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Poster Collecting

Primus at Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium 12/31/94 by Harry Rossit

© Bill Graham Archives, LLC. All Rights Reserved

AAt Classic Posters, we offer many different types of posters, but all of them characterize music that was popular in the psychedelic era. We specialize in posters, handbills, and postcards from the time period of around 1965 to 1972, an era when music—as well as our country—was in a state of flux. While the largest and most well-known psychedelic movement was in the San Francisco area—Los Angeles, Detroit, Denver, Austin, and other places also were hotbeds of activity and musical progression. The largest and most well-known musical venues are listed below with a short description of each.

Additionally, Classic Posters offers a wide selection of modern poster art (80s and 90s) by well-known artists like Emek, Derek Hess, Mark Arminski, Frank Kozik, and others.

Bill Graham Presents

The Bill Graham Presents—or BG Series—is represented by numbers from BG-0 to BG-289 and has a few subtypes mixed in as well. Bill Graham posters were designed by some of the most famous San Francisco-area poster artists of the time. Artists like Wes Wilson, David Singer, Lee Conklin, Randy Tuten, Rick Griffin, and Bonnie MacLean designed a large portion of the posters in this series. The rest were designed by very talented, but less well-known artists.

The early BG posters were all printed on vellum paper and are very difficult to find in top condition today. Vellum is soft, blotter-like paper that tore and stained easily. In addition, the printing quality was sometimes very poor. For this reason, most people are a little more forgiving of any defects on the earlier posters.

BG numbers from 0 to 45 are represented by three sizes of printings—posters, handbills, and postcards. After number 45, handbills were no longer printed; only posters and postcards were produced. The postcards with a calendar or “show back” are sometimes referred to as handbills, however. A dizzying array of different printings is available for many posters, including pre-show or original printings (first prints), authorized reprints (second and third prints), and in some cases, bootleg or counterfeit printings.

Because of this, it is important to know which printing you are purchasing. At Classic Posters, we guarantee every item to be accurately described and attributed.

Family Dog

The Family Dog was the name of the concert production company run by Chet Helms. Except for the first few concerts, most were held primarily at the Avalon Ballroom. Like the BG series, these posters were designed by the big names in the artist community. The Family Dog series is numbered from FD-1 to FD-147 and also includes a number of posters from 1601 West Evans, Denver, CO that carry a designation of FD-D2 and so on.

The first Family Dog posters were printed on vellum, like the BG posters. Because of the fragile nature of vellum, these posters were subject to damage and wear.

The Family Dog numbers from 1 to 41 were printed in two forms—posters and handbills. After number 41, the handbills were replaced with postcards. The early FD handbills are extremely rare and seldom seen. Like the BG Series, there are many different printings (first prints, second prints, etc.) of the earlier posters.

Neon Rose

A short-lived series designed by Victor Moscoso, the Neon Rose Series is one of the most colorful. Posters in this series were created for events other than concerts, but they are generally collected as part of the series. Neon Rose numbers range from NR-0 to NR-26.

Grande Ballroom

The Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan was the hotspot for psychedelic rock in the Midwest. Many memorable shows were promoted here by Russ Gibb and they are well represented by the stunning art of Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren, David Carlin, Donnie “Dope” Forsyth and others. Russ Gibb also helped promote the St. Louis Pop Festival, the Detroit Pop Festival, and the Cincinnati Pop Festival, which were held at other locations. All of the Russ Gibb and Grande Ballroom items are included in Eric King’s book and are designated as G/G items.

Grande/Gibb items tend to be very scarce when compared to the Bill Graham or Family Dog Series. The print runs were quite small and few of the posters were ever reprinted. The standard postcard set includes 81 different cards for shows held at the Grande proper, but most collectors include a few extras such as the Pop Festivals and Grande Family cards. To complete a set of the posters will require a lot of time and effort, as well as a thick pocketbook. Some of the posters are represented by as little as three known copies and there are many where less than 10 to 15 are known. This is not an area for condition freaks because some of these pieces simply do not exist in Near Mint condition. As for the handbills, even the most common are quite scarce. Currently, no complete set is in any one person’s hands.

The Armadillo World Headquarters

The Armadillo, located in Austin, Texas became the hotbed of rock music in the South after the Vulcan Gas Company closed its doors in 1969. Thousands of artists played at the Armadillo between 1970 and 1980 and many established their careers there. The Armadillo was a small venue that held around 1,500 people. Concert-goers would sit on the floor in front of the stage on carpets that were pieced together. While we have never seen a complete listing of every Armadillo show that was held, they number in the hundreds. Acts as diverse as Cheech & Chong, The Clash, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jeff Beck played here and are represented in posters by Jim Franklin, Guy Juke, Michael Priest, Kerry Awn, Ken Featherston, and others.

Art of Rock

The Art of Rock Series (AOR) is so named because the posters and handbills are represented in a book named The Art of Rock by Paul Grushkin, one of the world’s leading rock poster historians. The book contains 516 pages with more than 1,500 color illustrations, and is divided into four parts. With a forward written by Bill Graham, The Art of Rock presents a visual history of the rock concert poster. It looks at The Roots: 1955-1965; The Psychedelic Years in San Francisco: 1965-1971; The Psychedelic Years in Southern California and the Rest of the World: 1965-1971; The Poster Mainstream: 1969-1987; and The New Music: 1976-1987. A unique and highly collectible poster series, the AOR Series was derived from The Art of Rock.

The AOR Series is divided into four sections that correspond to Paul Grushkin’s book, The Art of Rock. The posters are numbered according to the section, e.g., the posters in Section 1 are numbered 1.1, 1.122, etc.; posters in Section 2 are numbered 2.2, 2.39, etc.

The 1,500 illustrations in The Art of Rock include the BG, FD, and NR Series, as well as hundreds of other posters from across the country and around the world. 

Collecting

Deciding what to collect can be confusing. Should you try to put together an entire set of BG items? Or should you concentrate on the small images (postcards and handbills) that are much more affordable? Collecting 60s posters can be as individual as you wish. Many people collect only posters with specific performers, and some collect only by venue.

We hope that we have provided enough information and pictures on our Web site to help you with your decision. We can offer a few helpful hints:

 

 

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