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Is This Treasure Trove of Movie Ads From the Heyday of Newspapers Worth $20 Million?

Before YouTube, before websites, and even before computer graphics made advertising as in-your-face as it is now, movies at your local theater were advertised in newspapers. Newspapers were printed with hand-set type, and graphics required their own custom-made print blocks. KB Typesetting was one of the companies that made new print blocks for movie advertising images, which were send out to newspapers around the country, and then usually thrown away after the run of the movie was over locally. As movies became immortal and advertising became ephemeral, the rare print blocks that survived became highly collectible.

That quaint little world of finite supply and demand was blown to smithereens—as thoroughly as the planet Alderaan—in November 1998, when DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner of Omaha were invited into the back room of a local store called Franx Antiques and Art. That’s where they first encountered a cache of 400-plus cardboard boxes filled with more than 50,000 assorted-sized print blocks, plus another 8,000 or so printing plates, all featuring advertisements for movies produced from 1932 to the early 1980s. It was literally tons of stuff, and it had been sitting in that back room, undisturbed, for roughly two decades, when Franx purchased it for several thousand dollars from its Omaha neighbor KB Typesetting.

Naturally, Ginsberg and Wagner had to have it all. So, they scraped together the money to purchase the collection from Franx and find a place to store it, and proceeded to load all those boxes, albeit a few at a time, into Ginsberg’s car.

“My poor Corsica got beat to death,” Ginsberg tells me when we spoke over the phone recently. But the Corsica was the least of Ginsberg and Wagner’s worries: Like the proverbial dog chasing the milk truck, the bigger question confronting the two friends was what to do with their prize now that they had caught it.

The collection included print blocks for everything from The Mummy through Star Wars. Appraisers were astonished, and their estimates of the collection's value have grown over the years. It's even had a documentary made about it. The story of how the collection of movie history came to be and what will happen to it is told at Collectors Weekly. 

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