How to Tell if a Vintage Movie Poster is Real

May 04, 2021

Verifying the authenticity of a vintage poster is a complex process. That is because there is not one standard printing process. Here are some of the indicators we typically look for:

Dimensions
Movie posters often come in exact dimensions. So if a poster is supposed to be  27″x 40″, but actually has a different height or width, chances are the poster is a reproduction. 

Poster Purchase Channel
Buying a poster from a reputable resource is a very effective way to reduce the likelihood of purchasing a fake. In Ebay auctions, for instance, sellers can stay anonymous and fabricate positive review histories. In contrast to that, established movie vendors need to be very careful not to tarnish their reputation in order to protect their business model. 

Does it have a GAU logo?
Typically US posters from the 1970s and 1980s will come with a GAU logo (the logo of the US printer's union). Featuring a GAU logo does not definitely mean that a vintage poster is authentic as the GAU logo can also be reproduced in fake reprints. The absence of the GAU logo however is a clear indicator that a poster is not an original vintage movie poster. 

Look for an NSS number
Most posters from the 1940s through to the 1980s that were distributed in the US will feature an NSS (National Screen Services) number. During this period the NSS was responsible for the distribution of movies and movie marketing collaterals for most major US studies. In order to better manage this task the NSS started printing unique identifiers (NSS numbers) on movie posters. So for vintage movie posters released by major US publishers that were released during this period, you should generally be able to find an NSS number on the poster. For posters from Europe, or dating back to other periods this is not the case.

Does the Poster Look ‘Too Good’ given its Claimed Age?
A reality check is a simple but effective way to question your potential purchase: An original poster that was ‘in use’ will most definitely have signs of wear: cracks, pinholes and foldmarks are the most common signs. If you come across a vintage poster in near perfect conditions be extra careful. This is not to say that there aren’t any vintage posters in near perfect condition. This is however rarely the case and can often only be achieved when extensive preservation work has been completed.