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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

London Transport Museum Posters

London Transport Museum Posters

A must-see collection of 5,000 vivid, colorful British posters from the early 1900s onward. Browse by artist (over … [read review or visit site]

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]

USSR Posters

USSR Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset showcasing almost 1500 Soviet propaganda, advertising, theatre and movie posters from 1… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique John Carter The Great Magician Magic Fortune Teller Lithograph PosterLrg Antique Carter The Great Magic Magician Chinese Mystery Lithograph PosterKen Taylor Beetlejuice Signed Mondo Screen Print Limited Poster Movie Art RareChuck Sperry The Black Keys 2014 Philadelphia Poster Signed & Numbered PrintMarq Spusta Exposing An Elder Art Print Mini 7x7Original Vintage New York Worlds Fair Poster 1939 Twa Travel Airline Rare1998 Pearl Jam & Iggy Pop - Pittsburgh Silkscreen Concert Poster By AmesD*face Dface Artwork - 2008 - 1/1 - Coa - Banksy - Fairey - Chevrier1962 1st Edition March Chagall Lithographs Jerusalem Windows Book, Jean LeymarieBlack Sabbath Master Of Reality Warner Bros Lp Nm Wlp W/ PosterThe Hellacopters Cream Of The Crap Vol. 2 Rare 2 Lp Set W/ Poster GearheadTool Signed 2016 Tour Poster Atlanta Duluth Only 400 24x16 Rare PrimusMarq Spusta Tweek Metallic Blue Art Print Mini 7x7Halloween Mondo Mondocon Jason Edmiston Mondo Con 2015 Print Poster #123/300Rare Kaws Baby Print 06 Signed Numbered Framed 24x24Marq Spusta Signed Nestling In A Nook Art Print Mini 7x7Remington Umc Cardboard Poster Sign 1940s 22 Rifle Cartridge Shell Box Calendar Jacques Hnizdovsky Ram, Woodcut 1961Pearl Jam Donkey Kong Poster Msg 2010 Ames BrosMarq Spusta Signed Bliss Bug Black Rubber Art Print Mini 7x7Spirit Of The Sacred Scarab By Marq Spusta Direct From Studio 40% To CharityOriginal 1960 Pan American Airlines Travel Poster Bermuda Kauffer 42" X 28" Phish....waterfront..camden July 30/31 2003...concert Poster...jim PollockBob Dylan Greatest Hits Columbia Kcl 2663 Lp Sealed Promo W/ PosterMarq Spusta 7x7 Bliss BugMarq Spusta In My Head Mini Print Gold RareWidespread Panic Poster Pelham 1998 Lucchesi D*face - Bend Embrace - Ed 135 Print Sold Out - Stolen Space Gallery -no ReserveArt Nouveau Mucha Style French Champagne Poster Vintage Le Réveil Quinquina 1900Framed Sabra Field Original Print Harbor Summer 63/100 Vermont ArtistMarq Spusta Analog Fuzz Friend - Lime #/18 Limited Art Print Poster 12x127th War Loan Original 1945 Ww Ii Schlaikjer War Bond Poster Here's Your InfantryAuthentic Salvador Dali Hand Signed Heretics Original Woodcut $7000 Value CoaLarge Vintage Original The Clash London Calling 1980 Us Promo Poster Cbs Epic2015 Pearl Jam Nyc Global Citizen Central Park Poster Set Of 4* Original Twa Travel Poster Los Angeles 1965 By David Klein Airline Plane Nr! *Tool Band Signed 2016 Concert Poster San Francisco 1/6/16 Adam JonesHamilton Broadway Cast Lin-manuel Miranda Signed PosterHarley Knucklehead Panhead Flathead El Fl Rare Oiling PosterMini Creature Caravan By Marq Spusta From Studio 40% To CharityMike Mitchell Fat Bird Embellished Marsh Tyrant Poster/print **extremely Rare**Robert Taylor Eagles Out Of The Sun 279/350 Coa General's Edition Galland Rall Tool 2016 Us Tour Poster 01/25/16 Duluth Ga Signed By Band And Adi Granov W/coaCool World Cib For Nintendo Game Boy, 1993 Us-version Mega Rare /w PosterChris Evans & Cast Autographed Captain America: Winter Solder 27×40 Poster * Ca1998 Pearl Jam - Auckland & Wellington Nz Silkscreen Concert Poster By AmesBev Doolittle Signed Sacred Ground Print Gws Galleries No Reserve!Red Hot Chili Peppers Poster - Feel The Bern Concert Ace Theatre Bernie Sanders1933 Jo Mora Sweetheart Of The Rodeo Poster - Rare Salinas Rodeo Version1967 James Bond 007 "you Only Live Twice" 14x22 Original Movie Theater PosterMadonna Original Vintage Large Promo Poster,photo Herb Ritts,design John CoulterBirger Sandzen Signed And Framed Print: Lake In The Rockies1733 Mythology Pandora's Box - Large 18 X 11.8 Inch Picart Handcolored EngravingDc Universe Classics Sdcc Lobo 8" Figure Glasses Poster New MattelRare 1975 Led Zeppelin Earls Court Uk Concert Poster Physical Graffiti GigMondo Marvel Tyler Stout Signed Avengers Regular Poster Print Sold OutDale Earnhardt Jr. Autographed Poster 2016 Nwtf "sons Of Thunder" Giclee By Ryan Kirby Print On Canvas Limited Edition1969 Topps Baseball New York Yankees Team Poster With Mickey MantleWidespread Panic Poster 1998 Atlanta Lakewood - Lucchesi

