Formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California, the Grateful Dead attracted a large concert following until the untimely death in 1995 of lead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia. In its wake, the band left behind scores of albums, most of them live recordings from the Dick’s Picks and Road Trips series, as well as a monumental amount of collectible memorabilia.

Vintage Grateful Dead posters, handbills, postcards, and ticket stubs from the 1960s are particularly in demand. The rarest of these are the flyers and handbills advertising the fabled Acid Tests organized by author Ken Kesey and held between 1965 and 1967 at various venues from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The Grateful Dead was the house band for these seminal events.

By 1966, the Grateful Dead was a fixture in San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium, both of which produced posters and postcards to advertise their shows. That year, Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse created one of the most famous Grateful Dead Avalon posters, known among collectors as FD026. Based on an illustration the artists found in an early 20th-century copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poster became known as Skeleton & Roses, thanks to the prominence of a rose-covered skeleton in its center. A version of this poster would go on to become an album cover for the band in 1971 and remains one of its most enduring and collectible images.

Over at the Fillmore, artist Wes Wilson was creating posters that helped define the psychedelic lettering style of the day. In 1966, several of his posters for Grateful Dead concerts featured photographs by Herb Greene. One of the best of these, BG032, had a portrait of a leather-jacketed, Cheshire-cat-grinning Jerry Garcia staring straight into the camera. Another, BG023, paired a group photo of the band with one of the Jefferson Airplane, which at the time got top billing.

Fillmore promoter Bill Graham hired an artist named James H. Gardner to create a new version of this poster for a summer-of-1967 show of the Airplane and the Dead (they were billed on the poster as representatives of the "the San Francisco scene") in Toronto. Known as BG074, the poster used the same Herb Greene photo of the Grateful Dead below a new one of the Jefferson Airplane, and was organized almost exactly like Wilson’s original. But due to the remote location and low print run, it is today one of the most collectible Grateful Dead posters from the late 1960s.

Other San Francisco artists to create Grateful Dead posters include Rick Griffin, whose January 1969 poster for a series of shows at the Avalon (ABR690124) was repurposed that summer for the band’s third album, Aoxomoxoa.

Which brings us to vinyl. When the Grateful Dead recorded their first few albums, the process in the studio was, by most accounts, a good deal less than perfect. Thus, in the early 1970s, Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa, the band’s second and third albums, were remixed to improve their sound quality. This pleased the band but annoyed some of its fans, who preferred the original muddy mixes, which are now quite collectible...

Deadheads also cherish ticket stubs from the 1960s and beyond. Those for shows at the Fillmore and Avalon were usually mini, two-color versions of the poster, so some collectors strive to collect a concert’s poster, postcard, and tickets to create complete sets.

Ticketron issued one of the band’s most famous tickets for a show on October 20, 1974. Prior to this concert, the Dead had announced its intention to take a hiatus. No one really knew if this was just a break or a break-up, so the ticket for that show was printed with the words “THE LAST ONE” in big, blocky letters on its front. And for some reason, the band’s name was misspelled—Greateful instead of Grateful.

Of course, the Grateful Dead did not break up. In fact, during the 1980s and early 1990s, they were routinely one of the highest-grossing touring bands on the planet. Stage passes from these decades, particularly uncut sheets of unused passes like the "Truck Puzzle" (12/3/92-12/17/92) by Tony Reonegro are highly collectible. After the death of Garcia, the band created a line of collectibles for kids in the form of stuffed bean-bag bears, similar to Beanie Babies but with Grateful Dead themes.

In recent years, the band has released limited-edition soundboard recordings of entire runs at the Fillmore West (four nights in a row from 1969) and Winterland (three nights in a row from 1973). These sets routinely turn up for resale on eBay.

Even more successful are the recent auctions at Bonham’s of items that had been collected by former Grateful Dead road managers and band associates. In these tony, auctioneer surroundings—a far cry from the band’s communal, 1960s digs in Haight-Ashbury—everything from gold records to tie-dyed speaker covers to Harley Davidson motorcycles have been auctioned off, sometimes for breathtaking prices.

Among the most prized items at these affairs (besides the original album art and the handmade guitars, which have brought tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars) have been the beat-up equipment and attaché cases. Despite their road-weary condition, or perhaps because of it, these modest cases have fetched upwards of $15,000 each.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

Grateful Dead Tickets and Passes

Grateful Dead Tickets and Passes

Wish you'd kept your stubs from when you followed The Dead around? Check out this collection of over 3,000 Grateful… [read review or visit site]

Remember Eddie Cochran

Remember Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran died in 1960 at the age of 21, but his legacy lives on at Remember Eddie Cochran. The site pays tribu… [read review or visit site]

