When Parisian artists elevated the poster to high art in the 1890s, some of the first subjects they rendered were of sporting events. Bicycle racing, rowing, and auto racing became standard fare for poster advertising. Later, resort promoters used recreational sports to advertise their destinations, which is why many travel and aviation posters featured scenes of skiing and sailing. In the U.S., boxing and wrestling posters—not to mention baseball and football—were also popular.

The roots of sports posters go back to the late-18th and early-19th-century etchings that depicted subjects such as hunting, racing, equestrian activities, and coach riding. These prints tended to emphasize beautiful scenery, but they were still the forerunners of the sport-oriented posters of today.

Unlike other genres of posters, sports posters and prints were rarely made by well-known artists. Sure there were exceptions, such as Andy Warhol’s famous Muhammad Ali prints from the late-1970s and LeRoy Neiman's endless output of sports prints and paintings, but on the whole, most collectors care far more about the subject matter of a sports poster than whose signature is at the bottom of it.

Perhaps the most popular collectible sports posters are those made for specific sporting events. These posters are especially rare as they tend to have limited runs, and they are collected primarily by fans of that particular sport. Examples of these sorts of sports posters are those offering public-transit directions to an event (“By Underground to Southfields…”) or posters that were essentially advertisements (“Footballers prefer Shell…”).

In the United Kingdom, tennis and golf posters produced for specific events are particularly coveted, as are some rugby posters. For example, Wimbledon and Davis Cup tennis posters, as well as British Open golf posters, which are arguably the biggest sporting events in that nation, are especially sought. Similarly, in the United States, U.S. Open posters are fancied by collectors, although the golf posters are more popular than those for tennis.

In recent decades, event posters of this type have been mass-produced in virtually unlimited runs, so they are not heavily collected. Sports posters that garner the most attention from collectors are those printed before the 1960s, and especially the early posters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A short swim across the English Channel is France, where organizers of the Tour de France have produced many collectible prints. Especially enjoyed are photographic posters depi...

The kings of event posters are Olympics posters. Like other sports prints, the older the better, and the more valuable they are. For example, posters from the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, the 1924 Paris Olympics, and the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics are some of the most coveted. There is one especially rare poster from the ’24 Paris games by Jean Droit showing a group of shirtless men with their right hands raised in front of a Parisian flag. In general, the most rare and coveted Olympics posters are from the ’20s and ’30s.

Despite the preference for older posters, there are a number of popular Olympic posters from more recent times. For example, a very plain Yusaku Kamekura poster from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is quite desired by Olympics aficionados.

The Winter Olympics and winter sports in general have also produced highly collectible prints. These posters tend to be aesthetically pleasing since they depict vast snowy mountain scenes. Skiing and ice skating posters are most common, and posters from the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics are targeted by lots of collectors.

Another sport that is synonymous with poster collecting is boxing. Like with other sports posters, pre-1960s prints are most sought, and scarcity impacts value. With boxing, however, there is an added variable—the reputation of the boxer—in determining a poster’s value. A Jack Dempsey or Rocky Marciano poster will likely than fetch a higher price than say, one showing Jimmy Ellis or Cody Jones.

Boxing posters come in a few different styles, one of which is actually known as the boxing-style poster. These are the pre-fight, posed portraits of the two boxers, surrounded by loud, aggressive graphics and type. There are also posters that depict the fighters in action. Again, depending on the name on the poster, the latter of these two tend to be more desired.

In the United States, posters of American sports stars, from Michael Jordan to Wayne Gretzky, are expectedly popular. Few are collected for their value, though—most hang on the walls of kids’ bedrooms all over the country, to be discarded by parents when their offspring move away from home.

Some of the most desired baseball posters are ones with early-20th-century photographs on them of star players such as Babe Ruth. These modest, sport- or athlete-specific posters naturally increase in value when they are autographed. While there is usually little impact on price if a skiing poster is autographed or not, a signature on a football poster with a great player on it will immediately make it more desirable.

One final subset of the sports-poster family is the commemorative poster. These are prints made to celebrate things like a World Series championship, a Super Bowl, or an All Star game, such as those produced in 2007 by Michael Schwab for Major League Baseball. Signed posters for such events could be worth something one day, depending on who's doing the signing, the nature of the event, and the number of posters printed. But most commemorative posters are mass-produced on inexpensive paper, which means they are probably more valuable to true-blue fans than collectors hoping to save something today that will one day be worth as much as those French bicycle-racing posters from the 1890s.

