Movie stubs on the rise amid crowded graded ticket market

Japanese stubs in particular are fueling growing demand

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More appealing designs help Japanese tickets outperform U.S. tickets.

Matt Fuller has seen every ticket imaginable come across his desk as head of ticket authentication at PSA.

But his take on the biggest trend in the ticket category is shocking.

It’s not baseball, basketball or even concert tickets.

“I think that the hottest category of ticket is far and away movie tickets,” Fuller said. “Baseball tickets are always going to be huge. NFL tickets are going to be huge. NBA tickets are gonna be huge. But as far as what's the graph doing? It’s movie tickets.”

If this comes as a shock to you, you’re not alone. While the trend might be palpable to Fuller’s expert eyes, movie tickets have hardly registered for most collectors.

A nuance that might feel familiar to many in the hobby is the popularity and value of premiere or screening tickets (pre-release viewings often for cast and crew).

“Usually you get like a movie poster design on the front,” Fuller said, describing the design that goes into premiere and screening tickets. “And then it's the earlier the better, right? It's just like cards … you don't want the card from 12 years into somebody's career. You want the rookie card.”

One look at recent results at Goldin Auctions, the largest purveyor of slabbed movie tickets other than eBay, will immediately reveal the dominance of premiere tickets.

The top four movie tickets sold by the auction house, and the only to eclipse $1,000, all are premieres.

Three “Gone With The Wind” world-premiere tickets lead the way, clocking in at $13,200, $2,684 and $2,520, followed by the lone full ticket to the premiere to "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" at $1,208.

This niché market, which Fuller describes as “rapidly growing but still in its infancy,” is chock full of contradictions and surprises.

The most striking is the fact Japanese movie tickets tower over their American counterparts. Not only do they boast museum-quality artwork, but there’s a rich history of ticket collecting in Japan far more mature than in the U.S.

American movie tickets are also less visually appealing and often fade after a few years, making it clear why Japanese tickets routinely outperform U.S. tickets.

Excluding those four sales mentioned above, the top 20 in Goldin’s sales history are made up of 17 Japanese tickets, around half of which are "Star Wars."

The population of "Star Wars" tickets provides evidence of the rich history of ticket collecting in Japan. PSA has authenticated 49 Japanese examples. As for American examples from 1977? Just three.

Beyond the artwork and mystique of the Japanese ticket or the VIP-level access to a premiere ticket, Fuller brings things back to the underlying thread weaving throughout all collectible markets: nostalgia.

That’s exactly what fueled Beatlemania-crazed fans to save and eventually submit 156 tickets to “A Hard Day’s Night” to PSA. The following year was much of the same, as the Beatles’ “Help” counts 100 stubs among the PSA census.

“I kind of laugh when I see those,” Fuller said, describing times when seemingly random tickets pass through the grading room. “But collecting is very sentimental. So, if that was your first date with your wife or your last movie with your dad, that’s all tickets.”

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct. You can follow him on X at @Will__Stern.