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Collecting Vintage Posters

Updated on November 21, 2014
European poster kiosk
European poster kiosk | Source

Getting started with poster collecting

Learning how to collect vintage posters is easy and with the right information, collecting is enjoyable, profitable and rewarding for many reasons — when you know how to collect the best posters.

There is something for absolutely everyone that's "suitable for framing". The addition of poster art in the right location makes all the difference to the atmosphere in a room, and it makes a big impression on guests and visitors to your home or office.

Find exactly what you need to buy posters at a fair price, learn to care for your posters, and then how to part with them at auctions when you need cash to buy new posters! This is the first article in a series that covers all the important information about poster collecting. Find additional resources and product reviews of conservation products and collecting supplies to store and display artwork.

Other articles in the Poster Series introduce the 10-point poster grading system used to describe the condition of posters when you buy or sell at live auctions and on eBay. Poster and paper conservation techniques are available for art collectors to make posters look better, preserve them for the future and add to the value of any works of art on paper. Poster restoration is the next step after conservation to reconstruct badly damaged artwork.

Browse through the topics on this page to find the kinds of posters and other memorabilia that you want to collect. Choose from current rock 'n roll posters, vintage travel posters, advertising posters and dozens of specific topics. Find out more about poster artists and the hobby of collecting and learn exactly why Posters Rock!

Best selling Poster art books - Hollywood, Rock 'n' Roll and Art topics

The most popular books covering the entire range of poster art - from contemporary music posters to the earliest Art Nouveau masterpieces from the 19th century.

Collecting posters - Are you experienced?

How many posters in your collection?

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List of poster categories - Popular collecting topics

What kind of poster should I buy?

The choices for what kind of poster to collect are virtually limitless, except for the confines of your budget and the amount of space you have for storage and display. When collecting for pleasure, you can select any poster that you like according to your own taste, but when buying posters for investment you may have to look at posters with an unbiased eye for appreciation in value.

There are many special collections for each of these basic categories - silent movie stars or posters from a specific rock band, for example. Other types of posters are typically sold on the retail market which are rarely seen at auction including pinup poster girls, celebrity and affirmation posters.

Click on sample images below to open in a new window

  • "Signed artists" have created Fine Art posters since Jules Charet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha produced the first wet-stone lithographic posters in France during the 1880s. This "golden age of posters" lasted until the late 1940s. Art exhibition posters from the golden age are also popular.

  • Product advertising - The earliest "broadside" posters were created with simple letterpress printing techniques to advertise consumer products. With new lithographic printing techniques, commercial posters quickly developed into full color artworks prized by collectors. Food and drink posters sell at the highest prices, along with historical images of familiar products and brands.

  • Motion pictures, film, movies and television - These types of posters are usually classified as "entertainment memorabilia" at auction websites like eBay. Many collectors specialize in different genres of movies - science fiction (sci-fi), musicals, westerns and Film Noir. Some people collect only posters from Alfred Hitchcock movies, for example, or different characters like James Bond, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and James Dean.

  • Rock 'n Roll concert "gig posters" and album promotional posters - Rock concert posters became very popular during the late 60s in the San Francisco music scene, centered around concert promoter Bill Graham at the Fillmore Auditorium. The most popular rock posters frequently sell for hundreds of dollars at auction, which has created a market for forgeries, reprints and reproductions. View current auctions for music posters and learn more about collecting rock posters from dotpattern.

  • Sporting events - Early boxing and bullfighting posters were mass-produced using inexpensive printing and paper. Posters and memorabilia from The Olympic Games have their own subcategory due to the popularity and frequent trading among active collectors.

  • Travel posters were also printed during the "golden age of posters" over 70 years ago using the "wet stone" lithographic technique that produced images with unsurpassed quality. After the 1940s, offset lithography became the dominant technique for printing images of any kind using the distinctive half-tone dot pattern. Winter and summer travel posters, boats, trains, subway and other transportation posters are very popular subcategories.

  • Circus or carnival posters - Produced with the same quality printing and paper stock as sports event posters with the addition of bright primary colors. A blank space is often left open on the poster to later write the date of the performance for any given town along the touring route of the circus.

