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1931 'Dracula' movie poster tops $525K, sets auction record

A movie poster promoting the 1931 film 'Dracula" soared to a record-setting $525,800 during Heritage Auctions' Nov. 18 sale. This sale makes it the most valuable movie poster sold during an auction.

DALLAS, Texas – One of just two surviving movie posters for the 1931 horror classic Dracula set a world record recently. During Heritage Auctions' Nov. 18 public auction it commanded $525,800. With that it becomes the most valuable movie poster ever sold at auction.

Bidders Sent Dracula Flying High

Dracula movie poster

This poster commanded $525,800 during this 975-lot auction. (All photos courtesy Heritage Auctions)

The poster's finish puts it ahead of the previous auction record of $478,000. This record has been set (twice) before by Heritage Auctions. Heritage had just sold the only known surviving Italian issue movie poster from 1946 for Casablanca in July 2017. This matched their own previous world record from November 2014. Furthermore, that sale was for the only-known 1927 copy of the poster for London After Midnight.

This particular poster style from Dracula depicts the menacing visage of actor Bela Lugosi. His transformation of the character changed the movie monster mindset. The discovery of the poster in the collection of a revered film historian piqued collector and interest worldwide.

The family of its longtime owner, Lt. Col. George J. Mitchell, Jr., an Associate Member of the American Society of Cinematographers, placed the poster up for auction. Mitchell had owned the poster since the 1950s.

Appeal of Lugosi Inspires Ownership

“The reason my dad purchased the poster is because he loved horror films. He was drawn to the Bela Lugosi poster because it brought back childhood memories of seeing the film when it was first released,” Mitchell’s son, Arthur Mitchell said. “He remembered going to the theater … and remembered that there was an ambulance stationed in the lobby, in case anyone was so scared they needed medical attention.”

Furthermore, the elder Mitchell was a longtime cinematographer and photographer, who after World War II and a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, started a small film production company in San Diego, and did video work for AFL and NFL Films, the San Diego Zoo and training films for assorted branches of the military.

“It is a matter of opinion, but this poster probably is the most beautiful of all of the styles,” Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith said, “and one of only two styles that pictures Bela Lugosi in realistic terms or a faithful rendering – the other is a photographic image.”

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