Classic Posters — The Essential Poster Catalog
Welcome to Classic Posters, the world’s largest dealer in 1960s and 70s rock ’n’ roll concert posters. We strive to offer the best selection available of the rare and collectible psychedelic posters that revolutionized poster art worldwide and advertised the live music of legendary bands and performers at venues that included The Fillmore Auditorium, the Avalon Ballroom, and the Grande Ballroom.
Poster artists were inspired by the music. Bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service—and performers like Janis and Jimi—set the bar high; add to that the purple haze of counterculture, acid tests, movement politics, war and peace, a gathering of tribes, a man on the moon. That was the palette from which psychedelic poster art emerged to shape popular culture.
Art critics, museum curators, and gallery owners have compared the posters created by Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin, and Victor Moscoso, among others, to the Belle Époque period posters of Toulouse-Lautrec that have enjoyed outstanding popularity with art collectors worldwide. Like the posters of the Belle Époque, the psychedelic rock posters of the 60s and 70s are classic. They can be enjoyed individually, or investment-grade collections can be built around them.
Classic Posters has the largest customer base and inventory in the business. We work to keep our clients' demands satisfied by offering a wide range of services to buyers and sellers of vintage poster art, including free informal appraisals and auction evaluations, expert advice on collecting, and recommendations on certification, restoration, and conservation. We are always looking to acquire interesting items, whether through consignment to our auctions or by outright purchase.
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Bill Graham’s numbered poster series began in 1966 with BG-1, which advertised Jefferson Airplane at The Fillmore Auditorium. While the sequential BG Series ends in June 1972 with BG-289—the famous Rolling Stones “Tumbling Dice” poster—the Series includes the 1973 BG-288 Nassau Coliseum poster featuring the Grateful Dead. The Bill Graham numbered series includes handbills and postcards. Poster artists Wes Wilson (BG-18), Bonnie MacLean, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Greg Irons, Lee Conklin, Rick Griffin (BG-105), Bob Fried, Victor Moscoso, Randy Tuten, and David Singer all created posters for the BG Series. BG Series poster collections have been on display nationally and internationally in museums, art galleries, and at poster art showcase events.
The early BG posters were printed on vellum paper and are very difficult to find in top condition today. Vellum is a soft, blotter-like paper that tore and stained easily. The printing quality also was sometimes very poor. For these reasons, most poster collectors are more forgiving of defects on early posters in the Bill Graham numbered poster series.
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. However, sometimes the postcards with a calendar or “show back” are referred to as handbills. 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. At Classic Posters, we guarantee that every BG poster we sell is correctly attributed according to the current edition of The Collectors Guide to Psychedelic Rock Concert Posters, Postcards and Handbills 1965-1973 by Eric King.
The Family Dog Numbered Series includes 147 numbered posters that advertised Family Dog shows—primarily at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco—from 1966 to 1968. There are also numbered posters for shows produced by the Family Dog in Denver and Portland, as well as unnumbered posters and handbills associated with shows produced by the Family Dog in San Francisco in 1969 and 1970. The Family Dog Numbered Series includes Mouse & Kelley's “Zig-Zag” Man (FD-14), and their “Skull & Roses” Grateful Dead poster (FD-26). The Series also contains Rick Griffin’s FD-D18 poster for the Doors’ 1967 New Year’s show in Denver. The Family Dog Series includes both posters and handbills. Later in the Series, there were postcards and image tickets.
Family Dog was the production company run by Chet Helms. In April 1966, Helms began presenting weekly events at the Avalon Ballroom, an old dancehall that was ideal for the spectacular light shows he was known for staging. Helm’s first Avalon concert featured The Blues Project and Great Society (FD-5 Wes Wilson). In June 1966, Stanley Mouse returned from Detroit and joined the FD poster design team, which was led by Family Dog Collective co-founder and poster artist Alton Kelley. Together they created a series of psychedelic posters that energized San Francisco’s developing counterculture. In October, Mouse and Kelley were in full swing at the Mouse Studio’s firehouse when Victor Moscoso returned to the fold to design FD-32.
The Family Dog Series is numbered from FD-1 to FD-147, and includes a number of posters from 1601 West Evans, Denver, CO that carry the designation FD-D2 and so on. Like early BG posters, the first Family Dog posters were printed on vellum and were subject to damage and wear. 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 early posters. At Classic Posters, we guarantee that every Family Dog poster we sell is correctly attributed according to the current edition of The Collectors Guide to Psychedelic Rock Concert Posters, Postcards and Handbills 1965-1973 by Eric King.
