Porn Through the Years
Erotic collectibles generally aren't showcased in the living room — they're something most people would only brag about to close friends. But if you know the market, they can be curiously lucrative.
Odds are that porn DVD you bought online will never appreciate — even 50 years from now. But the sex industry has a deep history in various forms of culture and at various stages of media. That has proved enticing to certain collectors.
Pinning down the value on this sort of memorabilia is a little trickier. (After all, there's no sort of price guide available.) Still, there is a market. And, like any collectible field, there are categories and particular items that draw particular attention.
In December 1953, Playboy, the mainstream men's magazine, hit the market, sowing the seeds for the emergence of today's adult industry.
Nearly 60 years later, that magazine, with its Marilyn Monroe centerfold and an original cover price of 50 cents, remains one of the most desired collectibles in this field.
The first issue had a circulation of just under 54,000 and sold out in a matter of weeks, according to the Playboy Collector's Association.
The price of an original copy (and not the 2007 replica, which is difficult to discern) varies, but a mint edition can go for as much as $6,300. On average, a copy sells in the $3,000 range.
If the Marilyn Monroe Playboy is the most famous adult magazine, the September 1984 issue of Penthouse might be the most infamous — for two reasons.
When founder/publisher Bob Guccione printed nude pictures of Vanessa Williams, the reigning Miss America at the time, people couldn't buy it fast enough.
The issue sold 5.3 million copies — the second highest ever for a U.S. magazine. Despite the
high newsstand sales, it still became a collectible since it played such a key role in the scandal that followed.
Unfortunately for collectors, the issue's centerfold was the first appearance of Traci Lords, who turned out to be 16 years old at the time, making anyone in possession of the magazine at risk of owning child pornography.
As a result, the issue's worth just $90 today, assuming anyone is willing to admit to owning a copy.
Long before VHS, DVDs, and the Internet, porn films played in theaters — and many strove to achieve the legitimacy of Hollywood releases.
This meant movies posters and press kits. The original posters for those films are now valuable to collectors, partially for the kitsch appeal.
Most sell in the $200 to $500 range, but rare, high-quality posters (such as the original one-sheets for the film "Deep Throat") can fetch $5,000 or more.
"A lot of people are rediscovering the [older] films, because a lot of the stuff they're making now is fast and furious," says Dr. Ted McIlvenna, president of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and curator of the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. "One sheets and press books and early stuff like that was part of the American sexual revolution."
(McIlvenna might own the largest collection of erotic memorabilia in the world. The 81-year-old former theological professor claims to have over 3 million items, filling up 34 warehouses.)
Of course, actresses and actors in the adult entertainment business delevop followings and these fan bases can lead to related collectibles and souvenirs. These items are unlikely to appreciate over time, however. (Read More: The Porn Convention.)
As for the films themselves, there's really not much of a market there — at least for most films made this century. Studios flooded the market with prints (and reprints) to capitalize on demand, much as they do today.
There is, however, a curiosity about sexual images from the early 1900s.