In the 30+ years I’ve been selling vintage Disney art, I’ve largely avoided photostat model sheets. I mean, they are copies. They are copies created 50 years or more ago and used by character animators as a roadmap for the artists working under them of how to draw some of the most iconic characters in history, but copies nonetheless. Whenever I’ve been able to score an original graphite model sheet, it’s my absolute favorite thing to sell. They are incredibly rare, and knowing a model sheet with great provenance is in the collection of one of my clients thrills me. So there’s a huge difference about how I have felt about the original vs photostat models.
That being said, over the years, original graphites and concept art have become very expensive, and people have started collecting photostats more and more. Obviously, though, it’s very easy to fake them. I’ve seen countless images on Ebay for sale, often framed, for very little money, but that are also clearly not authentic.
Lately, I’ve become more interested in offering original photostat model sheets. They may be more expensive than they used to be, but they still have great history, and the images are so exciting. Who used them back then? Where did they keep it? (for example, often you see they have pinholes where they were put on the wall for the animators to follow)
I know with absolute certainty that the model sheets I have access to are authentic. This person has only ever bought from animators, and they are super tied into that crowd and have been for decades. Also, the collector who has them has had them for so long that they supersede the advent of giclees on paper, and copiers that could do the sort of fake they make and pass off as authentic nowadays. Granted, they are generally a lot more money than the fakes proliferating the auctions and sites now. It all comes down to how much it matters to you that the piece you’re buying was there then, a part of the history of creating the cartoon for which they were utilized.
With that in mind, there are a few rules you might want to follow when buying photostat model sheets:
- Know your seller. I can’t stress this enough. This assumes you’re actually after an original, not a copy of a copy. If all you care about is the image, not the history, it doesn’t matter. If you’re wanting to get a photostat model sheet that was used by animators working on that character, you have to get it from someone who traces everything they ever sell all the way back to Disney. I say this in part because there are many people with integrity who buy pieces that have changed hands many times, and they just base their buys on what the seller is telling them. It’s a bit like “Telephone”. If the seller you bought it from got it from someone who was duped, that’s several layers away from the criminal who has faked model sheets. Stick with highly rated, well-versed dealers if you want a model sheet used by Disney animators.
- If you buy from Ebay, or any other auction, limit your spending to under $300. To my mind, this is actually true for any sale on there. If you get a fake for under $300, at least you have an image. For over $300, and it had better be real. You’ll never know if aren’t buying it from someone with a pristine reputation who has been in the animation world a long time.
- As always, only buy characters you love. Original model sheets represent a part of that character being brought to the screen. There are literally many millions of fans all over the world who love them. Don’t add something about which you feel mediocre to your collection.
- Don’t buy them framed. If you are buying them from someone who will be framing them, look at them unframed first. There are many obvious signs of a fake model sheet, not least of which is the paper it’s printed on.
- How much should you spend? I’ve seen vintage photostats from $150 to $650. Beyond that price, you might just save your money and be on the lookout for an original. It will be much more, but as I’m always teaching my clients, it is better to have fewer pieces of higher quality.
We almost always have at least one original graphite model sheet in the gallery. If you’re wanting to get some photostats, we have some available right now, and we can also try to track down ones that show your favorite characters. Here are a few photostats we have at present, but contact us for availability or to have us find specific characters.
Above are two photostat model sheets of Snow White.
These Bambi and Thumper photostat model sheets really capture how they are drawn and their expressions for the animators using them.
Here are two from Dumbo, showing Dumbo and Timothy, two best friends, from all angles.
Two classic secondary characters that are fan favorites from Cinderella, Lucifer and Jaq.
Here are two of the most fragile, beautifully rendered characters in Pinocchio, The Blue Fairy and Cleo, both of whom required translucent paint.
Who can forget the characters that populated The Song of the South? I’m sure plenty of folks at Disney would love you to, but Briar Fox and Briar Bear stick with you like a briar from the patch.
If you’re interested in adding some photostat model sheets (or for that matter, some original graphite ones) to your collection, let us know and we’ll set about finding exactly what you’re after or add it to your wish list!
Good luck and happy collecting!