I came across the Barrington Movie Poster & Book Shop, in Barrington, NJ quite by chance; it was last year, during October, shopping for vintage Halloween items at antique shops. At first, I thought it might be one those basic reproduction posters in metal frames, but once inside the wondrous place had firm control of me, the discovery of many items, posters, and lobby cards of horror films of the 60s, 70s and 80s, and also more obscure ones. The store owned by South Jersey resident’s Ralph and Carol Secinaro, have items from every era and genre imaginable, and Carol is very friendly to all who enter the store. I discovered original horror treasures, such as posters Audrey Rose (1977); Stanley (1972); and deluxe lobby cards of The Shining (1980), all resting in my collection. Their store, a secret discovery for the fan seeking a themed entertainment room to the movie buff collecting for memorabilia. I decided this establishment needed more exposure and arranged an interview with the owners, at the time only Carol was available, therefore one will see a part two of this interview with co-owner and husband Ralph.
Baron Craze: The interview is where? And I’m with who?
Carol Secinaro: Barrington Movie Poster & Book Shop, Carol Secinaro, owner.
BC: How did the collection start?
CS: My husband (Ralph) grew up in California which gave him a feel for the whole movie industry and he started collecting from a young age a little here, a little there and of course as he got older and had more jobs got more money to do more of a little here and there.
BC: What made you decide to open a store in conjunction with your eBay business?
CS: Basically because the inventory was taking over the house.
BC: What does that mean – taking over the house?
CS: It’s in every room, it’s in our garage, basement – we have 5 storage units – it’s just in every nook and cranny so this building became available and it was very reasonable so we decided to acquire it and we had more space for the inventory. When we bought the building it was just going to be a storage facility but the other shops in town asked us if we were going to be there most days if we would open up as a store so it would bring in more business for everybody. So that’s what we decided to do.
BC: So with all of this storage do you know what you have?
CS: No not really.
BC: So there’s no inventory?
CS: There’s a little here and a little there but the only inventory that does exist is what’s in the store and slowly we’ve been bringing it to the store and we have a database which I’ve been entering as the items come to the store but everything at the house and storage units there’s no inventory system.
BC: What’s the percentage of the store and eBay – how much do you do with each side of it?
CS: We probably do 90% off on eBay and 10% off of the store but then again the store only represents 10% of our inventory.
BC: So most of your inventory is on eBay?
CS: Well, no it hasn’t all been put on eBay we thought that by buying the building we would move everything into here.
BC: The building is only 880 sq. ft. and you just told me you have 5 storage units and your house (laugh).
CS: (Laugh) 2 car garage – well we didn’t really think it all the way through.
Sharing lots of laughing between Carol & myself…
BC: What is the most common request or favorite genre from your shoppers/collectors?
CS: Horror, that’s #1 and #2 is Sci-Fi they’re the 2 top requested, which is what we bring in first to the store we try to pull out that as much as possible because the people that do come to the store that’s what they’re looking for it’s really by generation. The older generation likes the Cary Grant, Doris Day, all of the older ones and they’re the ones that look at eBay.
BC: How can you tell the difference between a casual shopper and a serious collector?
CS: A serious collector comes in and doesn’t know where to look first they come in and they’re all over the place, you were that way. A casual shopper comes in and go for the books first because they understand that and then they kind of peruse around, a serious collector looks at all of the posters on display and look at this and that their head is spinning.
BC: What is the most expensive poster or item you’ve sold?
CS: Probably a Star Wars that was about $800.
BC: Was that a full size poster?
CS: Yes , a one sheet – we do have others that are more expensive but we haven’t sold them all – we have another Star Wars poster that’s linen back that is over $1,000 – however they usually go to auction where they are really serious collectors another one we’ve sent to auction was 2001 Space Odyssey linen back among others.
BC: What is the oddest inquiry that you’ve ever gotten from a collector?
CS: I always think it’s kind of funny when people who come in and are kind of vague collectors they know what’s important but they have no idea of cost. Like I have people coming in wanting an original King Kong and my answer to them is that an original King Kong today costs more than it did to make the movie
BC: Yes the current price of an original King Kong is over $130,000 easily
CS: Right and they don’t understand the concept and they think it would be $100 or $200 tops – it’s an original artwork now it’s not just a fun poster to have… [rather historical value].