The Art of Rock Numbered Poster Series, AOR 1.101 to AOR 4.273, derives from the book titled The Art of Rock by Paul Grushkin, which contains 516 pages with more than 1,500 color illustrations and 100 black-and-white photographs. It is the primary reference book for collectors of classic rock posters.
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.
The AOR Series is divided into four sections: each corresponds to its section in the Grushkin book. Posters are numbered according to the book section they appear in, e.g., posters in Section 1 are numbered 1.1, 1.122; posters in Section 2 are numbered 2.2, 2.39, etc. Illustrations in Paul Grushkin’s 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. The AOR Numbered Series is a unique and highly collectible poster series.
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 to promote shows that were held at other venues such as the St. Louis Pop Festival, the Detroit Pop Festival and the Cincinnati Pop Festival. 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 as some just do not exist in Near Mint condition. As for the handbills, even the most common are quite scarce. At the time of this writing, there is no complete set in any one person’s hands.
The Other California Posters Index includes poster art created for The Matrix, Avalon Ballroom, Winterland, Berkeley Community Theater, California Hall, Carousel Ballroom, Friends and Relations Hall at 660 Great Highway, Mount Tamalpais Amphitheater, Straight Theater, and other 1960s and 70s California live music venues.
This Index includes the poster created for the 1967 Folk Festival at Big Sur’s Esalen Institute that featured Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Chambers Brothers, Mimi Farina, and Al Kooper, and the poster that advertised the legendary 1969 Newport Pop Festival held at Devonshire Downs that featured Albert Collins, Albert King, Booker T. & The MG's, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Byrds, Chambers Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eric Burdon, Ike & Tina Turner, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Cocker, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gay, Rascals, Taj Mahal, and Three Dog Night, among others. Its Berkeley Community Theater listings include the May 1970 poster that promoted the Jimi Hendrix Experience and James Taylor concerts.
As you browse the Other California Posters Index you will see poster art created by well-known poster artists including John H. Myers, Gilbert Shelton, Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, George Hunter, Michael Wood, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Randy Tuten, as well as posters designed by lesser-known artists such as Grasshopper, Jellyroll Press, Gut, Pentagonal Dodecahedron Ltd., and Unknown.
Much of this section is devoted to 1970s poster art advertising live music at the Armadillo World Headquarters, the Vulcan Gas Company, and the Soap Creek Saloon. These three Austin, Texas venues presented performers that included 13th Floor Elevators, Leo Kottke, Greasy Wheels, Joy of Cooking, It's a Beautiful Day, Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys, Hoyt Axton, Dr. John, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Loudon Wainwright, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Asleep at the Wheel, Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Boz Scaggs, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Gilbert Shelton, Jim Franklin, Michael Priest, Guy Juke, and Ken Featherston were the primary poster artists for the three venues.
Also listed in Miscellaneous is the famous Grateful Dead poster that was banned by the Radio City Music Hall, and a Bill Graham Presents 1995 poster from the BGP series (BGP-116) that features the Grateful Dead and the Dave Matthews Band. The central image is the front of a Las Vegas hotel with “Grateful Dead” spanning the top in lights.
Victor Moscoso was the first of San Francisco’s “Big Five” psychedelic poster artists to create his own poster series. He named it Neon Rose. Moscoso had approached the owners of The Matrix (the San Francisco rock club where major bands like The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother & The Holding Company played), offering to give the club 200 free posters for each Matrix show if he could print as many others as he could afford, and sell them. They took the deal.
Moscoso’s Neon Rose posters for The Matrix brought his work international attention during the Summer of Love 1967. He had pioneered the use of vibrating colors to create the ‘psychedelic’ effect in poster art. About that Moscoso said, “The musicians were turning up their amplifiers to the point where they were blowing out your eardrums. I did the equivalent with the eyeballs . . .”
Victor Moscoso also was the first of San Francisco’s “Big Five” psychedelic poster artists to have his posters shown in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and in the Library of Congress. The Neon Rose Series of posters is one of the crown jewels of the psychedelic poster era.
A new addition to the inventory of Classic Posters is the art of modern poster artists Emek, Derek Hess, and Mark Arminski. Our Modern Poster Index is being developed now and will soon be online.
Punk rocker and poet Henry Rollins dubbed Emek “the thinking man's poster artist.” In Emek’s posters, psychedelic 60s imagery collides with 90s post-industrial iconography. Emek posters have advertised performances by B.B. King, the Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Marilyn Manson, and Neil Young. Over the last decade, Emek’s work has been shown in galleries across the United States, and in Berlin, London, and Tokyo.
