Famous Props From Movies: Are These a Blockbuster for Investors?

Famous Props From Movies: Are These a Blockbuster for Investors?

Famous props from movies might appear larger than life on the silver screen. But how do the props look from an investment perspective?

Famous Props From Movies: Are These a Blockbuster for Investors?
Sarah Sharkey

Updated Oct 21, 2022

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  • It's best to invest in recognizable props from blockbuster franchises
  • The most valuable clothing props were usually worn by the leading talent
  • Legit props from movies with broad appeal will almost certainly go up in value

As with other collectible markets, you’ll want to find a famous prop with broad appeal and potentially high returns.

When watching a film, you can escape into a different reality. It’s not just the acting that transports you into another dimension, but the props that set the scene. In some cases, carefully chosen movie props can transform what might have been a mediocre storyline into a movie worth watching.

But what happens to movie props after the movie is made? In some cases, famous props from movies can be a lucrative investment opportunity.

What are famous movie props?

Iconic movie props are anything that appears on the silver screen in a popular movie that can be moved around on stage. So while things like a helmet or vehicle qualify, the scenery on screen doesn’t count.

The most famous movie props are easily recognizable, whether on-screen or in someone’s storage unit. For example, you’d likely know if you stumbled across a Stormtrooper uniform from Star Wars. That's the holy grail to some film collectors.

The best movie props played a key role in a film’s production. With the right props, you can believe that the movie is a part of its own world. But some movie props are more valuable to collectors than others. For example, a collector might want a wand from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but they may not be as interested in an alarm clock.

Importantly, movie props don’t include merchandise created as a part of the movie’s attempt to bring in more money. A figurine of a character from a popular Disney movie might be a collectible, but it’s not a movie prop.

How do famous movie props fit into an investment portfolio?

With some iconic props from major motion pictures sometimes selling for millions of dollars, it’s definitely possible to turn a profit in this asset class. However, the market is a bit hard to predict. Ultimately, you’ll want to find a relatively rare prop that holds broad appeal across the market if you're looking to turn a profit.

Best famous props from movies to invest in

Not every movie prop will be a blockbuster for your investment portfolio. But the right prop can fetch an eye-popping price on the open market.

Here’s a look at some memorable movie props that sold for a pretty penny. 

Legendary franchises 

When you see a lightsaber, you can’t help but think of Star Wars. Although there are tons of intriguing props on these intergalactic sets, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber sits apart from the crowd. The iconic piece of film history sold for $450,000 in 2017.

More recently, an X-wing Fighter model used in A New Hope sold for $2.3 million at an auction in the summer of 2022. And in a fall 2022 auction, Harrison Ford’s blaster used in the same film sold for over $1 million.

Demand for props from this popular movie franchise seems to be increasing in recent years. But there’s a lot of speculation in the price points. With strong personal interest thrown into the auction environment, these collectibles could see relatively volatile prices over time. 

Iconic costumes

Not every costume is something to write home about. However, some dresses are legendary enough to mark waves as an investment opportunity.

One dress that turned a profit for a collector was the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore while starring in The Seven Year Itch. It’s an undeniable part of movie history. And it fetched an outstanding price of $5.6 million dollars in a heated auction environment in 2011. When collector Debbie Renyolds brought it to market, it was expected to sell for around $2 million. But the competition for this unique dress was intense, leading to a much higher sales price.

Another legendary actress, Audrey Hepburn, wore a memorable black and white dress while filing My Fair Lady.  Back in 2011, the dress sold for $4.4 million. The unique dress came complete with a dramatic matching hat that Hepburn also wore throughout the film.

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The Andúril sword from 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' sold at Bonham's for $437K in Nov. 2014.

Source: bonhams.com

The most recent set of Judy Garland’s Blue Gingham dresses from The Wizard of Oz to hit the open market sold for $1.6 million in 2015. Another one of the most iconic movie props on this set was Judy Garland’s ruby slippers. These sparkling shoes fetched a glittering price of $666,000 in 2000.

But starring ladies don’t have all of the profitable costumes. For example, when you think of Indiana Jones, you can’t help but think of Harrison Ford’s fedora. The fedora worn in Temple of Doom is one of the more memorable props in movie history. It sold for $375,000 in 2021. A similar hat from Raiders of the Lost Ark sold for $500,000 in 2015. Though both are instantly recognizable as Indiana Jones’ hat, the price difference might be attributed to one being from a sequel versus the original film.

The running theme of a movie costume that sells for the big bucks isn’t necessary how beautiful it is. Instead, it seems that costumes from unforgettable sets are the ones that leave the auction block with the investor turning a profit. As an investor, seek out recognizable props from well-loved movies to get the highest returns. 

Unforgettable vehicles 

The James Bond movie franchise has seen many fancy cars along the way. The Lotus Submarine car hit the big screen in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Although a popular vehicle among fans, it had vanished from the world’s view for several years. Ultimately, a Long Island couple bought an abandoned storage locker and were surprised to find the Lotus Submarine car sitting inside. After finding it, they sold it at auction for $989,000 in 2013.

Another iconic vehicle sold at auction was the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Before hitting the auction block, it was expected to fetch between $1 million to $2 million. However, the car only brought home $805,000.

What makes a movie vehicle a top-dollar option is difficult to determine. But when comparing the Lotus Submarine to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, it might come down to the film's popularity and the size of its fan base. The James Bond movies are a long-running movie franchise with tons of fans. Although Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a popular movie, it arguably has a smaller fanbase.

