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Chicago Film Buff's $3.5 Million Stroll Down Memorabilia Lane

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 12, 2012 10:50PM

2012_01_12_mickey_barn_dance.jpg The question "How do you end up with an approximately $3.5 million collection of movie posters?" is different from "How does a collection of movie posters end up being worth $3.5 million?"

The first question was pretty much answered when we saw the video of local collector of movie memorabilia Dwight Cleveland in Frank Mathie's piece for ABC7. He has 25,000 movie posters, and has spent 35 years of his life amassing them. That's roughly a two-movie-poster-per-day habit, and it's been a steady activity for Cleveland since he fell for the format under the influence of a High School art teacher.

Cleveland has taken his hobby rather seriously. He once delayed proposing marriage so that he could snag a 1929 Mickey Mouse Barn Dance poster for $1,000, an item which is now "pushing $100,000 in value." Now, he wants to sell the bulk of it and keep a few sentimental favorites. "I'm at a stage in my life where there's so little left to buy that I've kind of reached the end of this chapter."

Yeah, when there's nothing left to buy, it may be time to take up a different pastime. We're guessing that Cleveland, a real estate developer, would also appreciate some relief from having to find wall space and storage for all those posters. His collection (online at his website) is certainly a marvel.

As for how certain pieces of mass-produced, throwaway art can become magically valuable due to their scarcity, there's a bit more mystery involved. Sure, you only need to watch an episode of Antiques Roadshow, to observe the phenomenon, but just what makes certain trivial items fantastically valuable is harder to pin down. Cleveland has talked about a "30-year rule" in an article for Forbes. "Movies someone likes when they're young and penniless are what they're going to collect right now when they're old and rich," Cleveland said. Which means this might be a good time to have those original E.T., Rocky III or Porky's posters appraised.