The poster was estimated to sell for $5000-10,000 in Heritage Auctions’ Movie Poster Auction in Dallas.
The result is the latest of strong performances in the entertainment memorabilia market, with the latest Bonhams specialist sale in this field on July 18 also posting a wide range of stand-out results (see below).
Grey Smith, director of vintage posters at Heritage, said The Empire Strikes Back (1980) poster is considered to be one of the rarer posters in the Star Wars trilogy. “This poster is unique as it features the complete Kastel artwork in the original colour palette for the second in George Lucas’ trilogy.”
One of a handful of original examples known to exist, the poster was a trial run featuring a design by artist Roger Kastel.
Kastel took inspiration from a poster for Gone with the Wind for the film’s 1974 re-release. That poster features an image of Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh surrounded by flames. In Kastel’s poster, Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa share a similar embrace while surrounded by action scenes and a menacing visage of Darth Vader.
Perhaps done as a test printing of the international edition of the poster, this version includes images of Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, Cloud City and more. When the studio made their final revisions, those extra elements were removed from the original Kastel design, as they were considered too busy.
The studio also went with a darker colour scheme of mostly blues and purples, losing the vibrant reds and oranges from Kastel's original vision.
Film poster favourites
Star Wars is one of the hardest hitters in the poster collecting world. Classics such as Casablanca and early horror and sci-fi films also score highly at auction, as do James Bond posters.
Original artwork is always sought-after in particular. At that Bonhams July 18 sale in London, the original concept artwork for the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever poster – the seventh in the James Bond series – sold within estimate at £22,000 (£27,500 including buyer’s premium) to an international private buyer bidding on the phone.
Consigned from a private collection, the gouache and mixed media artwork on board painted by Robert McGinnis is signed by McGinnis in black on the right-hand side. Mounted, framed and glazed, it measures 4ft 2in x 2ft 1in (96 x 62cm).
McGinnis (American, b.1926) is an artist and illustrator known for his illustrations of more than 1200 paperback book covers, and over 40 movie posters, including Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Sgt Pepper's goddess
In another entertainment collecting field, music, a key name to bring in the bidders is of course The Beatles. At Bonhams, the Hindu goddess doll from the album cover for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) was on offer estimated at £4000-6000.
The classic cover was designed by Jann Haworth and her then-husband, pop art great Peter Blake, and the doll is seen in position under the ‘T’ of Beatles. The catalogue states: “It’s possible it was a suggestion by George Harrison, although Peter Blake is quoted as saying that George only gave him a list of Indian gurus and four were indeed included in the cut-outs gathered behind The Beatles.”
Bonhams says the vendor’s best friend, Steve Ridder, a Californian bass guitarist, had moved to the UK and joined a band called The Corn Dollies in the late 1980s. Ridder later met Haworth’s daughter daughter who gave him the doll. After returning to the US, Baker gave the doll to the vendor’s son as a wedding gift. Some years later, after noticing the condition of the doll had deteriorated somewhat, the vendor and his son agreed to part with it.
The doll sold for £24,000 (£30,000 including buyer’s premium) to an international private buyer bidding online.
Various other props from the album cover have come to auction in recent years.
Also in the music field, another British band in demand in Dallas was The Clash. Joe Strummer’s custom shirt from 1976, estimated at £8000-10,000, sold for £18,000 (£22,500 including buyer’s premium) to a UK private phone bidder.
This shirt was one of around 60 lots in the auction from The Mark Jay Collection of Punk Memorabilia. Jay was the editor of Skum, one of the very first wave of punk scene fanzines in the UK. It lasted for seven issues and had interviews with the likes of pre-Sex Pistols Sid Vicious (his first-ever interview).
Jay was noticed by Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and commissioned to design a poster to accompany the Pistols’ debut LP. In June 1977 he was one of the few fans lucky enough to attend the Pistols’ legendary ‘boat party’ on Jubilee Day.
This shirt was worn by Strummer on the first UK TV broadcast about punk rock, on November 28, 1976, in an interview with Janet Street-Porter. A high-quality clip of the interview can be seen here on YouTube.
Jay was given the shirt by Strummer in January 1977. As a fanzine editor and Clash fan Jay had come to interview them at their rehearsal studios in Camden but only Strummer showed up so there was no interview. Perhaps as a consolation prize, Strummer suggested that Jay choose one of their custom-made shirts that were hanging on a rail in their studio and which they were no longer wearing as their look had moved on.