Whenever possible, stick to movies that have a disproportionate number of fans. With more fans, the price of its props is more likely to increase. 

Unique pieces of movie history

Some movies have a unique prop that makes the movie super special.

For example, a famous piece of cinema history is an actual golden ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. There are several Golden Tickets from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in circulation. One sold for $35,000 in 2015, but others have sold for as much as $47,500.

Musical instruments, like the piano played in Casablanca, can come into play during pivotal scenes. Although the piano was just a prop and was not played in the actual movie, it sold for $3.4 million in 2014.

More portable props, like Harry Potter’s Elder Wand, played a key role in the franchise. The wand sold for $10,000 in 2013.

Each of these high-dollar movie props has the benefit of being instantly recognized as a part of a fan favorite film. When fans can easily connect the prop to on-screen scenes, that might play a role in driving up the price. After all, fans might not be as interested in props that set the scene but aren’t very memorable, like books on a shelf in the background.

How to invest in famous props from movies

When it comes to an iconic prop, the right item could make a big profit for a film-savvy investor. With some movie props selling in the millions, it’s possible to make big returns. However, it can be challenging to pick out the right fit for your investment portfolio.

As with other collectibles markets, you’ll want to find a famous prop with broad appeal and potentially high returns. In other words, you can’t overpay for the item if you're looking to turn a profit down the line.

Here’s what to look for when trying to invest in movie props.

Broad appeal

You might love a niche film, but that doesn’t mean its props are a good investment. Instead, you’ll likely want to stick to buying movie props that have broad appeal if you are looking to turn a profit.

Although broad appeal tends to be qualitative, you’ll likely know it when you see it. Movies with dedicated fans, extreme amounts of merchandise, or continual installments in the franchise might fall into the broad appeal category. With more interested parties, demand for collectibles increases. Since demand correlates with price, especially for a limited supply of props, you'll likely want to stick to props from movies with big fan bases.

A few examples of movies with wide audiences and large fan bases include It’s a Wonderful Life, the Jurassic Park movie franchise, Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Mad Max, and the Marvel comics cinematic universe. You can also consider popular TV shows with highly sought-after props.

Personal value

When building a collection, you’ll be drawn to items that mean more to you. For example, you might opt to build out a collection that pulls in props from your favorite movies and includes every genre, from Legally Blonde to Harry Potter.

If you're purchasing movie props outright, it’s often helpful to buy something you love. Others might also love your collection and be willing to pay a handsome sum for the items. But hopefully, you’ll be happy with your purchase regardless of the returns. 

Potential returns

The right investment for your portfolio can bear lucrative rewards. Before jumping into a purchase, do some research on the market. Find out if other collectors are craving this item and look at the prices that similar items sold for. If there's a healthy market, you could nail down a reasonable estimate of your potential returns on the investment. 

Storage 

Movie props can come in all shapes and sizes. Before buying a classic red Chevy Caprice from the opening sequence of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, be sure you have the appropriate space to store the collectible.

As an investor, be sure you have what it takes to preserve movie memorabilia. For smaller props, like the fuzzy pen from Legally Blonde or a golf ballthis might involve putting the item into a protective plastic bag. But for bigger props, you might have to think through storage more carefully and maybe have a facility lined up to keep it in. 

Price range

All the moveable items on a set are considered a prop. Everything from Captain America’s shield to the phones and pens used on screen. And with these different levels of importance, you’ll find different price points.

Find a price range that suits your investment goals and stay within your budget.

Verify the prop’s legitimacy

The most important part of investing in movie props is making sure that it actually came from a movie set. The unfortunate reality is that there are tons of fraudsters out there hoping to pawn off a fake.

Typically, the best way to avoid getting scammed is to learn about the market. If you just jump in without any knowledge, it’s easier for a con man to stick you with an expensive fake. Sometimes you can verify a prop’s legitimacy by looking for specialized marking from Warner Bros or Paramount Pictures to indicate their theatrical property. Another place to look for clues is the Smithsonian’s National Museum online archives, which has information about some of the most iconic movie sets.

Build your knowledge of the industry before running headlong into a deal that seems too good to be true. And, of course, trust your instincts. If something smells wrong, walk away from the deal.

Invest in move prop shares

It’s possible to purchase props outright at places like the Propstore and HeroProp. But a collectibles investment platform lets you invest in shares of movie props.

So, if you decide that movie props will complement your investment strategy, one place to invest is Rally. When a movie prop is offered, you can purchase shares of the asset from the platform. A subsidiary company of Rally will own the asset itself, so buying a share makes you a stakeholder in the asset. This means you earn money when the asset is sold for more than its trading for.

As of writing, Rally has some movie props investment opportunities, like James Bond’s watch and Al Pacino’s tuxedo worn in Scarface. But other movie props sometimes pop up on the platform, which allows you to purchase shares of collectible items.

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Price chart of Al Pacino's 1983 'Scarface' tuxedo worn in the film trading on Rally.

Source: rally.com

Are film props a good investment?

Movie props are a type of collectible that can double as an investment opportunity. This investment niche isn’t the right fit for everyone. But movie props could be a valuable fit for your investment portfolio depending on your goals. These investments aren’t tied to the market. But there are plenty of risks involved due to changing collector appetites.

If you want to explore what’s out there, consider signing up for Rally.

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