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    

Beatles Orig. Very Rare Stereo Vj " Beatles Vs The Four Seasons " Album W PosterDolk "vandal" Teddy Mona Kitty Evolution Angels Painter LostAuthentic Vintage Charles Fazzino New York City 3d Pop-art Silkscreen PrintPhish Concert Poster October 9 & 10 1999 Jim Pollock Albany New York 469/600 Yakov Agam Optical Kinetic Agamograph Blessing Rainbow American Flag 9/11 Print2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Baltimore PosterChuck Sperry Concert Poster Widespread Panic Wsp Oakland Lady Print Ap SignedVintage Charles Fazzino New York City Broadway 3d Pop-art Silkscreen PrintJimi Hendrix Experience - Axis Bold As Love 612 003 Uk Lp 1st Press + PosterAuthentic Charles Fazzino New York Dogs Hot Tin Ruff 3d Pop-art Silkscreen PrintGrateful Dead Lot Of 62 Lps 45 Cd Grey Touch Sealed Poster Promo Fillmore Vault2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Buffalo Poster 2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Oklahoma City PosterMastodon Silk Screened Australian Signed Poster 12x35 Inches 2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Phoenix PosterPearl Jam 9/4/11 Alpine Valley Screenprinted Poster Klausen Pj20 S/n 73/2152012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Isle Of Wight Poster2014 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Adelaide Poster1800's Political Poster Theodore Roosevelt Mckinley311 Poster - Blue Ap Grassroots Festival - Brandon HeartPearl Jam Bridge School Benefit Poster Signed By Eddie Vedder S/n 14/214 Klausen2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Stockholm PosterDolk "idea Painter" Teddy Mona Kitty Evolution Angels Painter LostConor Harrington Small Town Tale Eat And Delete Nyc Authentic Vintage Charles Fazzino 3d Pop-art Silkscreen Print Slice Of New YorkNintendo Nes - Mega Man 5- Complete In Box W/ Poster & 3 Inserts- Combined ShipJack White Poster Boston's Fenway Park 9-17-2014 Mint Condition2014 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Perth PosterAntique Maxfield Parrish Print The Lute Players Finest Amazing Example Original2011 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Santiago Chile Poster2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Oakland Poster2009 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Manchester PosterJeremy Geddes "ascent" Mint Signed & Numbered Giclee Print Rare Nr 2014Guardians Of The Galaxy-tyler Stout-24x36 Signed And #/750 Mondo Sold Out! 2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Worcester Poster2 Robert Taylor Phantom Strike Wolfpack Leader 598/850 Coa 1998 2 Sigs VietnamOriginal Hapshash Luv Me Poster 1967Pearl Jam @wrigley Park Poster By Kevin Schuss 7/19/20132nd Of 2 Rembrandt Antique Etching Man Cloak Fur Cap 1630 Bartsch 151 IiiOriginal Vintage 1960's American Airlines New York World's Fair Poster BencsathJeff Wood Print Uncut Widespread Panic Poster Nova Sparkle Hologram Foil Vegas2013 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Dallas PosterDolk "pope-mint Green" Teddy Mona Kitty Evolution Angels Painter Lost VandalThe Marx Brothers A Night At The Opera 1935 Window Card Poster Al Hirschfeld Chuck Sperry Black Keys Philadelphia 2014 Wells Fargo Print Low#Band Of Brothers - "hang Tough Bastogne 1944" Print - John ShawTyler Stout Mondo Movie Poster Shaun Of The Dead Print 2013 Alamo Drafthouse 2012 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Amsterdam 6/26 PosterBanksy Numbered Morons Print Pow Pest Control CoaThe Black Keys - 2011 Council Bluffs - Chuck Sperry Poster - Rare Edition Of 212Original Vintage 1960's American Airlines New York Poster Webber 40x30Maya Hayuk - Chem Trails - 2014 - Signed A/p (n/t Faile-obey-banksy)Rare Original Howard Chandler Christy Wwi Poster "i Want You For The Navy!"2011 Pearl Jam Band Autographed Curitiba PosterOriginal Wwii Bernard Perlin Poster "americans Will Always Fight!" UnmountedDolk "pope-purple" Teddy Mona Kitty Evolution Angels Painter Lost VandalOriginal W.w.2 War Bonds Poster "let's Give Him Enough And On TimeGhost In The Shell Foil Variant Martin Ansin Mondo Con Signed Numbered Sold OutSpecial Sale! Matt Rinard, Original Lithograph, Watering Hole, SignedPeter Max Original Serigraph Print "night Flowers" Pencil Signed Inscribed Ap/lv

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Ajay Rochester strips to star in video to raise funds for new sexy pin-up calendar
Daily Mail, September 28th

In one shot Ajay appears topless covering her modesty with her arms with the words 'every body is beautiful' scrawled across her arms in lipstick. In another image a vintage poster featuring the positive assertion, 'you wouldn't want a steak that as...Read more

Travel: Tuning into the Channel Islands
Milton Keynes Citizen, September 26th

It's a short walk from my hotel, the Duke Of Richmond, a higgledy piggledy collection of rooms in a sparkling, renovated property decorated with vintage poster prints and leopard-print upholstery. It's a signature design for the family-run Red...Read more

Buster Keaton's 'College' opens silent film series at Rogers Center
Eagle-Tribune, September 23rd

Buster A vintage poster for 'College' (1927), a silent film comedy starring Buster Keaton to be screened with live music on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Center for the Arts, on Walsh Way on the campus of Merrimack College, 315 ...Read more

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

Mark of a man
The Star Online, September 13th

Independence Bingo (II), 2013, screen print, acrylic on vintage poster. Stephen Menon humanises a national icon through a pop art celebration. Tunku Abdul Rahman is, for Malaysians, synonymous with the country's independence. And while the Bapa ...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
Contra Costa Times, 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