Posters! Typically designed as advertising, they are everywhere and depict just about everything. Like many colorful pieces of ephemera, they have a thriving collector market. Back to the Past, in fact, usually has an interesting selection that appeals to fans of all kinds! How can you tell which posters are worth money? Here are some tips!
Personality Posters Aren’t Valuable
About this time of year, nearly every college campus in America will have a poster booth set up somewhere on its campus. It sells movie and rock posters to the thousands of college students suddenly realizing that their walls look pretty drab. Fancier students will take the bus to Wal Mart for a cheap frame, but most will just tape or tack their purchases up to their wall. Many of these posters will then be ripped down and thrown away come the spring. And that’s exactly what should happen!
See, those booths deal in personality posters. Personality posters are so-called because they are meant to showcase something about the owner’s personality. They are pure decoration, divorced from the original intent of the poster’s design. To wit, the Scarface poster purchased from a booth in the student union is not meant to sell tickets to Scarface. Personality posters are mass produced, usually on cheaper paper than the real thing, and sold to the general public. They are not notably rare or collectible. You did not throw away any money by throwing out your dorm posters.
Original Posters Can Be Valuable
The most valuable posters are the ones tied to moment in time. This usually, but not always, means they’re some kind of advertisement. The most common form is the original one sheet movie poster, the identification of which we have some tips on. Theatrical runs are, by their nature, limited and that means genuine movie posters have a limited “working life”. They’re only distributed to movie theaters showing the film, limiting the number produced. They are ephemera, they are collectible, and that can make them valuable.
The same goes for concert posters, chiefly ones promoting the concert. These are unique to the tour, potentially to the venue, and therefore have fairly small print runs. Some venues even create unique, in-house posters that are dang near one-of-a-kind. The posters sold at the merch booths aren’t as rare, designed to be sold in larger quantities to concertgoers. They’re generally more valuable than personality posters, but it depends a lot on how the artist sold them. If the posters are made available on their website, then they’re closer to “personality” than “original” in terms of print run.
This general principle can be broadened out to most advertising posters. Comedy show, album releases, comic releases, anything where the poster was tied to a specific date range. The combination of intended obsolescence and limited production run is a major competent of building collectible value. Personality posters may have the former, but they lack the latter.
Finding The Audience
That said, there has to be an audience. The rarest concert posters are handmade ones for bands that never went anywhere, but that rarity doesn’t translate into anything other than sentimental value. It can take a discerning eye to go through a collection of posters and separate the wheat from the chaff. Take, for example, The Mynah Birds.
The Mynah Birds were a Canadian R&B band that lasted three years in the mid-60s. They played a ton of gigs and even signed with Motown Records but only managed to release one single before their lead singer was arrested on charges of military desertion. They fizzled out after and never really went anywhere… but lead singer Rick James and lead guitarist Neil Young went on to be legends in their own right. As such, what little promotional material that exists from this go-nowhere band is rather highly prized.
Back to the Past has the discerning eyes needed to pick stuff like that out! When it comes time for you to sell your collection, save yourself hours of work and give us a call. And address any quick questions about this or any other collectibles topic in the comments below or on socials @b2pcollect!