Formed in 1965 in San Francisco, 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 a 19th-century copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poster became known as Skull & 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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Fillmore and Avalon Collection
Grateful Dead Tickets and Passes
Remember Eddie Cochran
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Grateful Dead Memorabilia
Source: Google News
Rock Scully, Grateful Dead's Manager Who Put the Band on Records, Dies at 73New York Times, December 20th
Owsley Stanley, the notoriously prodigious maker of LSD, introduced Mr. Scully in 1965 to the scraggly, zonked-out members of a band that had just changed its name from the Warlocks to the Grateful Dead. “Rock's going to be your manager,” he said...Read more
Grateful Dead Themed “Bud and Breakfast” Opens in ColoradoMarijuana.com, December 19th
The Grateful Dead themed Bud + Breakfast Silverthorne has officially opened its doors to mountain tourists. The Mary Jane Group property represents the companies' second foray into Bud + Breakfasts, as the company also owns The Adagio in Denver, ...Read more
Rock Scully, the Grateful Dead's first manager, dies at 73SFGate, December 19th
Rock Scully, the original manager of the Grateful Dead, who helped navigate the maverick San Francisco band through the wild and woolly period between 1965 and 1985, died Tuesday in his hometown of Monterey. He was 73. The cause was lung cancer, ...Read more
Little Girl Starts Subway Dance Party With Help From the Grateful DeadUltimate Classic Rock, December 14th
A New York City subway platform may seem like an odd place for a hoedown, but that's the nature of Williamsburg, Brooklyn these days. A recent video has gone viral thanks to a little girl dancing to 'Me and My Uncle,' a song popularized by the Grateful...Read more
Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia's love letters going up for auctionFox News, December 14th
Two rare love letters from Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia to a female companion he met in the '80s are going up for sale. Garcia wrote the letters, which include a phone number and a sketch of the band performing at an amphitheater, to a former ...Read more
Searching for Shalom: Judaism & the Grateful DeadRelix, December 12th
There are many Jews who take to both Judaism and the Grateful Dead like bees to honey. This phenomenon shouldn't be surprising. It certainly isn't incongruous. First of all, by definition, serious adherents of both groups are true seekers in search of...Read more
Grateful Dead tribute event 'Mobile's Dead' could be the biggest show on ...AL.com, November 26th
MOBILE, Alabama - If fellowship is the cure for loneliness then LoDa is going to be the most illuminated place in town tonight. For the second straight year, some of the best musicians the area has ever produced will gather to pay homage to the...Read more
The Power of No: An Interview With Former Grateful Dead Manager Richard LorenNewsweek, November 23rd
Legend has it that when the suits from Warner Bros. came from L.A. to visit the Grateful Dead in San Francisco in the '60s—and what suits they wore! blue blazers with the WB logo emblazoned on them—they wouldn't take any food or drink from the band ...Read more