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Anonymous
= Books to Pioneers and School Children, c. 1927
42.0" x 28.0"
Lithograph

A key to poster for sale value

Here are the key factors that affect price and collectibility in fine art posters:

Printing method - Most fine art posters from the 1880s through the 1930s were printed using the difficult and now highly valued stone lithographic process, in which: 1) each color is hand drawn or painted onto a separate slab of porous stone, 2) the design is "fixed" on the stone with acid, 3) fresh ink is applied to the stone and absorbed in the fixed areas, 4) the ink is pressed onto the paper through pressure to transfer the image, and 5) after drying the process is repeated with other colors. The vibrancy of color and texture achieved in stone lithography is unsurpassed to this day.

Posters printed using the photographic offset process, which replaced the lithographic process in the late 1940s, are usually less valuable. However, offset printed posters can still command high prices if they are rare, were created by a highly recognized artist, or advertise a famous movie.

Originality - To be valuable, a poster must be a design created originally as a poster by the artist, and be an example from the original printing. Usually only one run of a poster was made, as lithographic stones used to create it were expensive and had to be ground down for use on the next job. Except for some authorized additional editions, later reproductions normally have little or no value to collectors.

Artistic Achievement - Posters by recognized artists and graphic designers normally have a higher value.

Subject - Demand can vary dramatically for different subjects. Typically, ocean liners, automobiles and skiing are high demand subjects, while posters for laundry soap or peas have less intrinsic appeal to most people. Subject appeal, however, can change dramatically. For example, there is new interest in the cigar poster today while there is diminished interest in cigarette advertising.

Rarity - Posters were customarily made in runs of 250 to 3000 for posting on walls or poster kiosks. Those that were posted normally did not survive, so we are left with those that were saved by artists, collectors, clients or museums, or were left over in a printer's warehouse. The number of surviving posters varies tremendously by artist, country, client and printer. Rare posters attract more interest, and may therefore sell for a considerably higher price.

Rarity can be difficult to determine, as no one generally knows how many of an image still exist. And as museums and collectors take a poster out of the market, availability can change dramatically.

Condition - Condition is a corollary of rarity - the less rare the poster, the more significant its condition. When a poster is rare, collectors often will consider it even in poor condition. Posters are graded from A to D. In some instances condition can make the difference of thousands of dollars in price.

Conservation - Today most posters are mounted on canvas or rice paper using conservation methods. Often touch-up restoration is done with watercolor pencils and is reversible. Non-conservation techniques such as drymounting greatly reduce the value of a poster, as the poster's life is greatly shortened

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