Grading & Condition

All posters listed on AAA Vintage Posters have been evaluated and graded by the owner Steve Olson or his team.

The condition of any collectible will substantially affect its value. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of vintage movie posters.

Movie poster grading is unregulated and it can be very confusing. Unlike coins, baseball cards, comic books etc., there is no universally accepted grading scale or grading service. One dealer may grade a poster as “GOOD”, while another describes it as “NEAR MINT”. Because most film posters were used at one time, their condition varies. Minor flaws that are common include handling wear, fold wear, creases, wrinkles, pinholes, tears, stains, writing, tape, etc.

All posters listed on AAA Vintage Posters have been evaluated and graded by the owner Steve Olsen.

The condition of any collectible will substantially affect its value. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of vintage movie posters.

Movie poster grading is unregulated and it can be very confusing. Unlike coins, baseball cards, comic books etc., there is no universally accepted grading scale or grading service. One dealer may grade a poster as “GOOD”, while another describes it as “NEAR MINT”. Because most film posters were used at one time, their condition varies. Minor flaws that are common include handling wear, fold wear, creases, wrinkles, pinholes, tears, stains, writing, tape, etc.

GRADE GRADE DESCRIPTION
General Notes: When grading items, one should remember the goal: to paint an accurate picture in the mind of the potential buyer of what to expect upon receipt of the item. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, and often a seller can include high-quality images to help describe the poster, but too frequently an image does not clearly show all flaws. This is when a good grading description becomes invaluable. The buyer relies on the seller’s honesty and accuracy in disclosure. It is therefore incumbent upon the seller to do the best job possible.

This being said, writing grade descriptions is more of an art than a science. One can be too brief, or too comprehensive, with equally bad effect. If too brief, the reader has an eerie feeling of uncertainty which causes a decision not to buy. Too much detail, and the opposite can happen: the buyer imagines the accumulation of flaws in the description of every tiny detail and pictures an item that is in horrible shape, when truly this is not the case.

It is AAA Vintage Posters opinion that the buyer must be satisfied with the condition of the item upon receipt. If not, the seller must be willing to give a refund to the buyer upon return of the item in the same condition as when sent. This follows generally accepted policies in other mail-order retail activities. If you order a gadget from Sharper Image, are unhappy with it upon receipt, you have the right to return it for a no-questions-asked refund. This is as it should be in our hobby as well. We should follow the “customer is always right” rule.

Buyers are human too, of course, and are subject to the limitations of our species. In the course of your selling, you will encounter buyers who are “return prone” and who never seem to be happy with a description, no matter how detailed. You are under no obligation to sell to these people; and, once you have identified them you are within your rights to ask them to never purchase another item from you.

 

C10 Mint condition. (M)
An extremely rare grade for all but the most recent items. Item is “as new” or in the same condition as the day it was made.

We highly recommend that you never grade an item C10 unless it is absolutely perfect!

The item exhibits an amazing state of preservation with virtually no perceptible flaws of any kind, other than very minor flaws which may have occurred during the printing process.

Printing registration should be perfect. In many cases an otherwise “mint” poster may have printing flaws in the registration, or alignment, of colors causing one color to stand slightly offset from the others. This should be almost imperceptible otherwise reduce the grade to C9.

The folding/trimming process should not have resulted in any damage to the item of any kind. Sometimes a poster may have slight fold lines which occurred when the poster was put through the folding machine. If the fold line broke the ink, causing a faint white line, the item should not be graded C10.

No edge fraying or dents/impressions are allowed in this grade.

 

C9 Near Mint condition. (NM) 90% of C10.
Item may be in “never-used” condition or may have been used in the theater, but was carefully preserved after use. The poster should appear to be in absolutely superb, unusually excellent condition. Older posters in this condition are very rare.

The following flaws are acceptable in this grade, but should be described:

  • One tiny pinhole in each corner, or a maximum of 4 pinholes
  • Slightly offset color registration
  • Very slight compression marks (indentations) from movie theater use (IE: Clamped in a display)
  • Very slight fold wear if such wear does not significantly affect the eye appeal of the image. Fold lines should not be white. All original color must be present.


The following flaws are NOT acceptable in this grade:

  • Creases, except fold creases occuring at the time of manufacture
  • Tape or tape stain residue
  • Minor holes
  • Writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the front of the poster
  • Foxing (light brownish spots that look almost rusty)
  • Dampness staining
  • Paint staining
  • Soiling, i.e. mildew or dustiness
  • Minor Fading
  • Minor Paper loss (very small piece missing)
  • Censor stamp/sticker
  • Border chips
  • Staple marks

C8 Excellent condition. (EX) 80% of C10.
Also called Condition A or Very Fine.

Item may be in “never-used” condition or may have been used in the theater, but was carefully preserved after use.