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    

1969 Topps Team Fold-out Posters #19 New York Yankees W/ Mickey Mantle 12x20Ufc 79 Full Size Signed Poster! Direct From Ufc! 20 Sigs! St.pierre & Liddell ++Roberto Clemente Signed 18x24 Poster Auto Framed 20x26 Psa/dna Loa Pirates HofRare Wwe Wwf Summerslam 1997 24x36 Ppv Poster Signed By Bret Hitman Hart And HbkUfc 148 Event Signed Poster W/ufc Hologram Coa Silva, Mcgregor, Rousey, TateUfc 83 Full Size Signed Poster! Direct From Ufc! 22 Sigs! St.pierre Velasquez ++Ufc 83 Offical Licensed Poster Signed By 22 Fighters Including George St Pierre.Vintage 1968 Topps Test Poster #18 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Auction #1Ufc 77 Full Size Signed Poster! Direct From Ufc! 18 Sigs! Silva Vs Franklin 2!Ufc 68 Full Size Signed Poster! Direct From Ufc! 18 Sigs!couture Franklin HughesVintage 1968 Topps Test Poster #18 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees Hof Auction #2Vintage 1968 Topps Test Poster #18 Mickey Mantle Yankees Hof 10x17 Framed 13x21Ufc 54 Randy Couture Chuck Liddell V Horn Signed By Card Autographed Poster AutoWanderlei Silva Signed 16x20 Photo Ufc Pride Mma Autograph PosterDonald Cowboy Cerrone Signed Wec Ufc Official Glove Mma Autograph Auto PosterUfc 150 Ben Henderson V Frankie Edgar Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc1968 1971 Topps Football Poster Lot With Hall Of Famers (21)Ufc On Fuel 4 Chris Weidman V Munoz Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc27 Different Wwf Ljn Figure Posters Lot 1980s Andre Solo Bees Blair Brunzell WweFramed, Signed Mickey Mantle Poster1967 Topps Baseball Posters; Mantle And Pepitone, 1950's Mickey Mantle Ad.Ufc 122 Germany Marquardt V Okami Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto SbcWwe Wwf Wrestlemania V (5) Poster 24x36 Hulk Hogan Macho Man Randy SavageBrad Paisley Signed Autographed Nascar Poster Dale Earnhardt Jr Jimmie JohnsonPorsche 911rsr “1973 Das Jahr Des Rsr” Art Poster Autographed By Hurley Haywood2015 Tcu Team Signed PosterLot Of 19 Rare Vintage 1980's Olympic Skiing Posters Autographs Picabo StreetBoxing Poster - 1985 Ramirez Vs Comacho - Wbc Lightweight ChampionshipUfc Ufn 17 C Velasquez Lauzon V Stephens Signed By Card Autographed Poster AutoOriginal 1974 George Foreman Vs Muhammed Ali Medium Size Closed Circuit Poster24" X 36" Jim Marshall Si Like Poster No Border (vikings)Original 1977 Sports Illustrated Poster Pistol Pete Maravich New Orleans JazzUfc Tuf Season 4 The Comeback Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc24" X 36" Joe Namath Si Like Poster No Border (rams)Lebron 2 Air Zoom Generation Nike Box Only W/ Posters Chamber Of Fear Asia Pe Rare Ecw Event Poster 11" X 17" Salisbury Beach, Mass. Wwe Wwf Tna Czw Fmw RohUfc Ufn 21 Kenny Florian V Gomi Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc Ufc Ufn 22 Marquardt V Palhares Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc3x Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Ncaa Champ Mvp Print Givens Delk Sheppard + Coa Vintage 1980's Kareem Abdul-jabbar Adidas 24x36 Poster Los Angeles LakersFamous Fights In The Prize Ring, Boxing 1870's-80's No.12, J.c. Heenan, PosterVintage Circa 1940s Basketball Display 24" X 36" Lem Barney Si Like Poster No Border (lions)Ufc Ufn 23 Fight For The Troops 2 Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Sbc2011 Indy 500 Starting Line-up PosterNew Antonio Brown Lifesize Fathead/poster Nfl Pittsburgh SteelersVintage 1972 West Virginia Mountaineers Iron City Beer Football Poster, Old, WvuRare Nike Air Force 1 Poster Second Coming Kobe Lebron Cp3 JordanUfc Ufn 19 Nate Diaz V Guillard Signed By Card Autographed Poster Auto Nick SbcVintage 1987 Falmouth Road Race Poster Cape Cod MassachusettsUfc On Fx 3 Demetrious Johnson V Ian Mccall Signed By Card Autographed Poster Vintage 1968 Mesquite Texas Devils Bowl Speedway Show Poster1970-1979 Kentucky Derby Winner Poster-signed-churchill Downs GiveawaySuper Rare Unique Collectible Vintage 1980's The Sting Drag Racing Car Poster1980 Boxing Poster Matthew Saad Muhammad Wbc San Diego Sports Arena Muhammad AliMarvin Barnes St Louis Spirits U.s. Army Recruiting Poster Aba BasketballVintage Sacramento Kings Poster. Webber, Jason Williams, Stojakovic, Divac. NiceWillie Cauley Stein Kentucky Basketball Signed Poster Nba Draft Sec Champs24" X 36" Merlin Olsen Si Like Poster No Border (rams)Lot Of 3 Nhra Hot Rod Reunion Posters-2000, 2001, 2003-excellent Condition