Oral-B Luke/Vader battle (PO5646), which is truly unimaginative in terms of style and composition. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. One of my personal favorite sets is the foursome designed for the Burger Chef/King chain in 1977 (PO5026-9). These employ beautiful color schemes which compliment the set as a whole when viewed together and possess a sense of style and integrity rare to such "give-away" items. The same company put out another wonderful set of three for Empire (PO5235-7) with artwork done by noted fantasy artist Boris, who was also responsible for a theater lobby premium poster for Coca-Cola (PO5230).

Japanese Yamakatsu

Finally, there is the gorgeous Yamakatsu Jedi poster (PO2869) of the droids under an orange-red nova sky, which was designed by Japanese artist Noriyoshi Ohrai (my favorite trilogy artist next to Struzan), and which most likely was a premium connected to that company's trading card business. Most of these posters are still widely available for some reason (except for the Yamakatsu) and can be found in excellent condition. Because of this the collector should not settle for those examples which are in poor condition since it is likely another will become available to him at a later date.


Commemorative Posters: Attractive but Contrived

Star Wars 10th Anniversary

Finally there are a handful of anniverary or commemorative posters, which have been solicited to a predominantly high-end market since 1987, the date which marked the tenth anniversary of the release of Star Wars. The decision to collect this type of poster can be a difficult one. First, commemorative posters typically will exhibit fantastic art, as do those produced by John Alvin (PO5940) and Drew Struzan (PO5948) for the Star Wars tenth anniversary. What's more, these pieces occasionally have been made available with the artist's signature, a special bonus in the case of the Struzan piece and the fifteenth anniversary reprint of the Hildebrandts' classic Star Wars painting (PO5950). But high prices typically make these posters prohibitive to many, especially when one considers that the money spent on them could often have bought an original vintage poster. Personally, I feel that shelling out that kind of money for what is essentially a contrived collectors piece requires that the artwork of the poster be very eye-appealing and preferrably executed by an artist originally associated with the trilogy, such as Alvin (concert poster PO5040), Struzan (SW "D" PO0040 and Revenge PO0210), the Hildebrandt brothers (Spanish release PO4752), or McQuarrie (contributions innumerable). Signatures on these artists' commemorative pieces seem more meaningful because of their past associations with the films.

ESB Commemorative Mylar

Though I own a few of the anniversary mylar posters, I find them to have limited aesthetic appeal. These mylars are an obvious attempt to emulate the prestige garnered by the classic Star Wars advance mylar (PO0010), a poster which has achieved its coveted status because of its significance within the Star Wars campaign timeline, not because of the material it was printed on. It goes without saying that if one does choose to invest in a commemorative mylar, condition is of the utmost importance. After all, spending a lot of money for a relatively recent piece requires that the consumer be critically demanding. For the handful of posters made available recently by artists like Dave Dorman and the like, my advice is to buy it if you like it and if the price is right. However, because these are "collector" editions printed twenty years after the original release of the films, any value retained will be based soley on the artistic merit of the work. There is no sigificance in terms of nostalgic value for these pieces.

Be Mindful of Forgeries

Revenge Advance

As a poster collector one must come to terms with the fact that there are fakes out there. Some are legitimate reproductions and some are not. The Star Wars style D (PO0040), Empire style A (PO0120), Star Wars Concert (PO5040), and British triple-bill (PO1964) posters have all been legitimately reprinted and each should have a recent copyright date on it. However, the Star Wars teaser B (PO0012), Star Wars style A (PO0014), Star Wars style C (PO0030), and Revenge of the Jedi (PO0210) posters have all been extensively bootlegged. The consequence of these fakes being dumped on the market has been the artificial dampening of the value of authentic examples. An excellent review of how to detect Star Wars poster forgeries was written by Chris Gove and published in Star Wars Galaxy Collector #5, a necessary read for the fledgling poster collector. When buying any of the forementioned "at risk" posters a return guarantee from the seller is an absolute essential.

Preservation is Key for Long Term Enjoyment


For conservation and care in both storage and display a few rules are in order. It is best to store posters flat rather than rolled or folded. This prevents warping in the rolled posters and weakening folds in, well, folded ones. Posters are best kept away from extreme heat and moisture and in the best of circumstances should be stored in acid-free mylar sleeves. However, the cost of these sleeves is quite high and they can only be bought in quantity. The alternative approach is to use polyethylene plastic sleeves, which are tailored to fit a wide variety of poster sizes, extending all the way up to Windowbox size (30x40), with larger custom sizes available upon request. These too can only be bought in quantity but for an extremely reasonable price and in a variety of thicknesses. They cannot boast to be totally acid-free as can the mylars, but they are quite appropriate for the storage of the more stable paper stocks used for the posters of the last 25 or so years.

ESB Style A

One might also choose to encapsulate a poster, a process which literally seals it in an acid-free mylar sleeve and allows one to fully inspect both the front and back surfaces of the poster. For display, choosing a fitted frame without a matte is recommended. The reason for this is two-fold: First, the poster can 'float' freely inside the frame, there being no need to fasten it to a backing board, which can have potentially harmful results; second, there is no risk of acid seepage from a matte (although expensive acid-free mattes are available). Also, the frame should be fitted with plexiglass that is UV-coated in order to protect a poster from fading. Believe it or not, for posters, the most harmful form of light next to direct sunlight is that which comes from flourescent lamps. Flourescent lights should not be allowed to shine on unprotected posters unless steps are taken to cover the lamp itself with UV protective film. Finally, the backing board, or the barrier between the board and the poster, should be acid-free. Because archival backing boards for poster-sized prints are expensive, acid-free vellum can be inserted between a standard board and poster in order to effectively protect the poster paper. Acid-free vellum can be readily found at most art supply stores. As was mentioned earlier, dry-mounting is absolutely the worst thing one can do to a poster next to trimming its borders. The reason for this is that the process is irreversible, an unacceptable condition in the eyes of most collectors and archivists. The only form of mounting that is accepted among the poster collecting community, and one which is especially recommended for large or folded posters, is widely known as "linen-backing". This process involves mounting a poster onto acid-free Japan paper with acid-free water-soluble vegetable paste. Though technically reversible, one would be hard pressed to let his Star Wars six-sheet soak in a warm water bath in order to detach it from the backing paper. However, this is the only acceptible form of mounting and posters usually enjoy an increase in value after becoming linen-backed. Finally, small rips and tears should only be repaired with acid-free archival tape, which is also appropriate for any attachment to backing boards or mattes that is needed. Taking steps to properly conserve your posters now will definitely benefit the state of your collection in the future.

Where to Find it

Yoda Read

Star Wars posters and conservation materials can be found from several different sources. Release posters, both foreign and domestic, as well as archival framing and storage materials, can be found most readily in Movie Collectors World Magazine. Star Wars advertising and premium posters are best looked for through dealers who specialize in Star Wars toys and related materials. Recent mass-market and commemorative posters can be purchased conveniently from the Star Wars Insider magazine, while vintage commercial posters seem most prevalent in personal collections. Lately, however, the most bountiful supply of rare and obscure Star Wars posters has been the eBay auction web site located at, where a search through the "Memorabilia: Movie: General" and "Collectibles: Science-Fiction: Star Wars" sections will almost always yield several happy results.

Episode 1 Style A

With the first posters for Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace already hitting the market, Star Wars poster collecting is certain to enjoy a resurgence in popularity, as a wealth of new licensees have come on board to promote their products. And given the many fine artists Lucasfilm has commissioned in the past, it is a good bet we can look forward to some pretty fantastic posters!


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