Posters and prints enjoy a number of obvious similarities. For example, both are multiples, which simply means that more than one version of the image exists, and posters and prints are often produced using the exact same techniques. In the case of a poster, though, the edition size is not necessarily fixed or even documented. To make matters more complicated, some of the earliest fine-art etchings and woodblock prints were produced in what are sometimes called “open editions.” Today, however, prints are typically signed and numbered, which is the main reason why prints tend to be more highly valued than posters.
One important difference between the two categories is that many printmaking techniques go back much further than poster technologies such as lithography, which only dates to the late 18th century. Historians believe that woodcutting probably originated in China around the early 9th century. By the 15th century the German engraver Albrecht Dürer was using this ancient technique to create prints of incredible detail.
The rise in advertising during the Victorian Era spurred inventions such as the four-color lithograph, which was used to produce, among other things, appealing images for advertisers. In 1867, Jules Cheret, inspired—perhaps ironically—by Japanese woodcuts, used the newly-developed system to combine text and images into a poster. Soon, European artists like Alphonse Mucha and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec were creating posters combining Art Nouveau aesthetics with easily understandable sales pitches.
American artist Maxfield Parrish used printing techniques to create multiples of his paintings, including “Dreaming,” “Stars,” and “New Moon.” His work was sought out by the fine-art crowd as well as advertisers, who used his blue-hued imagery of beautiful female figures posed in romantic landscapes to sell everything from soap to soda pop.
Throughout the 20th century, fine artists produced limited-edition prints that were often variations of subject matter they focused on in their paintings. The great prewar narrative painter Thomas Hart Benton made both paintings of rural American life as well as lithographs of the same. By the 1960s, artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were giving equal attention to their prints, if not more.
In parallel, advertisers were producing some of the most sought-after posters of the century, from James Montgomery Flagg’s recruiting lithographs printed in 1917 or Universal Studios’s horror-movie posters from the 1930s. Other collectible posters from the century include political, sports, circus, aviation, and railroad posters.
By the 1960s, music posters were becoming an international phenomenon. In London, Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, working as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, produced psychedelic updates of Art Nouveau posters for Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. In Boston, the owners of a club called Boston Tea Party tended to take a clean, graphic approach to publicize concerts by everyone from local heroes J. Geils Band to New York’s Velvet Underground. Detroit had the Grande Ballroom, whose resident poster artist was Gary Grimshaw and house band was the MC5. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Dahlgren made posters for a club called the Kaleidoscope, whose posters were always circular...
The U.S. city that’s best known for vintage rock posters, though, is San Francisco. A combination of multiple music venues and lots of talented artists was the catalyst for the vibrant scene. Over at the Avalon Ballroom, Chet Helms hired Wes Wilson, followed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, to make posters for shows featuring The Blues Project, Captain Beefheart, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead.
Over at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium, artist Wes Wilson created posters that helped define the psychedelic lettering style of the day. Another influential artist associated with the San Francisco scene was Rick Griffin, whose February 1968 "Flying Eyeball" poster (BG105) for Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Albert King is an icon of the art form.
What makes music posters so interesting to collectors today is that they have once again blurred the line between posters and prints. Many contemporary music posters, particularly those created for rock bands such as Phish, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews, are produced in signed and numbered editions, just like a fine-art print. Some artists such as Jim Pollock, Emek, and Chuck Sperry will see posters they have created for a particular concert appear on eBay the morning after the show for double or triple the price.
This trend continues even with artists whose poster-like prints don’t advertise anything at all. For example, Shepard Fairey, who gained widespread acclaim for the poster he created for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, recently produced a limited-edition print of Muhammad Ali that has proven to be quite popular with collectors.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
London Transport Museum Posters
Fillmore and Avalon Collection
New York Public Library
The American Memory Project
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Posters and Prints
Source: Google News
Cirque Atomique at Lee Dam Center for Fine ArtKndy Radio, August 2nd
Titled Cirque Atomique, French for Atomik Circus, the center is filled with nearly forty paintings. Dummermuth's largest piece of work looks like a vintage poster for a circus. She used bright colors and bold words in contrast to Funke who used varying...Read more
Collectibles now filling investor portfoliosArkansas Online, August 2nd
Bruce Marchant said he's found the protection he needs against stock market gyrations — in the arms of an Amazon in a white bikini. She adorns his vintage poster of the 1958 sci-fi flick Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, which 10 years ago cost $5,000...Read more
Solutions: Let favorite wine accents flavor home decorThe Detroit News, July 30th
Nearby, hangs a reproduction of a vintage poster that shows a waiter holding a bottle of French wine on a tray. The yellow and black color scheme that has become one of my favorite combinations is featured in both images. I still have the wine rack...Read more
Marilyn Monroe's never-before-seen nude photos releasedMetro, July 29th
But now never-before-seen versions of the iconic image are going on tour around North America. Limited Runs, a vintage poster and art retailer, will be taking the 1949 nude snap of Marilyn along with 21 large format separations to Los Angeles, San ...Read more
How to get rich with James Bond movie postersThe Straits Times, July 28th
She adorns his vintage poster of the 1958 sci-fi flick, Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman, which 10 years ago cost US$5,000. Today it is worth US$16,000 (S$21,800) - a 220 per cent return. "In the past decade, things have really shot up," said Mr Marchant...Read more
James Bond Posters, Rare Collectibles Can Make You RichBloomberg, July 27th
She adorns his vintage poster of the 1958 sci-fi flick, “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” which 10 years ago cost $5,000. Today it's worth $16,000 -- a 220 percent return. “In the past decade things have really shot up,” said Marchant, who owns London...Read more
Art Nouveau, Travel Scenes, and War Posters at Swann Galleries' Vintage Poster ...Fine Books & Collections Magazine, July 6th
New York—Summer is in full swing and bright images are out in force for Swann Galleries' largest August auction of Vintage Posters to date. With almost 700 lots, the two-part auction scheduled for August 5 will feature several vivid and vivacious...Read more
Longtime Vintage Poster Gallery Bidding Adieu To Jackson SquareHoodline, May 21st
After 18 years in business in Jackson Square, Sarah Stocking Antique Posters is bidding the area "adieu." Known for a prized collection of French turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque as well as Art Nouveau posters, the gallery is one of several to shutter...Read more