Where can I get the kind of cool items pictured on these pages?
Probably first on our list of recommendations would be, “You have to be patient.” Patience is a virtue in this hobby, as things weren’t saved much before 1970, so almost all of these items are few & far between – except for the instances where a “stash” (quantity) was found.
Networking is a very effective way, as in any hobby or business. Some collectors run advertisements, but the cost of those can run up very quickly, and often not yield results for years at a time.
We’d recommend you ask around, e-mail around, get to know key players in the hobby, and educate yourself as best as possible. Going out and just buying stuff to get started can be very risky, as counterfeits are prolific.
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How many of these posters did they originally make?
The best broad-range guess for cardboard boxing-style posters from the 1960s-on back is anywhere from 50 to 500. The better narrow-range estimate would be 100 to 200, most commonly. This is for one poster for one show only.
With tour blanks, it’s very hard to estimate how many “color blanks” were printed for an entire tour, and then how many each promoter received for any particular show. Numbers can run much smaller in these instances, however… it’s easy to imagine the national tour organizer shooting off just 25 posters to Duluth, 35 to Green Bay and 50 to Indianapolis, for example. But this is pure speculation. Also be sure to see our Tour-Blank Tutorial.
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Why don’t you cover Bill Graham’s famous posters?
The Bill Graham / Fillmore / Family Dog / psychedelic community is already well-served with many books, Web sites and overall organization that the boxing-style hobby doesn’t have. Thus, the instigation of this Web site.
We do have a small psychedelic gallery, and plan to expand into this area dramatically in the future. The posters are beautiful, the music was legendary and there’s a lot of action in this area. One thing holding us up, upon launch, is the copyright issues that plague much of the art-rock community. In many cases, you simply can’t just throw the poster images up on a Web site without permission or payment. Especially with the Bill Graham’s. So we’ll cross that bridge later.
Also, here at postercentral.com we tend to play down numbered, serial poster runs such as the Fillmores, Family Dogs, Armadillos, Kaleidoscopes, Grande Ballrooms, Boston Tea Parties, etc. We tend to find that any of those posters are usually available; the only question is, “What condition and at what price.” Similar to baseball cards from the old days. Sure, a Mickey Mantle rookie card is rare and valuable, but any day of the week you can buy one with just a few phone calls.
We prefer to cover posters that are so rare and unusual that they can’t be had with a few phone calls; some of them take years of searching out, and there’s no question that some will never be found again. We find that makes for an extremely exciting hunt.
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How do I know if my item is genuine?
The most commonly asked question. Veteran collectors find it hard to put into words how they determine authenticity; when they encounter something, they just get an immediate, intangible “gut feeling” for an item, which comes from years of examining thousands of authentic items and phonies. But postercentral.com offers a brief checklist below, which can serve as a starting point.
Remember, in the concert-poster world, the dividing line between genuine and phony is very sharp and easy to understand: “genuine” is defined as an advertising piece that was printed before the event occurred, for the purpose of selling tickets or creating awareness.
Any concert piece printed after the event falls into that other world, which collectors avoid like the plague. The intentions of the after-the-fact printer could vary, as illustrated by the many terms that apply: “phony,” “counterfeit,” “repro,” “bootleg” (or “boot” for short), “knock-off” and that kindest of labels, “commemorative.”
Here’s the checklist, to help determine an item’s authenticity:
• Where did the item come from? If it came from a garage sale, you’re still at square one; but if you got it from somebody whose father was Louis Armstrong’s chauffeur, that’s a great start. Most scenarios fall somewhere in between. Get as much “story” behind the item as you can - known as an item’s provenance - but trust your source.
• Closely related to that, what’s the environment the item came from? Let’s say you’re staring at an old Billie Holiday concert poster. If it was found amongst a group of other 1940’s big band or jazz posters, many of them no-names, that helps a lot; it would take an elaborate scheme to set up a fake in those surroundings. If the item’s found alone, however, then proceed to the next step.
• Does the item look, and feel, old? By “feel” we don’t mean to the touch, we mean the feeling you get as you look it over. Veteran collectors know this feeling well, they know what natural aging looks like. But occasionally, old authentic items will turn up in brand new, crisp condition if they were never used and stored exceptionally well.
• Ask yourself if someone would even bother going to the trouble of faking your item. If it’s an Elvis Presley concert poster from the 1950’s, yes, of course; but if it involves a middle- or small-name artist, then it’s much less likely. You also have to weigh the elaborateness of the item vs. profit return for the forger. It’s cheap & easy to forge autographs and, say, small things like business cards and handbills, but it’s another thing to reproduce a 24-page full-color program.
• Is it “too good to be true”? Sorry to trot out an old cliché, but all collectors eventually discover the hard way that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. Then again, once every few years…
• Closely related to that, we’d advise: Beware of taking leaps of faith. Most collectors have been burned in the past by simply wanting something to be real so bad, they overlooked the warning signs.
