About Collecting Posters

Vintage posters are like anything else one chooses to collect – you start with one item (often found by chance) and that becomes the cornerstone of a larger collection. Twenty years ago vintage posters were not yet recognized as the genuine artform and collector's items as they are now. With prices appreciating into stratospheric proportions (sometimes quadrupling in value over the past 20 years!) vintage posters seem to hold not only the eye of the collector but their value as well.


Featured: Rene Vincent's magnificent 6 sheet poster for Au Bon Marche, c. 1930.

The criteria 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."

How To Pick A Vintage Poster

After your heart speaks, consider some things poster collectors keep in mind when poster hunting:

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. Those 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