I paused the interview as customers entered into the store, the previous questions truly are not that odd, as journalist, and Horror Historian I find that many younger fans of the horror genre, try to compartmentalize their interests and don’t seem to understand the value of rarity. The store actually is a destination for filmmakers, casting talents, writers and other artists all leaving business cards, which Carol uses to make more connections. Her store reminds me of the ones I saw out in California when I visited the LA market, years back however she is far more personable. The treasures inside the store easily rival the images found on Google.
BC: What have you learned since opening your store?
CS: It’s not that big of a store and people come in and think that all of the horror is in one place or romance in one place they want it to be like the Dewey decimal system in the library but it just doesn’t work that way you come in and some stuff may be categorized but you’re better off just looking through each place for instance there may be a sci-fi fan and they hunt through everything and they find a poster that takes them think back to their childhood and then they see they can’t live without it. If they had just gone by category they would have never found it.
BC: That’s a nice way of looking at it – Do you consider movie posters as a form of art?
CS: Yes, now for some people – people collect for the different genres that they like , they like horror, sci-fi, some like westerns and I know some people collect because they like the movie star like John Wayne, Earl Flynn and that’s what they like and there are people and they want color because they want it to blend in with their living room or just a piece of artwork and the older stuff is definitely that way now I also think it’s kind of funny that they we have designers and decorators come in because they do man caves which is a big thing today but they can’t understand that the older posters have folds in them and they just don’t know why did they do that – well in the 1930s when they created the poster they didn’t realize that years later it would be considered a collection or an art form. So I tell the customer that they can get linen back which would take the folds out of it but they don’t want to spend the extra money for their client. Why couldn’t they have created it without the folds and that’s just not how it was done in those days.
BC: When did they stop the folding of the posters?
BC: Do you know the reason why they suddenly switched gears?
CS: Well that’s when everything started to go digital, they didn’t have artists creating the actual artwork and that’s also when the studios started sending them direct to the theaters instead of going to a distribution center. A lot of things transpired in that time. They also stopped making lobby cards, inserts, half sheets and they went to only one form which was one sheet and the technology was there that they could roll them instead of sending them flat. They use to send them in the cases so it was square and so they would fold them up and put them in there.
BC: I noticed in your store you don’t have any of the standees.
CS: We did but we ran into a situation. We had a standee at the front of the store and there’s a tavern across the street and some of the people in the tavern came out late in the evening and they ended up calling the police, because they thought there was somebody broke into the store. The police department asked if we would move the standees to the back of the store and not put them toward the window because it happened I think twice so we sold them off, plus they take up a lot of room so we just steered away from them.
BC: How would explain lobby cards to a younger audience?
CS: It happens all of the time – I explain that it’s a form of what we call today a movie trailer. They would put the lobby cards in the theater for an upcoming movie and the lobbies would actually show scenes from the move by the cards so they would know what the future movie would be and sometimes they have the lobby cards up for a current movie so they can decide if they want to see it now.
BC: Is there any poster that you or Ralph will not sell maybe it’s a private collection that you just can’t part with?
CS: Well he has a lot – quite a number of things that he can’t part with most of which is all Silent he’s a big silent collector he has a lobby card from Metropolis he has a lobby card from Greed they are all the old silent screen – the Iron Horse.
BC: Why does he find the silent era so fascinating?
CS: I think it’s something that won’t ever be coming back like the old westerns – now some westerns have sort of comeback but not the same way.
BC: You just had some visitors in the store and you just show how you figure out if they’re serious or just casual and that’s because of your work experience.
