Tips for Collecting Vintage Posters
While posters come in many different sizes, there are some standards that you can use as guidance. For example, the overwhelming majority of posters created during WWI were one of two sizes, 20x30 or 30x40. Similarly, when the U.S. Government printed posters by the thousands during WWII, they were printed almost universally in sizes of 14x20, 20x28, or 28x40. However, some posters were printed privately, and therefore were not printed along these same dimensions. If you’re looking for travel posters, you will find that many posters will measure 16 x 25, or 25 x 40. I stress that these are merely guidelines and naturally there are always exceptions. By familiarizing yourself with size formats of posters you are less likely to be fooled by a reproduction, which are almost always a different size than the original.
Rarely will a vintage poster appear as bright and clean as the day it was created. Just think, a poster created in 1960, fairly recently for a vintage poster, is now almost 50 years old! Unless the poster was rolled up in the original mailing tube or remained in the original envelope, it will have been exposed to the elements and therefore will usually show some signs of aging. Things such as dirt or tape residue can usually be cleaned. However, you should beware of posters that have faded. For once colors in a poster have faded there is really no good remedy to correct it.
Do all posters have fold lines, why?
Not all posters have fold lines but many, especially military posters, do. We have Uncle Sam to thank for this. Posters played a huge part of the war effort. They were mass-produced and nobody knows for sure how many copies of a particular poster were made. After printing, posters were folded in a 9 x 12 envelope and shipped all over to banks, factories, schools, libraries, even grocery stores. This is why smaller posters appear to be “quartered”, and larger posters may appear to have six or eight “panels”.
Should I buy a poster that is laminated or glued to foam core or cardboard?
Value for posters that are adhered/glued or laminated to any surface are generally considered to be minimal or nil amongst collectors. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. A very rare or highly desirable image may retain a greater portion of its value in this condition. Often you will find a poster secured using shrink rap, but it remains freestanding once the shrink-wrap is removed. If you decide to purchase such a poster, it is advisable to remove the plastic/shrink wrap carefully and throw away the cardboard, which is highly acidic and can do lasting damage to your poster. In general, collectors are best served by purchasing a “free standing” poster and request that it be sent rolled in a tube.
Ask questions and do your research
If you are a new collector, we urge you to attend a poster show, visit a gallery, and ask questions. If the people you meet are not helpful, seek out other sources. There are always people out there who remain excited about collecting posters and are happy to share their knowledge. You can also look through auction catalogs, or reference books to get a better idea of value, desirability and a sense of what’s out there. Other ways to increase your knowledge of vintage posters include printing technique, what kind of paper was used or read about an artist that you’re interested in. If you have a particular question, we will be happy to assist you.
Spotting a reproduction: Size, color, and a “great deal”.
With today’s computers and graphics programs, the ability to recreate a vintage poster image is increasingly within reach for those that choose to do so. It has been my experience that in most circumstances, reproductions are clearly identified as such and not to intentionally mislead. Sometimes a reproduction may be called an original purely out of ignorance. As a collector, it is your responsibility to build your knowledge to make sure that you know the difference between an original poster and reproduction.
A great deal!
While it remains possible to make a great discovery or find a real bargain, it has become, like many things, increasingly difficult to do so. Therefore, despite your having heard this phrase over and over, it bears repeating. “If a deal seems too good to be true it usually is.” If you educate yourself about poster condition, rarity, market prices etc, the chances of you making a purchase you may later regret is increasingly remote.
We hoped you learned something new in this section. If we can be of further assistance feel free to contact us atGallery@Internationalvintageposters.com