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Chronicle Books Celebrates Wise Advice, Vintage Poster Design, Life & Love, February 3rd

Chronicle Books was kind enough to send me Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self: Real Words of Wisdom from People Ages 7 to 88 by Susan O'Malley. I pulled the book from my mailbox and plopped down on my couch after a long day at work and a packed ...Read more

Ready for Julián?
Politico, January 22nd

Sitting in his office on the tenth floor of the particularly brutal Brutalist HUD headquarters in Southwest D.C., a vintage poster from his mother's 1970s San Antonio city council run framed on the wall behind him (having her on the campaign trail...Read more

Good morning!
The Capitol Fax Blog (blog), January 12th

Maybe it was the gloomy, cold weather, or maybe it was just standard Monday blues, but the death of David Bowie really put me in a funk yesterday. Every time somebody dies it makes us confront our own mortality, and Bowie was a big part of my life. He...Read more

Kobe Bryant Threw Down A Vintage Poster Dunk On The Rockets
UPROXX, December 18th

The Los Angeles Lakers may have lost to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night, but Lakers fans still got their money's worth thanks to this throwback of a throwdown from none other than Kobe Bryant himself. Bryant's play has taken a noticeable turn for...Read more

Rare Vintage 'Star Wars' Posters Make the Perfect Holiday Gift
Observer, December 12th

If you're looking for something to get a true connoisseur, Heritage Auctions' weekly online vintage poster sale, which is taking bids through Sunday, December 13, features 40 Star Wars-themed lots in anticipation of the forthcoming film (several of the...Read more

The International Vintage Poster Fair, November 14-15
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, September 11th

NEW YORK CITY—The International Vintage Poster Fair is returning to New York City for its 26th anniversary with an exciting new location, Pier 94, between 12th Ave. and 55th St. This year's Poster Fair will be a featured section of the Pier Antique...Read more

This weekend: 'Bride of Frankenstein' and vintage poster sale
Advocate Media, August 26th

Starting this Friday, Aug. 28, and running through Sept. 26 is “Bride of Frankenstein: The Musical” at Pocket Sandwich Theater. It has monsters singing, dancing and telling jokes. What more do you need? Pocket Sandwich Theater is located at 5400 E...Read more

Affordable collectibles: vintage poster show in Hong Kong
South China Morning Post (subscription), August 14th

Bailey says it's not surprising vintage poster art is becoming increasingly popular and collectible. “They are now highly sought after by collectors and investors and the rarer and most highly prized posters are becoming increasingly expensive and...Read more