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    

Hot Wheels Car '55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Pink 18x24 Poster Sketch Signed VetuskeyAntique Maxfield Parrish 1929 Chromolithograph Print, Ecstasy, Nr3 Antique Signed Boris O'klein French Dirty Dogs Of Paris Etchings, No ReserveBlack Sabbath Master Of Reality, Outstanding 1st Uk Press Vertigo Swirl & PosterOriginal 1942 Wwii Government War Bond Uncle Sam Poster Large Wss510Lrg Antique 19thc Book Steel Engravings Of Joseph Turner Landscape PaintingsStar Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) 27x40 Original Ds Theatrical Poster Star Wars The Force Awakens Original Theatrical Double Sided Ds Poster 27 X 40 2015 Pearl Jam Nyc Global Citizen Central Park Poster Set Of 4Mini Creature Caravan & Exposing Elder Pack Marq Spusta From Studio 40% CharityMarq Spusta In This Together 2013 On Black Rubber Not A Mini S&#ofonly 100 BlissVintage Birger Sandzen Signed Lithograph 1920's River Bank KansasSwatch Watches And Keith Haring PosterMini Creature Caravan & Embellished Numi By Marq Spusta From Studio 40% CharityFoo Fighters Wrigley Field Chicago Gig Poster By Emek Mint Condition 262/400Original Western Winchester Poster Hunter & Pheasant Nice!! 1955 Vintage RifleSandzen Signed Original Print - "rhythm Of The Wildreness" - No Reserve AuctionEelus - Dress Up - 31 Color Screenprint W Coa Rare Eine Banksy Fairey Dran SwoonSpock Monroe 2010 Mr Brainwash Icons NycThe Invisible Man Poster - Mondo Monsters - 2012 - Francavilla - Limited To 405Vintage Rare Third Eye Marvel Black Light Poster Thor 1971 Excellent ConditionAaron Horkey Inclusion Variant Jurassic Park Mondo Print PosterMint Condition Tyler Stout Reservoir Dogs Variant Mondo Print Poster SignedMini Creature Caravan & Holding Of The Egg Marq Spusta From Studio 40% CharityLarge C.1940 Gil Elvgren Erotic Pin-up Poster Skinny Dipper In For A Tanning NrJr Hold Up Signed Print, Ladj Ly - Photographer - Banksy, Faile, KawsRobert Taylor Victory Flyover 544/850 4 Sig 1995 Coa Surrender Doc Nimitz LamarDead & Company St Louis Poster 11/20/2015 Scott Trade Center John Mayer Bob WeirHoliday I Sale! Victor Vasarely, Original Serigraph, Vega Pal 6, Signed FramedMixed Lot Of Vintage 1977 Star Wars Action Figures, Poster And Ships. Holiday I Sale! Robert Rauschenberg, Original Mixed Media Print, SignedTyler Stout The Goonies Gold Variant Print Poster Oregon Film MondoOriginal 27x40 Star Wars The Force Awakens Double-sided Theatre PosterStar Wars The Force Awakens Original Double Sided 27x40 Theatrical Movie PosterDead & Company St. Louis, Mo. 11/20/15 Gd50 Grateful Dead Concert PosterDead & Company St. Louis, Mo. 11/20/15 Gd50 Grateful Dead Concert PosterWidespread Panic Gold Artist Edition Print Poster Marq Spusta 2 Night Set Xx/100Rare Signed Numbered Doodled Emek "black" Jelly Fish Only 50 Mint Foil Glow!!!!!Rare Uncirculated 1942 Buy War Bonds Ww2 Poster Wwii Framed 28"x40" No ReserveHunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 Ds Movie Poster Cast Signed Premiere AutographWidespread Panic Red Rocks 2003 Le Sn Screen Print Jeff Wood Mint Poster RareDead And Company Poster Msg Halloween Night 627/2100Star Wars The Force Awakens Cast Signed Poster 27x40 Harrison Ford Fisher +6Pearl Jam Sao Paulo Brazil Poster David Welker 11/14/15 Show PosterWidespread Panic Asheville 2008 Le Sn Se Screen Print Jeff Wood Mint Poster Holiday I Sale! Salvador Dali, Original Lithograph, The Kingdom, Signed**rare**limited Edition Official Dead And Company Nashville Tour Poster Choices Vinyl Figure By Jermaine Rogers Dero Skin Variant 25 Only!1978 Hawthorn Weg Poster Grateful Dead And Company 2015 Tour Poster Triptych Mike Dubois John MayerLarry Bird "bird The Celtic" Signed Limited Edition Canvas By Stephen HollandMagic Johnson "magic Showtime" Signed Limited Edition Canvas By Stephen HollandMarq Spusta Signed Pepperland Mint Condition Poster #'d 455 Screen Print BeatlesEsao Andrews Sprite's Revenge 2008 Poster Print1926 Original- Carter The Great Magic Poster - 41x77 Holiday SaleShepard Fairey A Delicate Balance Obey Print Climate Globe Paris Eiffel TowerMarq Spusta Copper Variant Mini Creature Caravan 14 X 6 Print Poster Rare MintDead & Company Poster - Nashville Tn - Bridgestone Arena 11/18/15Original Dan Smith Wwi War Poster Knowledge Wins American Library Assoc. BondsJermaine Rogers Jade Creeping Dero Deity Talisman

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Movie Posters Found Under Linoleum Floor bring $219000 at Heritage Auctions
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, November 25th

DALLAS - A stash of rare movie posters discovered under a linoleum floor in York County, Pennsylvania, sold for a combined $219,000 in Heritage Auctions' Vintage Poster Auction Nov. 21-22 in Dallas. The $2+ million auction offered seldom seen rarities ...Read more

Undrcrwn Unveils 2015 “Astrodunk” Collection
XXLMAG.COM, November 24th

Themed after vintage poster art, the hand-drawn UNDRCRWN graphics are made in several iterations and colorways. Created exclusively for the holiday season, the complete “Astrodunk” collection is available at this season by purchasing ...Read more

10 Affordable Gifts for Philly Art Lovers
Curbed Philly, November 24th

We can hear the grumbling now: But it's not even Thanksgiving yet! True, but come Friday you'll be glad we started the gift-giving process for you, promise. For all of your comrades who want to show off their love for Philly in an artistic and classy...Read more

Mondo opens up the vaults for Black Friday “Flat...
austin360 (blog), November 23rd

Only a few copies of each vintage poster will be available; for a few, only one copy is available. Mondo has hosted flat file sales in the past, but this is their first-ever online flat file sale, which start 10 a.m. Nov. 27. All posters featured in...Read more

The Pier Antique Show Welcomes Exceptional Crowds
PR Web (press release), November 20th

New this November, the show also featured a distinct section of exhibitors from the International Vintage Poster Fair, the world's oldest and largest poster fair. These dealers showcased a wide array of original posters from the 1890s through the 1980s...Read more

A private Eden in Paris: vertical gardens creator Patrick Blanc
Financial Times, November 20th

But he ends up opting for a vintage poster promoting a series of concerts that Edith Piaf gave in Paris in the early 1960s. When he was about nine, Blanc's father took him to watch Piaf perform. “I must be the youngest person alive today who has seen...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