Collecting Posters

D.King Gallery Poster
( Courtesy of D.King Gallery Rock Posters )

Getting Started

So you are interested in beginning to collect rock posters. Where should you start?...

Collect what interests you:

a specific group (the Grateful Dead), an area (Austin, TX), an era (70's disco music) or period (the late 60's), a poster artist (Rick Griffin), a venue (the Fillmore East) or a poster series that you find particularly intriguing.


Consider what you want to do with your collection:

Are you just looking for a few cool posters to put on the walls or do you want to look through your collection regularly and show it off to friends. These considerations are important in deciding whether your interest is limited to posters (which can be a pain to review and display once you have more than a few) or whether your interest should include smaller items (postcards, handbills and tickets) that are easier to store and review.

Most importantly, get out there and see what exists:

Hit the music section in your local bookstore, surf the web, check out what is being offered on the online auctions, visit any dealers in your area and check out any "antique or collectibles" show in your area where rock posters may be offered for sale.

Building a Collection

OK. You've decided what you want to collect. Where do you go from here?

Information is the key element in building a collection: information concerning what exists in the category that you've decided to focus on, information concerning availability (past and present) and information concerning value. Such information will inform and aid your collecting decisions. Search out and acquire the key reference works. Keep a file of catalogs and auction lists. And most importantly, keep looking for new information. Also, give some thought to your collecting style; are you going to be a cutthroat competitive collector or will you take a more professional approach with the expectation that what goes around/comes around?

At this stage, it is also advisable to begin paying more attention to the proper storage and handling of your collection. (See
Protecting Your Rock Posters)


Advanced Collecting

You'll know when you've crossed the threshold into the world of serious poster collecting when one of three events happens to you:

1) you decide you want to collect everything associated with a group, poster artist, venue, period or poster series,

2) you decide your collection is too precious to display on your wall or

3) you run out of space to store your collection and/or lose track of what you have and where any particular item can be found.

In this realm of collecting, there are no rules but we do offer a little advice. Trite as it may sound, it pays to make conscious decisions about the direction of your collection. Many established collectors started out with specific interests that kept expanding until, for a number of reasons, they decide to really focus their collecting energies in a few limited areas. Thinking through such decisions not only will help you make reasoned decisions but should help to ensure that the collecting process continues to be enjoyable.

Things to consider:

What continues to excite you about poster collecting?

For many collectors, their interest and enthusiasm wanes when the primary area of their collection is largely complete. Discoveries are rare, the last few items may take years to find and will likely command a premium price. Consider expanding your collecting to include some area of interest that is still relatively inexpensive and available. The ongoing BGP Fillmore poster series and the Maritime Hall Family Dog Image of the Dog series come to mind as recent examples - imagine, just three years ago you could walk down Haight Street in San Francisco, see a "new" Family Dog poster on phone poles and grab a stack of Family Dog handbills.

How have your other personal interests changed?

Some folks find that they enjoy the "buzz" of the deal and end up becoming both dealers and collectors. The advent of online auctions has made it easy for many collectors to cross over into the world of offering posters and related items for sale.

What is the relative value/importance of existing parts of your collection?

This is not just a question of monetary value but includes the issue of one's attachment to/desire for a part of your established collection. In part, answering such questions can illuminate collecting opportunities. More than one collector has traded/sold part of a collection so that other portions of their collection can be expanded or completed. Also, it is important to periodically put one's collecting in context with an eye to making sure that a collection is properly organized, stored and protected both phsyically and financially (e.g. insured).

Recent Trends and Tips

Increased Interest in Fillmore Image Tickets

Over the past few years fueled in part by online auctions, there has been a substantial surge in interest in the Bill Graham series image tickets. In the short term, this has made the more desirable tickets harder to find and more expensive to acquire. On the other hand, the increased interest has generated some interesting discoveries (more about that in future News updates) and caused some folks holding some unusual or rare tickets to put them on the market. If you have any Fillmore tickets that you believe are unknown to other collectors, please let us know - so that we can all know what is out there.

Don't Overlook the Family Dog Series

Fueled in part by the documentation of the series provided by The Art of the Fillmore, there has been increased interest in and demand for almost everything (posters, handbills, cards and tickets) associated with the Bill Graham numbered poster series. At the same time, interest appears to have dropped off somewhat in the numbered Family Dog series (1966-1968) and most Family Dog items have not experienced the increase in value that we have seen for BG items. Many long time poster collectors have traditionally considered the Family Dog series to be more interesting and collectable than the Bill Graham series. All of these circumstances, have made this an attractive time to seek out and collect Family Dog items.

More Information on Poster Collecting and Rock Posters

© 1999 ©