  • Propaganda and Military posters have a message to spread with an emphasis on public service announcements in a wartime situation. Posters from the former Soviet bloc nations feature bold graphic design. This British military recruiting poster by Alfred Leete was the inspiration for the popular Uncle Sam poster: "I Want You for the U.S. Army" by James Montgomery Flagg, created in 1917.

  • Political posters include advertisements issued officially by political candidates and their parties, as well as statements by the opposition. Campaign posters, bumper stickers and lapel pins for a specific candidate are printed in large quantities and given to the voting public for advertising.

    The Barack Obama "HOPE" poster by artist Shepard Fairey caused a controversy in a copyright lawsuit with the Associated Press photographer who took the original image. Fairey claimed the poster made "fair use" of the image because it was fundamentally different from the original photo.

image copyright © by stukenborg
image copyright © by stukenborg

Adding to the collection

The thrill of acquisition

The irresistible attraction of a beautiful poster pulled me into the world of collecting, once again.

This original poster is from a printer in Brooklyn, New York, who created a whole series of posters printed on an antique letterpress machine. Can you figure out what he used to print this work of art? (click image for the answer). The moment after the poster was paid for, the agony of waiting for the delivered was to begin. I couldn't wait to get that shipping tube from the post office and open the package to see the new poster in real life.

That's the thrill of collecting posters! The story behind the artwork and the clever way that artists use something simple to create a brilliant work of art on paper. The excitement of bidding on posters online, or buying the last poster in stock before it's sold out, and especially attending live auctions with fast-paced bidding and a fast-talking auctioneer.

There's also a great sense of victory when discovering a vintage movie poster neglected at the back of an antique store with a very low price tag. Your persistence may be rewarded by looking in the dusty corners of a store, inside drawers or behind boxes (with permission).

If you like buying vintage lobby cards from classic horror films, or antique Art Nouveau prints by Alphonse Mucha, collecting posters is a fun and exciting as a hobby; and with proper care and storage, a poster collection can also be a sound investment in the arts.

The Poster Series from dotpattern - Collecting original posters

Posters Rock! Collecting original rock 'n roll music posters
Looking for posters and memorabilia for your favorite rock band is easy, with dozens of online resources for poster auctions and conventions. If you know wh...

Vintage poster grading: What is excellent condition?
Bidding on vintage posters at auctions, or making a bid on any kind of art or collectible objects is always exciting. The experience of making a commitment t...

Poster and Paper Conservation Techniques
Poster conservation is the art of restoring the appearance and protect many types of vintage posters, maps, autographed documents and other works of art on p...

Vintage poster and paper restoration techniques
Paper restoration techniques are used to make cosmetic and structural changes that can return all kinds of paper memorabilia back to their original appearanc...

Get started with poster collecting
Learning how to collect posters is easy, and with the right information, the hobby can be very enjoyable and rewarding for many reasons. There is something ...

Posters and DEXTER memorabilia Season 1 - 7 on Showtime
Do you have a taste for the macabre? Intrigued by the sight of blood? These original silk-screen prints and posters were created especially for fans of DEXTE...

Real Steel movie and classic science fiction robots
While other recent science fiction movies feature cyborgs (Iron Man 2) and computer software (Tron Legacy), Real Steel is a story about true robot auto...

Maps of the New York City Subway
Take a tour of the New York City transit system with historic maps from three privately owned subway systems that provided service to Brooklyn and the other ...

Questions about collecting posters - Thanks for your comments and enjoy collecting!

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    • Rangoon House profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      If I was to start a collection, it would definitely be with a vintage travel poster such as yours featured here.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love vintage travel posters. Some product posters are nice too.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You have wealth of information for collecting posters, very inspiring and motivating.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Probably my favorite poster that I own is the Rod Stewart Atlantic Crossing. I love the way you did your links here.

    • dotpattern profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Moire 

      10 years ago from West Village, New York City

      @DebinSC: It's easy to see from your beautiful macro photographs that you have a good eye for art and composition. Ocean liners and travels posters often get the highest "prices realized" at auctions.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Fascinating stuff! No questions; just a comment. I have collected vintage travel posters in the past, particularly those having to do with ocean liners and trans-Atlantic crossings. That Venezia poster is a favorite of mine, too!


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