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    

Daleast - Original On Canvas Signed - Not PrintHoarfrost #17/60 By Aaron Horkey X Pushead Sdcc Patchwerk Burlesque Mint SealedRocky #33/350 By Olly Moss Mondo Ghibli Star Wars Rolling Roadshow Stout AnsinMondo Tyler Stout Inglourious Basterds Print Moss Ansin Taylor Tarantino Low #63311 Blue Grassroots Mit Tree Poster Ap #32/50Let The Right One In Gid Variant #62/100 By Tyler Stout Mondo Star Wars AkiraThe Thing Gold Variant Poster Alamo Drafthouse Tyler Stout Mondo 30/65Rare Widespread Panic Myrtle Beach 2010 By Chuck Sperry Poster 22"x33"Phish Big Cypress 99 Print Tree Of Life J Kemp Antique James Audubon Hand Colored Bowen Lithograph, Common American DeerOriginal 1968 Cream W/ Eric Clapton Fillmore Era Vintage Concert Poster Aor 3.44Monkey Pod Gold Gift Print By Shepard Fairey Limited To 100There Will Be Blood #33/375 By Olly Moss Mondo Ghibli Star Wars Stout AnsinRare Antique Edward Curtis Goldtone Navajo 1904 Native American PhotographJay Adams Autographed Zephyr Skateboard Team Dogtown Z-flex Z-boys 14x24 PosterTyler Stout Mondo Guardians Of The Galaxy Variant Print Signed And NumberedPeace Tree-gift Print By Shepard Fairey 159/350Shepard Fairey Warhol Print 2005 Rare! No Reserve! 18x24 Signed And Numbered! Grateful Dead Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion 1967 Fan Club Signed PosterPaul Mccartney Farewell To Candlestick Park Sold Out PosterSteamboat Willie #2/200 By Tom Whalen Mondo Perillo Disney Sideshow Durieux MossWidespread Panic Poster Chuck Sperry Msg Print Jimmy Herring Signed!! NrVintage 1930 Henry Lemonnier Cordial Medoc Art Deco Poster French Affiche FinestChuck Sperry Widespread Panic Chicago Mirror Foil Variant #/15 SignedMondo Lord Of The Rings Lotr Two Towers Aaron Horkey Signed Limited PosterTyler Stout Guardians Of The Galaxy Variant Print Mondo Sdcc Marvel 320/350Phish The Astron 2000 Pollock Print Framed RareOriginal 1956 Johnny Cash Trio Boxing Style Vintage Concert PosterPhish Welker Alpharetta, Ga Foil Poster 8/3/14 August 3, 2014 #'d Signed - MintDavid Welker Phish Alpharetta Atlanta 2014 Tour Poster Print Foil Le Nr *mint*Peace Fingers Gift By Shepard Fairey 2/200 2006 MattedVintage Lionel Train Dealer Display Poster - Engineer With Lantern - 50's RareKiss Army "double Platinum" Kit - Complete W/poster - Aucoin - 1978Original Wwii War Bond Poster - Keep Them Flying! - 28 X 40 - GiantSpace Invader :: Art Alliance The Provocateurs :: Print In Hand :: 24 X 341967 Sierra Club Wilderness Conference Fillmore Era Poster Aor 2.365Look Guardians Of The Galaxy Signed Movie Poster Comic Avengers X-men Cgc CoaBig Estate Lot Gold Silver Roman Medieval Coins Set Dali Warhol Art Collection2014 Nwtf Rocky Mtn. Elk Print By Jay Kemp "close Encounter" Bugling Bull # 658The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Keyline Variant Movie Print Poster - Chris WestonSaleen Autosport 1986 R Mustang Poster Ford Motorsport Koni Gt Shelby Nos Cobra Rare Phish Fall Tour 2010 Marq Spusta Poster Providence Signed 365/650Original Bev Doolittle Season Of The Eagle Signed Native American Lithograph YqzLarge True Blood Poster Signed By 11 Cast MembersPencil Signed Framed Sabra Field Print Autumn Sunset Old Vtg Framed In 1991The Goonies Custom Nintendo Nes! Sloth 80s Dvd Blu-ray Poster Shirt Video GameAuthentic Signed & Numbered Bev Doolittle Framed Print Titled Two Indian HorsesJamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, John Carpenter Autographed 16x24 Halloween PosterYen Pattern Gift Print By Shepard Fairey 279/350 2009Original "music At Newport" John Coltrane Boxing Style Concert PosterPhish Madison Square Garden Ames Clinch Limited Poster Nye 12/31/1998 943/1500Peter Max Astral Thinker Original Color Lithograph Signed!Authentic Vintage Movie Poster "the Evil Dead" One 1 Sheet 1981Widespread Panic Poster Jeff Wood Vegas FoilObey Giant "progress" Obama Screen PrintSabra Field Original Woodblock "milkyway"Cistineae Or Rock Roses/1825/rare First Edition/112 Handcolored Botanical PlatesChuck Close Phil Fragment, 2007 SignedKiss Paul Stanley Ps2000b Washburn Signature Guitar! 6 Foot Standup And Poster!Sin City Cast Signed Original D/s Movie Poster A Dame To Kill For Jessica Alba

Recent News: Posters and Prints

Source: Google News

Greater Salem Calendar of Events
Wicked Local Gloucester, 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

Celebrating Hans Hillman, a master of cinematic art
Telegraph.co.uk, August 14th

"German modernist film posters between 1953 and 1974." As a specialist subject on Mastermind it sounds a little dull, I admit. But to those in the know it's just another way of saying "goldmine" – vintage poster art is a rare niche that you can...Read more

Vintage poster sold at auction
Fleetwood Today, August 12th

A rare vintage railway poster encouraging families to holiday in Thornton and Cleveleys has sold for nearly £700 at an auction in New York. A mystery buyer snapped up the colourful poster, which was commissioned by the London Midland Scottish Railway ...Read more

Warren County Antiques Show and Vintage Marketplace is Aug. 16-17 in ...
The Warren Reporter, August 11th

Returning favorites include Toni Baudoin Antiques, Ivy Iris Antiques, G&M Antiques & Collectibles, Vintage Poster Art of New Jersey, Remains to be Seen, Mimi Gunn, Sally Szelag, Lawrence Bryan-Ashwell, Jolene's Attic Treasures, and Sleepy Hollow ...Read more

The Enduring Romance of Vintage Travel Posters
Yahoo Travel, August 6th

Vintage travel posters beg the question, where do you want to go today? Answer: everywhere. (Courtesy: Chisholm Larsson Gallery). Over my desk, where I dream about my next trip — and I'm always dreaming about my next trip — hangs a poster from a film ...Read more

Urban garden reaps harvest
Poughkeepsie Journal, August 2nd

Indeed, on the Revival City Farm's website is an image of a vintage poster for The United States School Garden Army, a movement started by the War Department in 1917 in an effort to encourage schoolchildren to grow food. There were fears of a food...Read more

WW1 propaganda images on display at Frontiers of Flight Museum
Northdallasgazette, July 28th

Und-Ihr-hi-res-586x1024 The Frontiers of Flight Museum will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I with a dynamic collection of rare vintage poster art including recruiting, propaganda and home front morale images from World Wars...Read more

Anyone for tennis? World's largest collection of vintage tennis posters ...
Daily Mail, July 25th

'The posters cover a range of different styles including art nouveau and art deco and the imagery is infectious. 'We believe this is the largest collection of tennis posters ever to come to auction, which makes this sale the Wimbledon of vintage poster...Read more