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Collector pays $1.2 million for rare posters, including 'Metropolis'

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A film memorabilia collector paid $1.2 million for nine rare and early film posters, including the world's highest-valued poster of the 1927 film "Metropolis," in a bankruptcy auction in Los Angeles on Thursday, the trustee in the bankruptcy case said.

Ralph DeLuca, who owns New Jersey-based film memorabilia company Movie Archives Inc, won the bidding against three others in the court auction, said trustee John J. Menchaca. 

Bidding for the lot of posters started at $700,000. DeLuca beat out memorabilia powerhouse Heritage Auctions.

The "Metropolis" poster, the crown jewel of the collection, was purchased by California collector Kenneth Schachter for a record $690,000 in a 2005 private sale. But he was forced to sell the poster along with eight others after declaring bankruptcy. 

"I honestly feel that the 'Metropolis' poster is worth more than the whole lot," DeLuca told Reuters after the auction. Other notable items in the lot included an original "King Kong" poster and an "Invisible Man" poster, both from 1933. 

Directed by Austrian Fritz Lang, "Metropolis" was the most expensive silent film ever made at the time of its release. The German-produced film, with its special effects and futuristic plot, is considered a hallmark in early cinema.

The poster, one of only four known surviving copies, was illustrated by German Heinz Schulz-Neudamm, who depicted the film's dystopian future with towering, faceless skyscrapers and jagged script.

One copy is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which confers the poster's value as art, DeLuca said.

"It's 'The Scream,' the 'Guernica' of film posters," DeLuca said of the modernist masterpieces painted by Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso, respectively. "It's literally the 'Mona Lisa.'" 

DeLuca, however, has no plans to flip the poster in another sale.

"I think I'll keep the poster unless I get overwhelmed with a 'Guinness Book of Records' offer," he said. "I believe it will be the first to go past $1 million and even hit $2 million." 

Schachter, a resident of Valencia about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, filed for bankruptcy last year after he was unable to repay loans he received to buy film memorabilia. 

The sale will go to pay off Schachter's debts, which he listed at no more than $1 million when filing for bankruptcy. 

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