The Collectors Weekly is currently featuring a fantastic interview conducted by Maribeth Keane and Anne Galloway with Movie Poster expert Rudy Franchi. You'll likely know Franchi's face from the Antiques Roadshow, he's been an appraiser on the popular PBS series for all 14 of it's seasons now, though if by some chance you don't this page will take you to videos and transcripts of 33 different appraisals he's conducted for them...and us.
What I found most interesting about the interview with Mr. Franchi was the tale of how he got to where he is which included a lot of evolving both in terms of what he's handled and where he's been. As The Collectors Weekly piece is published as a straight interview some of the details of Franchi's biography are a bit disjointed, so I thought I might give a brief summary of his impressive career in this space. I think it shall quickly become clear to you why I feel this is relevant to the Meld.
What better way to find yourself involved with movie collectibles than to begin your career with the movies themselves? Franchi ran the Bleecker Street Cinema in New York City during the 1960's a time when he presented films such as Casablanca and the French Classics at a time when they were much more difficult to locate for viewing. Beyond the theatre he published a little film magazine, distributed a few films and even produced some shorts gaining himself huge credibility and popularity among notable film critics and connoisseurs of the day.
While the theater filled a passion for both Franchi and his loyal patrons it was a tough living and so his connections led to him working the publicity for Fox's The Leopard at The Montreal Film Festival one year. This in turn led to job as a publicist for Fox, a mainstream job which ironically put him on the outs with many of the film intelligentsia who had previously embraced him. Franchi worked for Fox for 3 years, at which time he met his wife. Not wanting to raise children in New York, Franchi moved to Montreal where he found work with his contacts from the Film Festival.
His career would change through an opportunity presented to him by a local used book store. Very often magazine back issues enter the stock of used book shops when they take in a new collection or estate. To this day most booksellers don't appreciate what they have, imagine how overlooked they must have been in what I presume was the late 1960's? When Franchi went to purchase a single issue the book store owner led him to an entire basement filled with back issues dating from the 1880's through the 1960's, all of which he secured for just $500.
In perhaps my favorite line of this in-depth interview (it ran 8 pages when I printed it out), Franchi's response to his wife upon her inquiring about what must have been massive stacks overtaking their home was "This is what we're going to do for the rest of our lives." Her reply, for which she better have gotten a big kiss, was "When do we start?"
The Franchis capitalized on the period market selling Art Nouveau and Art Deco titles at first through their Montreal shop, but then their specialities moved more towards their own interests and they began dealing in old advertising and country-store type items. From there a shift was made to Travel and Movie Posters, the latter of which would over time become Mr. Franchi's speciality.
The Franchis left Montreal after Quebec's turbulent political troubles of the 1970's and moved to Rhode Island where they opened and operated another shop for 10 years. After that it was a storefront on Newbury Street in Boston where the focus shifted further towards movie posters and memorabilia.
For our e-commerce friends a sure highlight of Franchi's career in collectibles came in 1992, when he launched nostalgia.com, a site he's recently been told was the first commercial site on the internet. Even if you don't deal or collect vintage you'll likely get a kick out of the portion of The Collectors Weekly interview where Franchi recounts acquiring his URL in thos early Wild West days of the internet.
By the time he began appraising movie memorabilia and posters for the Antiques Roadshow Franchi was dealing exclusively in movie posters. The Franchi's sold their company, The Nostalgia Factory, in 2005, but Rudy now runs an informational site at PosterAppraisal.com in addition to continuing his contributions to the Roadshow. His wife, Barbara, also runs an informational site, reviewingtheevidence.com, which as you might imagine is about mystery books. Both of the Franchis are also still involved in consulting for the various major auction houses.
Quite the interesting biography! If any of this piques your interest then you can't miss the complete interview over at The Collectors Weekly.
I culled this bio from notes I took on my copy, but, of course, my mind got to working on some of Franchi's opinions too--for instance, and I'm not sure if this is meant to be unique to the high-end poster field or more generally, but he alludes to a distrust of dealers a couple of times inside the piece ("...dealers try to blind you"), and obviously I take issue with that.
He also refers to some of the more popularly collected posters (no surprise here, 1930's Universal horror, 1950's Sci-Fi) and correctly stresses "quality and purism" to collectors (in other words, condition and authenticity).