If a C9 is almost like new, then a C8 is not as nearly perfect but still quite excellent.

Poster should be bright, supple, and clean.

An accumulation of more than two or three of the following flaws should cause the grader to assign a lower classification.

The following flaws are acceptable in this grade, but should be described:

  • Tiny pinholes, up to a total of 10
  • A border crease or corner crease, but should be a small one, and not more than one or two very small ones. Small is defined as less than one inch.
  • Slightly offset color registration
  • Very slight compression marks (indentations) from movie theater use (IE: Clamped in a display)
  • Very slight color loss at the folds is acceptable in this grade, but if the fold wear is such that a heavy solid white line results from loss of color due to wear, then the item would not qualify for a C8 rating.
  • One very small tape stain can be permitted but NO TAPE.
  • Minor tears are allowed in this grade, but they should be MINOR, meaning less than 1/2 inch or 1 cm in length, and not more than two total tears on the item. Common areas for tears on posters are at the folds, especially the interior folds where the item may have been unfolded and then refolded. This kind of minor paper separation (tear) is common and is acceptable in a C8 grade notwithstanding other extenuating circumstances.
  • Very slight edge or fold wrinkling or fraying is acceptable
  • Writing, (pencil, light pen) on the front of the poster if it is very small and in an unobtrusive area (a mustache pencilled on Bogart’s face would not qualify). Window cards may have writing in the appropriate area.
  • Writing on the back of the poster which DOES NOT BLEED THROUGH is acceptable in this grade.
  • Foxing (light brownish spots that look almost rusty) must be mentioned and is permissible only if it is very slight.
  • Dampness staining can be permitted if it is a very small stain and is described.
  • Very slight soiling, i.e. mildew or dustiness
  • Censor stamp/sticker if it is very small and only if in an unobtrusive area of the item.
  • A small border chip can be present if it is less than 1/2 inch square and is described in detail
  • Staple marks if they are very slight and clean, not torn.

 

The following flaws are NOT acceptable in this grade:

  • Tape
  • Punch holes
  • Heavy writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the front of the poster. The exception to this rule is window cards, which had a blank area at the top of the poster for writing show dates and which may have show dates written in heavy grease pencil and still quality for the C8 grade.
  • Heavy writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the back of the poster which bleeds through
  • Paint staining
  • Heavy soiling, or dingy dirtiness
  • Severe Fading
  • Large Paper loss (one or more large pieces missing)
  • Very large (more than 4″ by 4″) censor stamps or stickers
  • Multiple Border chips
  • Heavy and torn staple marks

C7 Very Good to Excellent condition. 70% of C10.
A nicely preserved item. An item in this grade has many of the same flaws as the higher C8 grade, but, because of a greater accumulation of flaws, can not be assigned the higher classification.

Whereas a C8 grade may only have two or three of the above flaws, a C7 may have 7 or 8 of them.

The following flaws are acceptable in this grade:

  • Pinholes or staple holes
  • Tape
  • Creases
  • Fold holes: one or two very small ones
  • Very minor fading
  • Heavy writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the front of the poster. The exception to this rule is window cards, which had a blank area at the top of the poster for writing show dates and which may have show dates written in heavy grease pencil and still quality for the C8 grade.
  • Writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the back of the poster which may slightly bleed through
  • Minor dampness staining
  • Minor soiling
  • Paper loss (one or more pieces missing)
  • Censor stamps or stickers
  • Border chips

The observer should note that all of the above variables (from the C8 description) also apply to the C7 grade, so we won’t repeat them here. Instead, we would like to make it clear to the reader that the C7 grade is a transition grade, still quite nice, but obviously used and unable to honestly be credited with the higher C8 grade because of an accumulation of flaws.

 

C6 Very Good Condition. 60% of C10.
Sometimes referred to as “very good” condition or “Condition B.”

A Window Card with the top border trimmed away should not be rated higher than C6, even if in otherwise C10 condition.

Several pinholes in each corner of the poster, from being displayed, is acceptable in this grade. Pinholes may be present in background, artwork or typography areas.

Tears in this grade should be no longer than 1 inch to 2 inches in length, and totalling not more than four tears. Minor fold tears are acceptable but should be described.

Light creasing is allowed in 1 or more of the four corners and/or along 1 or more of the four borders. Creasing may affect background, artwork or typography areas but should be described as such.

Minor writing and/or marks, i.e. (marker pen, biro etc.) on the front of the poster, is allowed in this grade, however, such writing should be described. Writing on the back of the poster, which DOES NOT BLEED THROUGH, is acceptable in this grade but once again should be described.

Posters which have been folded may have fold wear in this grade. This is acceptable, providing the wear does not significantly affect the eye appeal of the image, and has not damaged any print on the poster.

