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BENTON CARD COMPANY

I had the honor to interview Mr. Benton before he died. He was very gracious to help clarify the operations of his company through the years.

In the world of movie paper, there are primarily 2 paper sizes that were targeted to use away from the theater. They were window cards and heralds. Window cards were bought by the theater managers in bulk to distribute in store windows or on poles and heralds were bought in bulk to hand out. The other movie paper was purchased in small quantity ( one or two) to place inside the theater lobby.

In 1933, the Benton Card Company looked to move more into the movie material. The bulk printing was right down their alley. They wanted to make available a less expensive line by using limited colors on a cheaper card stock or paper for the smaller theaters that couldn't afford bulk in the full color window cards and heralds that were supplied by the studios and then National Screen Service ("NSS"). They grew to producing regular weekly material for over 400 theaters.

In 1955, American International Pictures approached them to design and print window cards and heralds for their movie releases. AIP targeted low budget films for the younger market and Benton material was perfect.

Differences

The first major difference in the window cards and heralds produced by Benton Card Company and those produced by the National Screen Service is the number of colors used.

Most Benton window cards and heralds were printed using one color (monotone), two colors (duotone) or in some cases three colors (tritone). The National Screen Service, as well as the other major movie material printers, utilized full color presses, making their materials much more vivid (and more expensive).

The second major difference between the Benton cards and those of NSS is in the quality of the card stock and/or the paper products used. Benton kept their printing costs down by using a cheaper, thicker card stock for window cards and a less weight paper for their heralds. The NSS utilized higher grade printing materials.

NSS Version
Benton Version

 

Collectibility

Because the Benton Card Company was considered a "secondary" printing company, many long-time movie art collectors shy away from collecting Benton window cards and heralds. Benton window cards do not command the same dollar value as their NSS counterparts, even though they are the same age, and may be nearly identical to the NSS versions.

For example, the window card released by NSS for the film Hi-De-Ho (1947) was printed in three color. The Benton version was almost identical - same age, artwork, three color, pictures, etc. The only differences are that the Benton version was printed on a thicker cheaper card stock and contained a different tag line; however, for all intents and purposes, they are identical until they reach the collector's market. The Benton Card Company version of the Hi-De-Ho window card is valued to most collectors at approximately 10%-20% of the retail value of the NSS window card.

Benton cards are finding a market, however, with newer collectors who want to collect original older materials at a less expensive price.

Markings

There has been a lot of confusion about Benton material. Since they were a secondary printer, their material was normally available IN ADDITION to the regular NSS material.... BUT.. unlike NSS material, Benton would make additional printings as needed and CONTINUES to sell some of the material to this day. The good thing is that there are ways to tell the differences.

There are 3 different categories of Benton window cards. There are the original print, early reprints and later reprints. Let's take a look at each:

ORIGINALS

Benton Card Company originals were printed on thick heavy card stock, and the backside is shaded gray. An original will carry the tag "Benton Card Company" usually centered across the bottom of the window card.
These were made available to theater managers through the press kits just like the NSS counterpart.

OLDER REPRINTS

Over the years Benton Card Company would reissue some of their window cards. These reissues were printed on the same heavy card stock as the originals, utilizing the same printing plates. The "Older" reprints are distinguished from their original counterparts by a handwritten notation somewhere on the bottom of the card. This notation contains a year, a slash (I) and a stock number (i.e., 1949/844). The "Benton Card Company" tag is found on some early reprints, but not all. These reprints look so much like the originals that some of these reprints were mistakenly sold as originals.

NEWER REPRINTS

In the 1980's, when paper companies quit manufacturing the older, thicker card stock, Benton began reprinting their window cards on a newer, thinner, glossier card stock. These newer, more colorful reprints carry the letter "R" on the lower border along with the stock number. The year and slash were eliminated.

These newer 'reprints' are available for dealers to buy at any time, actually placing them in a different category. They are NOT being made for the re-distribution of the film but are printed whenever needed moving them to the reproduction category and out of the collectible catagory. See difference between collectible and commercial.

The Benton Card Company is still active in printing window cards for music and other entertainment events and still sells the newer movie reprints.

Some Controversy

Benton also did printing for other companies when they were overbooked. Some of these jobs do affect the hobby. We know of these 5 jobs for NSS and 1 for Globe that were printed by Benton:

Great Jesse James Raid - Jumbo Window Card - for NSS - 53/480
Kentucky Rifle - Jumbo Window Card - for NSS - 55/182
On the Mesa of Lost Women - Jumbo Window Card - for NSS - 52/529
Outlaw Women - Jumbo Window Card - for NSS - 52/186
Sins of Jezebel - Jumbo Window Card - for NSS - 53/508
Skid Row - Window Card - Globe Printing

These do NOT have any markings of Benton but have the appropiate markings for NSS and Globe.

 

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