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    

1968 Vintage Pencil Signed Roy Lichtenstein Lithograph Poster Joanna Pop ArtBeejoir Lv Child With Free Banksy Kate Moss Stamp2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Stockholm Poster2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Stockholm PosterOriginal '67 Velvet Underground/freeborne Boston Tea Party Handbill Psych Poster2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Amsterdam 6/26 PosterPhish Poster Jim Pollock Hartford 2000 237/6002012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Arras 6/30 PosterShepard Fairey Obey Giant Peace Tree Print Green/yellow Signed ApXrare Original 1951 Autographed Audrey Hepburn Gigi Broadway Window Card Poster Alien * No Reserve Cinemasterpieces Rare Advance 1sh Original Movie Poster 1979The Ultimate Robert Taylor Art, Erich Hartmann Trilogy, Matching Print Number 1Best Art Sale! Peter Max, Original Mixed Media, Liberty Head Ii, Signed2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Prague PosterOriginal Travel Poster Pan American Airlines Fly To Nassau 1948 Von Arenburg Todd Slater Poster - Widespread Panic Print - Morrison, Co - Foil Variant MintVtg 1967 Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground Boston Tea Party Handbill Psych PosterRevenge Of The Jedi * No Reserve Cinemasterpieces Star Wars Uk Quad Movie PosterJaws * No Reserve Cinemasterpieces Original Movie Poster Shark 1975Chuck Sperry Black Keys Poster PhiladelphiaNine Inch Nails Soundgarden Autographed Emek Poster Washington Portland/seattle1959 Disneyland Submarine Voyage Silkscreen Attraction Poster & Ltd Toy StampBig Estate Lot Gold Silver Roman Medieval Coins Set Dali Warhol Art CollectionPulp Fiction * No Reserve Cinemasterpieces Lucky Strikes Recalled Movie PosterOriginal Travel Poster Rail Santa Fe California Circa 1955 Oscar M. Bryn1917 Maxfield Parrish Cleopatra Egypt Art Deco Antique Framed Original Print Yqz1930s Art Deco Professor Alba Rare Magic Poster Spanish Hypnotist Modernist FineFarm Aid 2014 Autographed Concert PosterSabra Field - "lakescape I, Ii & Iii" Original Woodblock PrintsAntique Giovanni Battista Piranesi Roman Ruins Etching Print Veduta Tempio Bacco1956 Disneyland Autopia Silkscreen Attraction Poster & Ltd Toy StampRare Original 1950 Atom Man Vs. Superman 1-sh Movie Poster Kirk Alyn On LinenJosh Agle (shag) Batman - Delegation Of Evildoers - Sdcc Excl Serigraph #18/150Original Travel Poster Rail Santa Fe Grand Canyon Circa 1949 Oscar M. Bryn1958 Disneyland Rr Primeval World Silkscreen Attraction Poster & Ltd Toy StampRare George Rodrigue Blue Dog "split Personality" Artist Proof Signed PrintEmpire Strikes Back No Reserve Cinemasterpieces Star Wars Movie Poster 1980 Nm-mSabra Field - "moonshadow" Original WoodblockStar Wars * No Reserve Cinemasterpieces 1sh Original Movie Poster 1977 Near Mint1956 Disneyland Mark Twain Silkscreen Attraction Poster & Ltd Toy StampTyler Stout Welcome Home Glow-in-the-dark Ap Edition Of 25 Print PosterMr Motocross 7 Legends Signed Poster Very Rare LimitedRobert Taylor Low Holding Over The San Jacinto George Bush 411/1000 1988 9 SigsYaacov Agam - "here And There - Agamograph - Signed / Numbered - 12/25 HcMartin Ansin Ghost In The Shell Mondo Print Poster Foil Variant Mondocon SignedInxs: Vintage Concert Poster, 1988 World Tour, Fully Signed By Band!Versus Aaron Horkey Jay Ryan Collab 2010 Art Print Poster Not Mint Frances Gearhart Blockprint - Head Of Bay (on Morro Bay)Soundgarden Pearl Jam Poster Print-1992 Frank Kozik-1st Run Scrn Print, SignedCy Twombly Ltd Edt Lithograph Print Signed Listed 30"x22" From "homage A PicassoGene Wilder + Willy Wonka Kids Cast Signed 12x18 Movie Poster Photo Psa Coa AutoVintage Limited Edition Pencil Signed Sabra Field Coach Barn Woodblock Print, NrThe Black Keys - Philadelphia, Pa 2014 S/n Poster Chuck Sperry Maxfield Parrish Original Print "rubaiyat" 1917 Crane Chocolates Large SizeJack White Fenway Park Boston Poster 9/17 White Stripes RaconteursNine Inch Nails Soundgarden Miles Tsang Auto Limited Edition Tour Poster #/400!311 Mint Poster 2010 Halloween Tabernacle Atlanta, Ga Unity Rare Three Eleven Sabra Field - "bluebird" Original Woodblock PrintVintage World War I Wwi Poster V Invest Graphic Patriotic Bold Victory Loan RareBest Art Sale! Salvador Dali, Original Etching, Shakespeare, Signed

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Conjunto legend meets Latino comedy star at Garcia's, naturally (blog), September 19th

All of it taking place right below the autographed vintage poster of the Texas Tornados. “That was awesome, bro,” said Barcena afterwards. “I've always heard of him. He's a legend. Anyone that knows Tex-Mex music knows he is synonymous with that. To me ...Read more

Vintage posters add pop of color, sliver of history to a room
LA Daily News, September 18th

She is a member of the nonprofit International Vintage Poster Dealers Association, which recommends buying posters from reputable dealers who can advise people on what to look for. For instance, posters were printed on cheap paper back then because ...Read more

Stunning paintings capture Cardiff in a whole new light
WalesOnline, September 17th

Over the years her style has grown looser as her chosen influences have shifted from vintage poster art to the likes of Canadian artist Tom Thomson and American large scale portrait painter Chuck Close. Broad Street Barry by Sheridan Ward. She feels an ...Read more

Mark of a man
The Star Online, September 13th

And while the Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence) is best known for wrangling the nation's sovereignty back into its people's hands, there were many more facets to the Royal, the Prime Minister, and the man. Penang-born, Klang Valley-based artist ...Read more

Marines pair with ROTC to expand Toys for Tots awareness and collection
SRU The Online Rocket, September 11th

A vintage poster promotes the Marines Corps Toys for Tots program which was started by Col. John Hampton in 1947. Janelle Wilson, Asst. Campus Life Editor September 11, 2014. Butler's Bantam Marine Corps League (BMCL) has paired with the ROTC ...Read more

Michael Tilson Thomas's 20th San Francisco Symphony season
San Jose Mercury News, August 31st

In the living room of his eclectic arts-and-crafts-style home in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, which he shares with longtime partner and manager Joshua Robison, there's a vintage poster of his grandmother Bessie Thomashefsky. She was an actor and ...Read more

Vintage Bollywood memorabilia to be auctioned soon
Enewspaper of India, August 23rd

Mumbai: Now you can be a proud owner of the classic vintage poster of 'Mother India' or 'Shree 420', or take home other memorabilia of Indian cinema which will be soon auctioned on September 12. According to reports, the auction titled 'The Greatest...Read more

Greater Salem Calendar of Events
Wicked Local Manchester, August 21st

23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., over 60 juried regional artisans, including Jan Weinshanker and Judith Wright, of Apple Bay Design 9(semi-precious and antique bead jewelry), Rusty & Ingrid Creative Company (vintage-poster-style-prints of iconic North Shore...Read more