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    

Vintage 1951 Toshi Yoshida Japanese Woodblock Print,silver Pavillion ... NrRare Original 1926 Maxfield Parrish Lithograph Nude "stars" In Original Frame!Shepard Fairey "farewell To Freedom" Print Poster Colbert Report - Obey Giant Maya Hayuk 'chem Trails' With Free Banksy Stamp Black Keys Greenville Gig Poster Print Sc South Carolina Chuck SperryOriginal 1967 Grateful Dead Whiskey A Go-go Fillmore-era Concert PosterRolling Stones Let It Bleed 1st Uk Mono Mint 1 A Matrix 1 Stamps Poster Inner~ Pearl Jam Donkey Kong Nyc PosterHoliday Ii Sale! Yaacov Agam, Original Agamograph, In Time, Signed/framedLimited Edition Shepard Fairey Signed Farewell To Freedom Print Stephen ColbertSummoning By Eelus - Street Art Print Poster - S/n Edition Of 125The Interview - Official Theatrical Movie Poster "christmas" Ds 27" X 40" Banksy Monkey Queen - Unsigned Print - With Pow CoaAnatomy Of A Murder - Original 1sh Movie Poster - 27x41 Folded 1959 - Saul BassVintage Gil Elvgren Brown & Bigelow Huge Pin-up Printers Proof Beautiful LadyRobert Taylor Doolittle Raiders 347/600 1999 14 Sig Stork Griffin Potter NielsonPearl Jam Moline Concert Poster By Ian Williams Show Edition Plus Event Sticker!The Beatles - White Album - Mono/wide Spine/photos/poster/ Low Number No.00052781968 Velvet Underground Shrine Signed John Van Hamersveld Concert PosterThe Interview Original Movie Theatre Poster 27x40Star Wars Autographed PosterThe Interview Original Double Sided Movie Poster 27 X 40 "circus" , Dolk - Signed Print - Edition Size 250 Framed1982 Star Wars Revenge Of The Jedi Movie Poster Rolled Original Undated. Rare!Ultra Rare Original The Lewis Connection Lp + Prince Poster!! Private Mn Funk Chuck Sperry/zoltron - Primus Nye 2012 Natural,sparkle/gold Variant Ltd Of 7The Clash Casbah Club Tour Poster 1982 Bronco Bowl,dallas Texas Know Your RightsLg Orig. 1976 Salvador Dali Lithograph "the Prince Of Love" Ea Coa Signed PrintOriginal Vintage Poster Greece Island Of Corfu 1954 By M.pechlivanidis & Co.The Interview Original Double-sided Xmas Release Ds Movie Poster 27x40The Interview - Original Double Sided 27x40 Movie PosterJames Rizzi Listed New York Vintage Modern Pop Op Art 3-d Cityscape LithographThe Interview 27x40 Original Theater Double-sided PosterAndy Warhol Signed, Original Screenprint, Kimiko 1981 L/e 84/250Very Rare Original Civil War Confederate Broadside / Poster -kentucky-k.smith1960 Grand Ole Opry Patsy Cline Boxing Style Concert Poster1938 Marc Chagall Spring Framed Original Lithograph No Reserve High ValueEstate Lot Collection Sale Gold Silver Roman Coins Set Warhol Dali Art Hoard $ Shepard Fairey - They Live Mondo 2 - Blue - Limited Edition Obey PosterHoliday Ii Sale! Salvador Dali, Original Lithograph In Colors , Wailing WallSylvester Stallone Rare Autographed Rocky 24x36 Poster ** CaMatt Ferguson Guardians Of The GalaxyMuhammad Ali Auto Signed Neiman Autograph Psa Dna Jsa Original Fight Poster 10Ringling Bros Circus Poster "joan Of Arc" Strobridge Litho 1912 No Reserve NiceRare Antique Brothers Byrne New 8 Bells Theater Pantomime Play Poster LithographOriginal 1916 Ww1 Enlist To-day Britishers Military Poster Guy Lipscombe 41"x26"Eminem Slim Shady Signed V07733 Mm Lp2 Signed Poster Psa/dna 1960 Salvador Dali 59 Original Divine Comedy Dis Woodcut Proofs Enf 34 RareHagenbeck - Wallace Circus Poster Clyde Beatty Animal Trainer No Reserve Nice!Bonjour Tristesse - Original 1sh Movie Poster - 1957 - 27x41 FoldedHoliday Ii Sale! Marc Chagall, Lithographic Poster, Nice, SignedAudubon Birds Of America Print 1st Ed. 1840: Whooping Crane (male, Adult) 313The Interview Promotional Pack With 1 27x40 Poster, 1 11x17, And 2 ShirtsOriginal Yard Long Print - Piggies In Clover - 1904 Rare - W.m. Cary -chromoClare Leighton Pencil Signed Limited Edition Woodcut Print "cranberries" 35/50Pair Mid Century Walter Keane Framed Prints "lost" & "the Gypsies"Mike Tyson-james "buster" Douglas Original On Site Poster (1990)Genuine Wapping Tiny Pool James Whistler Etching Keppel Estate Kennedy AaaMartinair Aviation Pin Up Poster Rosana To Havana Cuba Travel Stylized ImportantSafe At Home Original 1sh Movie Poster - 1962 - 27x41 Folded

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Flamingo Eventz Assumes Management of Poster Fairs and Changes Location ...
Maine Antique Digest, December 20th

Flamingo Eventz, LLC, a show management company based in Rochester, New Hampshire, has assumed management of the New York, Chicago, and San Francisco International Vintage Poster Fairs, previously managed by David Pollack and Gail ...Read more

We Took a Tour of Oasis, San Francisco's New Drag Club
SF Weekly, December 17th

While a vintage poster from Plunge's heyday will hang behind the bar, it's otherwise going to look very different from when patrons were required to BYOB. Interior designer “David [Marks] has been awesome to work with. We've been batting around what...Read more

A hidden French Quarter landmark opens its doors for holiday home tour: House ..., December 17th

Reagan, a fan of vintage poster art and a devoted Francophile, first fell in love with the prints in a gallery in Apsen 30 years ago, but was left admiring them from afar. "I couldn't afford them at the time," he said. Last summer, he came across...Read more

Check out this map of Philly's tech scene in 1999 (you can win it, too) Philly, December 15th

According to this vintage poster we unearthed, it was very green. No, but real talk, this map, made by early nonprofit web hosting outfit LibertyNet, is a fun piece of history, with gold foil, to boot. We spotted big legacy names like Mapquest, SAP...Read more

Flamingo Eventz Announces Book Fair Schedule Changes
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, December 2nd

According to Company President, Tina Bruno: “We're starting our 21st year in show promotion and are entering a new phase of the business—promotion of Vintage Poster, Print & Photography Fairs. This is the natural evolution of our shows which have gone ...Read more

Discover Collectable Vintage Posters at ION Art
BLOUIN ARTINFO, November 21st

With the development of stone lithographic printing in Europe in the late 19th century, colorful advertising posters could be mass produced. Celebrated artists, like Henri Toulouse Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, embraced the medium and vintage poster can ...Read more

Vintage Poster Company
Irish Times, November 19th

Irish illustrator and art restorer Rercy Flood was unhappy with the quality and range of art prints available so she established the Vintage Poster Company. She curates beautiful and unusual vintage artwork and uses giclee printing to produce...Read more

Christie's Vintage Poster sale offering rare Russian Intourist lithographs ...
Daily Mail, November 13th

These 1930s travel posters are advertisements with a difference - they are designed to encourage tourism to the USSR. The vintage posters were designed to advertise flights and train routes to the Soviet Union through the travel company Intourist...Read more