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Alberta business lands motherload of 80s and 90s music, movie posters

Business owner Paul O'Mara still isn't sure what each poster contains, but he knows that they are mostly for films and music from the '80s and '90s and that they're "selling like crazy"
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Paul O'Mara, owner of Oceans 2 Prairies Wholesale Liquidation Ltd., poses with a pair of Bruce Lee posters, two of 10,000 posters he recently acquired from a friend.

A St. Albert business owner has acquired a stockpile of film, music and car posters so large that it would strike envy in even the trendiest ‘80s teen.

Paul O’Mara, owner of Oceans 2 Prairies Wholesale Liquidation Ltd., has 10,000 posters. He bought the stash off a friend three months ago and still hasn’t mapped its contents. Most of the posters remain a mystery.

“I’ve got them in a room upstairs,” he said, pointing to rows upon rows of colourful tubes that are visible from an opening in the wall of his Campbell Business Park store.

He’s been plucking 10-20 posters from the pile at random and keeping them on a rack for customers to browse — and they’re selling “like crazy,” he said.

“There’s people that come in that are amazed and buy 10 or 15 posters. They can look up and see that there's thousands, and they really want to go up there,” he said. “But I'm not set up to have people up there yet. So I'm looking forward to the day where I can invite people up so they can look through them.”

The posters are from a West Edmonton Mall store that closed in the 2010s, O’Mara said. His friend purchased roughly 20,000 posters shortly after the store shut down and recently offered the remaining stockpile to O’Mara.

“I took a risk,” O’Mara said.

They contain pop culture artifacts from 1970s to around 2006, but most of them are from the ‘80s and ‘90s. They have attracted collectors because they are not reprints, but posters that would have come on the market when the films, music and vehicles that they advertised were released.

Recently he’s uncovered Kiss posters from 1982 and Lord of the Rings posters that were printed before the movies hit theatres, and in his store windows are posters for the 1982 film Bladerunner and 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

“Lots of cool collectable pieces are selling to my generation — I'm 57 years old,” he said. “And I’m selling to the younger generation of kids, my kids’ age, that want to have the same posters their parents had on their walls.”

Posters are a unique form of marketing collateral in that they ostensibly exist to advertise products or raise awareness but have become sought-after collectors’ items in their own right, said Alyson Hodson, president and CEO of zag, an Edmonton-based marketing agency.

“Some of it happens by luck,” Hodson said. “Sometimes things take off that maybe you don't think will take off. Movie posters are a good example.”

Businesses can also look for ways to make their products collectors’ items, by running limited editions of a product, for example. Buyers are often drawn to items with visual appeal, Hodson said.

There are no dedicated poster stores in the Edmonton area these days, but Hodson doesn’t think that interest will disappear.

“When you look at things like hockey cards … people I think are still really interested in that, and there’s nostalgia,” she said. “What’s old becomes new again as we all get older … That collector culture is still there.”

“Just like any trend, it’s going to be in flux. You’ll probably see times when it becomes more popular, just like anything that’s cyclical.”

While O'Mara doesn't intend to plaster his house with posters, there is one poster that has been calling to him.

"Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead," he said.