CS: Right – I was a retail buyer for John Wannamaker’s for 20 years and the years that I worked there they gave you lots of classes on how to read body language of a customer so I kind of knew that when they walked in the door – I always ask people “Is this your first time?” and if they answer yes or no I go from there. After this customer explained who he was but I knew his friend and he just mozied around the store and they’re assuming it’s just a basic movie poster that you can get at Walmart which are reproductions and the lion share of what we carry here are originals. They don’t understand the difference. They can go to Walmart and get a reproduction poster for $10 or $15 or you can come here and get an original for $10 or $15 and they don’t understand why. Part of it is the inventory that we have we got when the movie first came out and my husband is a long time collector and in those days we did shows and when we did the shows we priced everything accordingly and when we decided to open up the shop and open up eBay that’s when we decided that we have so much inventory and we’re not young so we need to start moving it out and what we do a lot of time we price it under what it is on eBay and depending on how much a person buys we give them a little discount based on the fact that we want them to come back and we just go from there. We’re not looking to keep it – we just have so much of it – it could take us the rest of our lives to get rid of it which isn’t as long as someone else’s but we do need to move it out.
BC: Is it true that people just drop off movie posters to you just because they can?
CS: Yes, they do a lot people they buy the stuff and it’s for decoration purposes and they enjoy a certain movie and they kind of grow away from it they’ve had them framed, hung up, they’ve used them. While they’re still in excellent condition and they hate to just put them in the trash and they would rather just donate them to us to sell and then they don’t have to feel bad about it.
BC: What is one of the oddest pieces that got dropped off for you?
CS: I would say The Grateful Dead Mirror.
BC: It was just waiting for you when you showed up?
CS: Yes it was on the doorstep.
BC: You also do sell vinyl. Is that something new?
CS: Yes because we have cases of them in the storage unit – many times when my husband would go and buy a collection off of someone like if they passed away and they have all of this inventory the family is left to sell it. They may have accumulated movie posters, records, comics, sheet music and my husband would go in and give them a price for the movie posters and they would plead with him to just take it all and certain things he would which would be interesting to him and then we would end up with all of these vinyl records. Fortunately for us it started to come around and again we price them to movie it out and sometimes when people come into the store we give them better pricing than what we price it for on eBay.
BC: Because you want to move your inventory?
CS: Right because we want to bring more in so in order to bring in more inventory we have to move out some of it.
BC: And looking around I see what you mean of course I’ll be taking pictures of your wonderful store (laugh)… Could Ralph possibly be a hoarder?
CS: It’s been explained to me that a hoarder is someone who takes everything and anything and a collector is only takes something that has historical value in some way but sometimes I think there’s a very fine line.
BC: Maybe Ralph has a foot in both maybe… (LAUGH)
CS: (Laugh) yes I believe he does have a foot in both.
BC: What’s the fascination of collecting movie posters?
CS: Well for my husband it represents part of his youth, he was a big movie buff, and a lot of people come in here and that’s what’s important to them I actually had a customer come in here they’re with one genre or another. They like horror or sci-fi or adventure or maybe just collecting Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or something like that and I had a customer come in here and he was buying a lot of different things nothing was themed and in their conversation I mentioned that you have a very diversified items of what you’re buying. He said that “I am making a media room and I’m going to decorate it with all of the movie posters of the moves that my brother and I went to see and my brother has passed away and this is a big thing for me it’s a big memory thing”.
BC: What is your favorite movie and do you have a collection of that movie for yourself?
CS: No, there’s no room for me, (laugh) I’m an action type of movie buff and I do like anything with Harrison Ford, I’m more like the actor than the movie so anything he does is what I like. Also, I prefer certain movie posters based on who the artist was there are a lot of movie posters out there especially the ones done pre 1985 that are very famous artists. People don’t realize that a lot of things done by Saul Bass’ Vertigo or any of the Hitchcock movies and I like those based on the artist and the artwork.
BC: Are there any posters that you won’t sell? Some people won’t sell foreign because of how they depict things.
CS: It’s not a matter of will not sell rather will not display like we have a drawer of what I call “the naughty drawer” where I keep posters if somebody likes that kind of thing I put them in a drawer hidden other than that anything we have is fair game.
BC: So that’s all the question and I thank you.
CS: Thank you.
If you visit, and you should:
The Movie Poster & Book Shop is located at 106 Clements Bridge Road, Barrington. For more information, call (856) 546-1704 or visit: