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    

Leon Heymann (c.1900-1960) French Nude Pastel Famous Poster Artist, Belle EpoqueBatman #181 Dc 1966 - 1st App Of Poison Ivy - Batman & Robin Poster Insert!!!Jr - Hold Up (ladl Ly) Print -1st Edition 2006 - Ie Banksy, Dolk, Fairey, DranVintage Pencil Signed Robert Kipniss Monochromatic Vista Landscape Etching PrintVtg Shepard Fairey Obey Fist Print 1998 Obey Street Art BanksyFerrari : Testarossa Tr 1988.5 Ferrari Testarossa Oro Chiaro 4274 Original Miles Collector Poster CarPhish Big Cypress Tree Of Life PosterClear The Way! Howard Chandler Christy Vintage Wwi Bonds Poster Important MovingLot Of 160 Original Lithos Etching Picasso Chagall Matisse Dali Mourlot SignedHalloween * 1978 Original Movie Poster 1sh John Carpenter's Michael Myers MaskAvengers: Age Of Ultron Movie Poster Signed By Stan Lee With Seven Sketches1960’s Original Vintage United Airlines Hawaii Travel Poster Stan GalliRare Vtg Pre War Original Pennsylvania Railroad Washington Dc Travel Poster!!Marq Spusta - Qworman & Zoloota Art Print - Super Rare Gold Variant #/6 - 2011Hiroyuki Tajima (b.1911) Vintage Abstract Modernist Window Japanese WoodblockKen Taylor Halloween Mondo Print Poster Signed By John Carpenter Jock Stout RareLaurent Durieux Signed Vertigo Mondo Print Alfred Hitchcock Movie Poster ArtPlanet Of The Apes * 1968 Original Movie Poster 1sh Charlton Heston HalloweenDavid Gilmour On An Island Emi Holland 180g Poster Rare Pink Floyd Mint Rare Original Wwi Christy Poster "gee I Wish I Was A Man - I'd Join The Navy!"2006 Mondo Tyler Stout S/n Print The Alamo Rare And Sold Out PosterListed Ukrainian Artist Jacques Hnizdovsky, Original Signed Woodcut, PorcupineMaxfield Parrish Egypt 1922 Edison Mazda Calendar Eastern Utah Electric CompanyShepard Fairey Obey Giant Neil Young 2010 Canvas Print Screenprint PosterSuper Nintendo Snes Chrono Trigger With Box Map/poster Box Dust Cover Polished Munk One 311 Caribbean Cruise Regular Ap Purple Miami To Jamaica Poster PrintChuck Sperry Widespread Panic Msg Wave Foil Xx/15Shepard Fairey Money Set Nixon/ Lenin/ Mao Fine Art Print Set Signed Numbered El Mac - Prayer - Pp Edition !!! - Sold Out Print, Like Banksy, Dran, DolkShepard Fairey Supply And Demand Fine Art Print - Signed Numbered - 29 Of 300Fabulous Vintage Art Deco Lady Fantasy Print Tsanya Mary Gold 10x18 Deco FrameMad Max: Fury Road-movie Print/poster-kilian Eng-mondo-sold Out-no Reserve 2015Look! 2lp Alternate Cover Poster & Photos = The Beatles - White Album John Paul The Who 50th Anniversary Us Spring Tour Print By Chuck Sperry Signed & NumberedPeter Max Serigraph Snow White Signed Numbered & Counter-stamped Estate Fresh NrOriginal Maxfield Parrish Framed Print House Of Art The Knave From 1920sA Nightmare On Elm Street - Original 1sh Movie Poster 41x27Nosferatu (nintendo Snes, 1995) - W/box, Manual & Poster *rare*Thomas Hart Benton Swampland Lithograph Singed Limited To 100 Estate Lot Collection Sale Gold Silver Roman Coins Set Warhol Dali Art Hoard $ 2015 Goodyear Driver Poster Autographed By Nascar Sprint Cup Series Drivers!!Sister Mary Corita Kent Hand Signed Serigraph Silkscreen Print Suite Framed 11pcRare - Hunter S. Thompson For Sheriff Poster 1970 Signed/framed Thomas BentonBarnum & Bailey Circus Poster 1896 - "lady Performers - Miss Dunbar" StrobridgeAntique Maxfield Parrish Framed Print Dinkey Bird Early 1900s Seedy Glass Fine Original - World War Ii, "avenge Dec 7th" Ww2 Propaganda Poster Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus Poster "felix Adler & Pigmy Elephants" Star Wars The Force Awakens! 2015 27x40 Ds Poster! New! TeaserSchell Bros. Circus Poster 1920's Clown & Female Performers **rare Poster**Listed Artist Tadashi Nakayama Japanese Woodblock Print Signed, Dated, Original Widespread Panic 2015 Spring Tour Usa Map Tour Poster Ap Variant Jt Lucchesi Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed - 12" Vinyl Lp (mono, No Poster) 1a/2aOriginal 1970 Beatles Apple Poster As Included With Let It Be Pxs 1 Box Set Ex Rare Early 1900's International Stock Food Litho Poster Sign With Hog/pigThe Avengers Cast Signed Double Sided Movie Poster 27x40Darth Vader Foil Variant Poster By Craig Drake Xx/25 Sold Out Star Wars Two Original Whistler Etchings Framed Mad Men Poster (season 7), Signed By Jon Hamm + 14 Other Cast MembersUnited Nations Wfuna Artist Art Print By Keith Haring #130/1000 AutographedTeaser Uk Quad Poster Revenge Of The Jedi 1983 Super Rare Star Wars Look Now!

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Longtime Vintage Poster Gallery Bidding Adieu To Jackson Square
Hoodline, May 21st

After 18 years in business in Jackson Square, Sarah Stocking Antique Posters is bidding the area "adieu." Known for a prized collection of French turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque as well as Art Nouveau posters, the gallery is one of several to shutter...Read more

Take in a movie under the stars in Greece
Telegraph.co.uk, May 20th

Popcorn, chilled beer and the Acropolis at night…the start of summer in Athens signals the unmistakable 9pm and 11pm whirr of chunky projectors showing films on big screens set up on rooftops, terraces, enclosed courtyards, jasmine-scented gardens...Read more

Mark St. Anthony
KSJB, May 19th

From a vinyl record collection to a vintage poster collection, he's never short on entertaining himself. When he gets cabin fever, he likes to get out andsight-see. Watch out though! His quick wit and spitfire sense of humor is sure to help you get...Read more

Shell advertising poster featuring Bungay landmark up for auction
Ely Standard, May 14th

Sophie Churcher, a vintage poster expert at Christie's, added: “The Bungay poster was part of Shell's Everywhere You Go campaign. It was a slogan that appealed to a nation that longed for a rural escape from the city; advertising the delights of the...Read more

Paso Robles art gallery showing vintage European posters
Paso Robles Daily News, May 7th

said that the viewers can see the posters in order when they walk clockwise. Norris' crew will return for wine festival weekend with wine-related posters and those that people requested to see in person. To view Norris' vintage poster collection...Read more

Original 'War Of The World' Drawings Expected To Fetch Huge Sum At Auction
Huffington Post, May 5th

But if you're interested in bidding, get set for some sticker shock; the entire collection, which includes 31 pencil and ink drawings plus a vintage poster and a postcard from Wells to Corrêa, is expected to fetch a staggering $500,000, according to a...Read more

Naomi Watts recreates vintage British Airways poster
RusTourismNews, May 1st

To celebrate 80 years of British Airways in Australia, Naomi Watts has starred in a retro photo shoot to recreate a vintage poster for British Airways. rs_634x908-150429124254-634.naomi-watts.cm.42915 Naomi Watts was born in Britain before moving to ...Read more

Naomi Watts recreates British Airways poster to celebrate 80 years of flying ...
Daily Mail, April 27th

The journey from London to Australia, dubbed 'The Kangaroo Route', was once a flight which took 12 days. Passengers on the first British Airways flight, which departed on April 13 in 1935, paid more than $23,400 for a one way ticket. Eighty years on...Read more