About Vintage Posters

About Collecting Posters

Vintage posters are like anything else one chooses to collect – collections start with one item which is found (often by chance) and which then becomes the cornerstone of a larger collection. Twenty years ago vintage posters were not yet recognized as the genuine artform and collectors items as they are now -- often posters could be had for a few hundred dollars. With prices appreciating into stratospheric proportions (many vintage posters bought 20 years ago have quadrupled in value!), vintage posters seem to hold not only the eye of the collector but their value as well.

“The real afficionado unhesitatingly takes whatever gives him aesthetic pleasure, regardless whether it fits a preconceived pigeon-hole of style or subject; and if he’s completely honest and follows his impulses, eventually what he amasses establishes its own standards and values. Best of all, it will not owe anything to anybody, it will stand on its own and give testimony about its creator’s character.”

Rene Vincent's magnificent 6 sheet poster for Au Bon Marche, circa 1930.

The criteria that are used to determine the value of a poster are both subjective and completely objective. Let’s speak of the unquantifiable first. Initially, for both the private and professional collector – the poster has to speak to you: it reminds you of a time long past, of a moment you shared or wish you had shared, of an image read in Proust or some other author of the period. There is generally something about a vintage poster that makes you want to own it and see it on your walls. As A.M. Cassandre, a great poster artist of the 1920’s and 30’s declared: “The poster has to trigger an emotion. And this emotion, whether or not the viewer is conscious
of it, has to be an obsessive one.”

Mich's (Michel Liebeaux) fantasticly moving (and slightly eerie) oversize poster for a Socialist newspaper, circa 1917.

“Throughout its history the poster has proved itself to be a remarkably resilient medium, adapting itself to a variety of aesthetics and uses. … Its unique position at the intersection of different artistic mediums; fine and applied arts; handicrafts and mass production; culture, politics, and commerce; and, not least of all, artist and mass audience has brought many of the most ambitious and visionary artists, architects, and designers of the twentieth century to the medium. They have seen the poster as a vehicle for getting out into the streets, beyond the salons and the museums, and engaging the world. Involved in everyday cultural, political, or commercial issues, the poster at its best has been, and continues to be, an extraordinary social and artistic document.”



Villemot's sexy beach couple soaking up the sun with Bergasol lotions.

How To Pick A Vintage Poster

After your heart speaks, then you must examine the vintage poster art with your head, and be completely objective about the following factors:

Condition: Posters were not printed to last 100 or more years – most were printed on cheap paper and were not intended to be stock-housed for generations. Posters which are in pristine condition (professionals qualify these as A+) command higher prices than those which show creases, blemishes or tears (from A- to D).

Artist: As with any artistic medium, the big name poster artists (Toulouse Lautrec, Chéret, Mucha, Cappiello) command the highest prices. Some vintage posters are considered rare - either because there were not that many printed or the few in circulation are held by museums or private collectors – and as with any article, when demand exceeds supply, the prices are bound to escalate.

Subject: Art posters were made for every event, destination, product and service. Recently prices realized for posters of Bibendum (the original Michelin man) far exceeded pre-auction estimates, while other vintage art posters consistently keep their value.

Recommended Reading

Looking to learn more about poster art? Here is a list of our very favorite books.

Abdy, Jane, The French Poster – Cheret to Cappiello, 1969, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. Publisher, Library of Congress # 73-78923

Bowlt, John E., Moscow & St. Petersburg – 1900-1920/Art, Life & Culture 2008, The Vendome Press, New York, ISBN # 978-0-86565-191-3

Carter, Ennis, Posters for the People: Art of the WPA, 2008 Quirk Books, Philadelphia ISBN# 978-1-59474-292-7

Choko, Marc & Jones, David L., Canadian Pacific Posters 1883-1963, 1988 Meridien Press, Montreal ISBN# 0-929-058-10-0

Gallo, Max, The Poster in History, 1974, American Heritage Publishing Co./McGraw Hill Inc. ISBN # 0-07-022735-7

Gibson, Michael, Symbolism, 2006, Tashen Books, Cologne, Germany ISBN # 3-8228-5032-2

Guptill, Arthur L., Drawing with Pen and Ink, 1930 The Pencil Points Press, Inc. New York

Kimelman, Michael, When Fear Turns Graphic, The New York Times, January 17, 2010

Le Coultre, Martjin + Purvis, Alston W, A Century of Posters, 2002, Lund Humpries, Ashgate Publishing, Hampshire UK

Leopold, Rudolf + Schuler, Romana, Wrede, Stuart, The Modern Poster,1988, The Museum of Modern Art, New York ISBN # 0-87070-570-9

Lipton, Ronnie, Information Graphics and Visual Clues, 2002, Rockport Publishers, Glouchester, Massachusetts ISBN # 1-59253-051-6

Metzl, Ervine, The Poster: Its History and Its Art, 1963, Watson-Guptill Publications, Inc., New York, Library of Congress # 62-21808

Symons, Arthur, The Unicorn Quartos, Number Three – Aubrey Beardsley Published at the Unicorn Press VII. Cecil Court St. Martin’s Lane, London MDCCCXCVIII (http://www.archive.org/stream/aubreybeardsley00symorich/aubreybeardsley00symorich_djvu.txt)

Muller-Brockmann, Josef and Shizuko, History of the Poster, 2004 Phaidon Press Berlin ISBN # 0 7148 4403 9

Thomson, Richard, Cate, Dennis, Weaver Chapin, Mary, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, 2005, Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey ISBN # 0-691-12337-3

Ulmer, Renate, Alfons Mucha – 1860- 1939, Master of Art Nouveau, 2002, Tashcen, Cologne, Germany, ISBN # 3- 8228-8574-6

Vollard, Ambroise, Recollections of a Picture Dealer, Originally published in 1936 by Little Brown, Boston; Dover Edition published in 1978, Toronto; ISBN # 0-486-23582-3