Performers from Iggy Pop to Joan Baez to the Smashing Pumpkins have commissioned Mark Arminski to design concert posters and handbills for their live shows. Arminski’s silk-screened and printed posters, album covers, and event handbills bridge the generational gap between 60s psychedelic and 90s grunge sensibilities in rock art.
Cleveland-based artist Derek Hess has tested the waters of both the music and art world with posters for bands such as Pantera, Pink Floyd, and Pearl Jam. Hess also created CD covers for bands like Motion City Soundtrack and Unearth. He has been featured on television shows and in magazines—MTV, Fuse, VH1, Alternative Press, and Juxtapoz.
The Bill Graham Presents series began in 1985, starting with BGP-1, a poster advertising a November 23-24 Ruben Blades appearance at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California. To date, more than 400 different posters have been issued in this numbered series, which encompasses a wide range of smaller venues and numerous talented artists. The range of acts depicted in this series is staggering: it includes old standards such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and David Bowie, as well as new sensations like Cake, Pearl Jam, and Widespread Panic.
The New Fillmore Series began on March 4, 1988 with a poster designed by Kate Graham for a Hot Tuna show at San Francisco’s newly reopened Fillmore Auditorium. After a series of highly successful shows, Graham was forced to close the venue in the aftermath of 1989’s Loma Prieta Earthquake, in which The Fillmore was severely damaged. Following Bill Graham’s death in October 1991, the employees of Bill Graham Presents worked to finish one of Graham’s final projects—renovation of The Fillmore Auditorium. In April 1994, The Fillmore reopened. It continues to operate today, offering the best of the current popular music, and showcasing the talents of today’s poster artists.
LSD blotter traces it’s roots to the late 1960’s, shortly after LSD became illegal. At that time, the laws required that anyone caught with LSD be charged by weight, not dose. As the preferred delivery method of the day was a sugar cube, a person caught with one dose of LSD on a sugar cube would be charged the same as someone with an equal weight of pure LSD crystal. As a result, blotter paper became the new method of distribution. Originally, blotter was dosed by carefully dropping liquid LSD onto paper in a grid formation. Later, the paper was prepared by printing a grid on the paper, then soaking the whole sheet of paper in the liquid LSD. This process of creating doses with grid paper evolved into using paper that was perforated along the lines of a grid so that doses could be torn apart easily. As blotter became more commonplace, many dealers began to stamp the sheet with a rubber stamp, while the more enterprising had paper printed with professional designs. Thus began a kind of branding that still exists today.
Vintage blotter art collecting has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Shows such as “Cure of Souls”, held at the Psychedelic Solution in New York in 1988 and “Timothy Leary in Wonderland”, held at Artrock in 1995 started the hobby. Some collectors enjoy signed blotter art while others simply enjoy the fantastic art and history. How you collect blotter art is up to you, but we would be remiss without saying that it looks incredible framed.
Today, blotter art is divided into two categories; vintage and vanity.
Genuine vintage blotter art is generally quite scarce and most of the more popular pieces were created by Mark McCloud, who was twice charged with possession of LSD, but acquitted both times. Many classic designs exist in this category and famous artists such as R. Crumb, Alex Gray, Thom Lyttle and Alexander Shulgin created pieces in this genre. Much of the “vintage” blotter offered by dealers and on eBay is fake, so care should be taken when considering a purchase. Pieces signed by Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey are quite scarce and we have seen fake signatures of these also. Every signed piece we sell was signed in 1995 at the Artrock show and was obtained directly from the ex-owner of Artrock. We back up these signatures with a 100% guarantee of authenticity.
Vanity blotter is a term we use to describe most of the blotter seen on eBay and blotter websites. It is created solely to be sold (or in some cases dipped), but the key is that it is mass produced and, while it can be beautiful, it rarely goes up in value.
Needless to say, none of the blotter we sell has been dipped. It is art for arts sake.
This category contains backstage passes used for Grateful Dead shows from 1989 through 1995. Backstage passes were printed in large sheets containing 32 different passes which were then cut apart and used for the individual shows. Anthony Reonegro was one of the artists who contributed to the designing of these backstage passes and was responsible for most of the popular “puzzle pass sets”. As we all know, the Grateful Dead performed hundreds of shows during this time period so there are also hundreds of different passes from these years. Some of the passes are fairly common and other quite scarce. The puzzle passes are the most popular, along with the one from Jerry Garcia’s last show at Soldier Field and the shows that many Dead followers deem to be the finer performances of the band.