Dylanstubs.com

Dylanstubs.com

Hey babe, check out this database of over 2,900 Bob Dylan ticket stubs and concert posters, assembled with the help… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Grateful Dead 1967 Concert Poster Bg,fd,aorGrateful Dead May 1977 Box Set 14 Cd Limited Edition 5 Shows 77 - #12487Quicksilver Messenger Service Poster Bg,fd,aor,grateful DeadGrateful Dead- Winterland November 9/10/11 1973 - 9cd SetGrateful Dead- Bonus Disc From Winterland 1973 (cincinnati 12/4/73) CdGrateful Dead Dave's Picks Vol. 3 Chicago 1971 Sealed Cd SetGrateful Dead Vintage Concert T-shirt, 1995, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas4 Vtg 1990 95 Grateful Dead Tye Dye Rock Concert Tour 90s Band T Shirt Lot 44-46Grateful Dead:dave's Picks Volume 2: Dillon, Hartford 7/31/74 (3cd) Sealed/newGrateful Dead-dave's Pick Volume 4: Williamsburg 9/24/76 3-cdGrateful Dead Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings (cd, May-2009, 9...Vintage Grateful Dead Shirt 1981 Stanley Mouse 80s Hippie Boho Rocker Rare XlLot Of 4 Empty Zippo Cases, Brass Harley Davidson, Stanley Mouse Grateful DeadJefferson Airplane Rick Griffin Poster Bg,fd,aor,grateful DeadGrateful Dead- Road Trips Fillmore East 5-15-70 3cd Set Vol.3 No.3Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 1 - 5/25/77, The Mosque, Richmond, Va 3cdGrateful Dead- Academy Of Music-rockin' The Rhein Bonus Cd-brand NewGrateful Dead - American Beauty - Mobile Fidelity - Mfsl - 1- 014 NmCountry Joe & The Fish Bob Masse Poster Bg,fd,aor,grateful DeadGrateful Dead- So Many Roads (1965-1995) 5cd Box SetVintage 1993 90s Grateful Dead Ship Of Fools T-shirt L Jerry Garcia Grateful Dead/jerry Garcia Cd LotGrateful Dead Dave's Picks Vol. 6 San Francisco 1969 St. Louis 1970 Sealed Cd Vintage 90s Grateful Dead Tie Dye Jerry Garcia Blues Alto Psychedelic T-shirtGrateful Dead Dave's Picks Vol. 8 Atlanta 1980 Sealed Cd SetGrateful Dead~wake Of Flood~rare Orig '73 Lp~monarch West Coast Press~in ShrinkGrateful Dead Box Set 11 Cd Rhino Pop Rock The Golden Road + Booklet(cd) Grateful Dead - Terrapin Station: Capital Centre 1990 / 3 Cd / #23032Grateful Dead Bootlegs Lot Year 1977 = 31 Tapes1989 Sealed Rock Lp Bob Dylan /grateful Dead Dylan & The Dead W/tracklist StkrGrateful Dead Dick's Pick 25 Original 2002 Grateful Dead~workingman's Dead~rare Orig '70 Warner Green Label Lp~1a~beautifulGrateful Dead Blues For Allah Orig Pressing Vg++ Vinyl W/insertGrateful Dead Dead Set Lp Arista Records Al98112 Nm Rock1975 Sealed Rock Lp Grateful Dead Rel Seastones Rare Phil Lesh Round Co. StickerLot Of 30 Live Grateful Dead Cassettes Cassette Tapes From 1966-1970 Dsbd/1!Cd Lot - 29 Cds - Rock Classic Grateful Dead Rush Boston Chicago Cars Doors HitsGrateful Dead~vintage Dead~very Rare Orig '70 Sunflower Lp~in Shrink~beautifulGrateful Dead Jerry Garcia Band Bootleg Cassettes & Cds Lot =17 Tapes/6 CdsGrateful Dead Wake Up To Find Out Vinyl Record Set 3/29/1990 (5 Lps)22 Classic Rock Cd Lot - The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Jiminy Hendrix, And More!(cd) Grateful Dead - From The Mars Hotel / Mfsl Silver DiscGrateful Dead Bootlegs Cassettes Lot 1986 =6 TapesLot Of 30 Live Grateful Dead Cassettes Cassette Tapes All From 1971 Dsbd/1!Mobile Fidelity Original Master Lp Grateful Dead Beauty Mfsl 014 Mint MofiGrateful Dead Tye Dye Tie Dye Hat Cap 1992 Snapback Balzout Usa Made Grateful Dead - Dick's Picks 10 (12/29/1977 Winterland) 3cdGrateful Dead- Road Trips Carousel 2-14-68 2cd Set Vol.2 No.2 - Gra2-6006Grateful Dead Bootleg Cassettes Lot Years 1979 & 1980 = 11 TapesGrateful Dead Movie Invite: La Paloma Theater, Encinitas, CaHot Wheels Real Riders Grateful Dead Vw BajaGrateful Dead July 1978 Complete Recordings 12 Cds - #1969 Of 15,000! Like New! Grateful Dead Out West Hollywood Palladium Pt.2 Splash Vinyls Tmoq Rare Grateful Dead Bootlegs Lot 1978 =18 TapesGrateful Dead, Allman Brothers Complete Concert Ticket Watkins Glen, Ny 7/28/73Seastones (w/grateful Dead)~ultra-rare Orig'74 Quadraphonic Audiophile Lp~shrinkGrateful Dead Europe 72 Lp Warner Bros Records 3wx2668 Nm Rock LiveGrateful Dead Bootleg Cassettes Lot 1987 =24 TapesGrateful Dead Dick's Picks Lot Cd # 1, 7, 8, 13, 15, 20, 21Grateful Dead Wake Of The Flood Vinyl Lp Classic 1973 Release Their Own Label Nm