• Finally, just ask an expert. You can save a lot of time and trouble. Here at postercentral.com, we get contacted at least once a month, year in and year out, by someone with a yellow “Beatles at Shea Stadium” concert poster. “Does it have the year on it?” we ask. “Yes, of course it does!” they reply. “Sorry, it’s not real,” we have to tell them. Done, over and out in 10 seconds. There are a lot of bootleg posters well-known within the hobby, many of which we've included in our Bootlegs & Repros section. (P.S. They now make Beatles Shea repros without the year – of course.)
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What is my item worth?
We’ll try not to bore you with “an item is worth what anybody is willing to pay for it.” What we will frustrate you with is: there are no meaningful price guides for most of the collectibles covered in these pages, which is addressed by the following question.
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Why don’t you offer a price guide?
It’s much easier to offer a price guide with serialized posters than a gigantic group of “one-off” posters spanning 50 years, which is the boxing-style world, and which this Web site covers. There are just so many different posters (if we had to pick a number: way north of 10 thousand) and so many variables that it would be fruitless to try to organize prices.
It would be like trying to establish a national price guide for real estate. You couldn’t have a guide that sets even general prices for “three bedrooms” or “two stories,” because there are many other important variables that shape the price of a house. Same with boxing-style posters. All you can go by is comparable sales, which is best conveyed by word-of-mouth.
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Will my item increase in value as time goes by?
Nobody knows. Some bets are better than others, marquee names appreciate in value more than the rest, unique items (a signed album) might have more potential upside than things made in quantity (a printed poster), but it’s an inexact art that’s buffeted by shifts in pop culture, collectors’ whims, other similar items being discovered, the consumer confidence index, the job market, etc. etc.
A bit of advice for collectors who want to “speculate” (hold onto an item as an investment) is to only keep things you love… make the decision with your heart, not your brain. If you love a collectible and its value goes south, you've still got an item you can grow old with and enjoy.
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What’s the best way for me to sell my item?
Most serious poster and music memorabilia collectors buy and sell through private channels. For more information on this, go to our Cash For Your Stuff page, which also offers a primer on auction houses.
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Does postercentral.com sell these things?
Sorry to say, usually not. This site is run by a private collector and music historian, Pete Howard, who has been building a music collection since 1972 and poster collection since 1991.
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Where can I buy reprints?
We may offer readers a list of reprint dealers at a future date, but there’s certainly no clear-cut leader in this area. Besides, serious collectors frown on reprints, of course. But if somebody wants a reprint poster by any given artist – say, The Beatles – we usually tell them to just go to eBay, do a search for “Beatles poster” and sort by “price: lowest first.” That’ll turn up all your reprints.
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Why do you cover only 1920-1970?
Because around 1970, two significant things happened: the music industry started its transformation into big business, and people started saving things, they started to gain an appreciation for pop-culture history.
In the early 1970s, the hobby of record collecting started to really take hold, music swap meets began sprouting up, and music collectors’ magazines came on the scene. The once casual, sleepy hobby began its move toward sophistication, and music fans starting saving things. The baby-boomer generation was coming of age, and was populated with a “collecting gene” unlike any generation before it.
So although there was a tremendously vital contemporary music scene from the 1970s-onwards – encompassing rock, pop, R&B, reggae, disco, punk, you name it – serious collectors love the hunt itself, and it becomes more of a challenge as one goes back in time. Sure, there are plenty of rare, “one-off” items from the ’70s to present day, and that market continues to thrive. But from the 1960s on back, it seems like everything is scarce.
Additionally, everyone now recognizes the 1950s and, especially, the 1960s as the apex of pop culture history, a dizzyingly magical creative era that leaves all other decades in the dust. A lot of great music has been made since 1970, but how do you top The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimi Hendrix… you get the picture.
I’ll turn first-person here to finish off the point. This is Pete Howard speaking and obviously, this Web site reflects my personal taste and collecting ethos. And I happen to have an acute distaste for the encroachment of big business into the music world. (I have a broader theory that the corporatization of America will lead to our eventual downfall as the world’s economic leader, but that’s for another day.)
I just have a strong personal preference for music made back in the innocent, naïve days before big business started its stranglehold on the music industry. HBO once ran a special on the old days of baseball, called When It Was a Game, which romantically covered the good ol’ days before players' salaries went through the roof. I feel the same way about music. I love a Springsteen or U2 concert as much as anybody, but my collecting tastes harken back to when tickets were just a few bucks (or less), pop music wasn’t beaten to death by the mainstream press, and the driving motivation was predominantly the love of music. Can you believe they didn’t even sell T-shirts at the Woodstock Festival in the summer of 1969? That would all change dramatically come the early ’70s.
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