Poster should be bright and supple.

Poster should be the correct measurement for its size, and show no signs of it having been trimmed on any of its four borders.

Minor edge fraying or wrinkling is allowed in this grade but should be described as such.

Surface paper loss is allowed in this grade if documented in the description.

The following flaws are acceptable in this grade, but should be documented and described:

  • Numerous, countless pinholes
  • Border creases which may extend into the image area of the poster
  • Tape or tape stain residue
  • Minor holes
  • Writing, (marker pen, biro etc.) on the front of the poster
  • Foxing (light brownish spots that look almost rusty)
  • Dampness staining
  • Paint staining
  • Soiling, i.e. mildew or dustiness
  • Minor Fading
  • Minor Paper loss (very small piece missing)
  • Censor stamp/sticker
  • Border chips
  • Staple marks

Linen/Paper backing can improve or eliminate the faults mentioned above. Cost of restoration will depend on the skill of the restorer, as well as the number of defects that need to be repaired.

 

C5 Good to Very Good condition. 50% of C10.
Also sometimes referred to as “Condition C.”.

The observer should note that all of the above variables (from the C6 description) also apply to the C5 grade, so we won’t repeat them here. Instead, we would like to make it clear to the reader that the C5 grade is a transition grade, heavily worn, obviously used and unable to please most collectors because of the great accumulation of flaws.

 

C4 Good condition. 40% of C10.
Often referred to as “Good” condition.

Poster will exhibit any or all of the following flaws, which seller may or may not describe in detail:

  • Countless pinholes
  • Countless creases
  • Numerous tears of every imaginable kind
  • Heavy creasing in all four corners/four borders, as well as in the background, artwork and typography areas of the poster.
  • Writing and/or marks, in marker pen and/or biro, on the front and back of the poster
  • Writing in bigger letters/numbers, such as displaying show times and/or dates
  • Posters which will have been folded will have heavy fold wear in this grade.
  • Fold separations or tears located anywhere on the poster
  • Severe edge fraying or wrinkling
  • Several holes, of from 1 to 2 inches in diameter each
  • Pieces of tape and/or tape stain residue
  • Severe damp staining
  • Soiling or other signs of aging
  • Severe to moderate fading over most areas of the poster
  • Paper loss and/or small to medium portions of paper missing
  • Censor stamps/stickers
  • Trimmed borders
  • Brittleness of paper

The poster shows serious signs of wear and tear.

 

C3 Fair condition. 30% of C10.
Often referred to as “fair” condition or “Condition D.”

Item will exhibit some or all of the defects described in C4, but to a greater degree.

 

C2 Poor to Fair condition. 20% of C10.
Countless pinholes in each corner of the poster, from being displayed, are expected in this grade. Pinholes may be scattered around borders, background, artwork and typography areas. Some/many of these pinholes may be larger and may have been dragged when the poster was removed from display.

Tears in this grade are to be expected. Tears may have caused heavy surface paper loss.

Heavy creasing in all areas of the poster is to be expected.

Heavy writing and/or marks, in marker pen and/or biro, on the front of the poster, is expected in this grade. Heavy writing and/or marks may be over faces/bodies of actors/actresses, and may include defacement. Heavy writing and/or marks which bleed through from the back of the poster is expected in this grade. Heavy writing in bigger letters/numbers, such as displaying show times and/or dates on the poster will be found over any background/main artwork or typography areas.

Posters which will have been folded will exhibit heavy fold wear in this grade.

Any or all of the following flaws are normal for this grade:

  • Severe fold separation, either on borders or interior fold lines (where the fold lines meet), with the separation being 2 inches or more in length. A heavy area of surface paper loss around these separations is normal.
  • Heavy edge fraying or wrinkling.
  • Holes of more than 1 inch in diameter. These holes could affect any area of the poster.
  • Pieces of tape/tape stain residue, of more than 2 inches in length. These tape/tape stain residues may affect any area of the poster.
  • Heavy foxing
  • Heavy water staining over most or all of the poster
  • Heavy paint staining over most or all of the poster
  • Heavy soiling, i.e. mildew
  • Severe fading over most or all of the poster
  • Heavy paper surface loss and/or large portions of paper missing, affecting any area of the poster.
  • Poster may have censor stamps/stickers, and these may affect any area of the poster.
  • There may be complete fold separation, along all/most of 1, or more, vertical/horizontal fold lines, causing the poster to be in 1 or more pieces.
  • Poster may have fragile, brittle paper, which may break and come apart, when opening/closing the poster. Careful handling will be needed.
  • Paper loss from borders
  • Staple marks
  • Poster may have one or all four borders trimmed
C1 Poor condition. 10% of C10.
Item will exhibit some or all of the defects described in C2, but to a greater degree.