You don't have to be a film buff to collect old posters, which are fast becoming a wise investment.
Film posters used to be considered worthless ephemera once they'd served their purpose - to get bums on seats. They took up too much space in warehouses and were destroyed by the thousand. "Coming soon" posters - or "teasers" - for small, local cinemas were often one-offs. No one thought to lay them on acid-free paper to stop them from discolouring or to guard against pinholes and creases in anticipation of the day they could be flogged for exorbitant prices.

When Greg Edwards started selling film posters 20 years ago, there were very few collectors. "Today, more and more people are seeing film posters as works of art," says Edwards, whose shop-cum- gallery, the Cinegrafix Gallery, opened in London last month. "The art market is normally beyond people's reach, so they are looking for images they can afford."

According to Bruce Marchant of London's The Reel Poster Gallery, poster- collecting started in America and only recently took off in England. "A lot of people here didn't know the posters existed," he explains. "But when my partner Tony Nourmand and I put on a couple of auctions at Christie's last year, we discovered there were a lot of British buyers. We realised there was a growing market."

The market is partly driven by nostalgia. David Hutchison is a typical Cinegrafix customer with what he is happy to call an "addiction". "I loved film posters as a child and I've been hooked ever since."

"People want posters of well-known films, or of ones they associate with some memory, like their first date. But nostalgia doesn't always come into it," says Marchant. "Sometimes, we have a poster of a obscureTwenties film, but the image is so fantastic, that's what counts."

Marchant and Nourmand stock linen- backed posters from Japan, France, Italy and the States, and are in constant contact with an international mafia of dealers who help them to track down rare posters. The two partners' different tastes make their collection even more eclectic, as Mar-chant explains: "Tony is a film connoisseur. I trained as a sculptor. Tony looks out for what's rare, while I'm interested in design." At Cinegrafix, only posters with good graphics pass muster. "I won't buy any with ugly graphics - even if they're of a really famous film," Edwards says. "In fact, it would be boring to stock posters of Casablanca just because it was a classic film." His view might sound uncommercial, but being near the Design Museum, Cinegrafix attracts hordes of design junkies.

The description "gallery" hasn't made the place intimidating, says the laid-back Edwards. "Customers can slump on a sofa and watch a slide show of posters in storage - a nice cinematic touch and necessary, as the gallery stocks 2,000 posters.

Reel Poster is more rarefied. A discreet entrance implies that only those in the know are likely to visit. Reverential parquet primes you for the biggest array of posters you're likely to see in Britain: an art deco design for King Kong, Curtis and Lemmon shouldering a winking, complicit Marilyn in Some Like It Hot...

Reel Poster's collection (prices from around pounds 100) pretty much stops with the Seventies. But, says Marchant, the shop will stock Eighties and Nineties posters if the images are really strong. "Today's posters are photographic, so you've lost the elements collectors like - the design and artwork. They'll also never be as valuable as older posters, as they print thousands, so more of them will survive."

As they say in the movies, they just don't make them like they used to.

Cinegrafix Gallery, 4 Copper Row, Tower Bridge Piazza. London SE1 2LH. Mon-Sat, 11am-7pm; Sun, noon-6pm.

The Reel Poster Gallery, First Floor, 22 Great Marlborough Street, London W1V 1AF. Mon-Sat, 10.30am-6pm.