An enormous collection of pin-up girl artwork, a large amount of which features the legendary Betty Page, will hit the auction block sometime next year, courtesy of Entertainment Collectibles. The collection was obtained from Movie Star News, a company which peddled glossy photos and posters of movie stars, celebrities, and models as far back as the 1940’s. According to The Associated Press, the company is credited with creating pin-up artwork.
“This is the most important photo archive of Hollywood in existence. There are tens of thousands of negatives that have never been reproduced,” explained Entertainment Collectibles co-owner Stuart Scheinman. “There are images here that have never been seen by the public.”
Although Scheinman claims it would take several long years to properly sift through the entire collection, he estimates there are 1,500 prints of Betty Page, 1,000 of Gary Cooper, and numerous images and stills from such iconic motion pictures as “Godfather” and “Gone with the Wind”. Overall, the collection in its entirety is rumored to be worth around $150 million.
During its heyday, the company would sell 8×10 copies of these photographs for a couple of bucks in traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, as well as through the mail. During the 40’s, particularly during World War II, Movie Star News counted nearly 100,000 names on their mailing list. However, co-founder Irving Klaw really struck gold when he began selling images of pin-up girls in light bondage, a decision which ultimately forced the business owner to testify before the 1955 Senate Subcommittee on Obscene and Pornographic Materials.
Ira Kramer, who took over Movie Star News from his mother and uncle, said that accessibility of such content on the Internet essentially squashed the last bit of life out of his business. “I make references to things when customers come in, and they have no idea what I’m talking about.” He added, “Today, if you want a picture of a star you can go on the computer and download it. So what do you need me for?” Sad, but true.
“The maintenance of the collection has been fastidious, the way a fine library would maintain material,” said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s. The auction house will handle the sale of the collection next year.