Poster history was made on November 16, 2019 when Heritage Auctions sold an original FD-26 Grateful Dead poster for $118,750. The poster, a pristine example that is graded 9.8 by CGC, has set an auction record for a poster from the psychedelic era. This result easily eclipsed the old auction record and also exceeded the true record price of a piece we placed privately this year.
While the price may come as a surprise to some, it confirms what I (Mike Storeim) have maintained for many years: that a superb example of the FD-26 would become the first six-figure psychedelic concert poster. And so, it has come to pass. At Classic Posters, we feel that this record price—along with results from our auctions in 2019—amply demonstrate the incredible strength of the psychedelic concert poster market.
What does all this mean to the collector or prospective investor of this genre?
First, an original, pristine FD-26 just got more expensive, but I feel that these are far from overpriced, even at $120,000. I will even go out on a limb and say that I also think that the FD-26 will be the first $250,000 psychedelic concert poster. Keep in mind that because these were saved and treasured, original FD-26 posters are not a rarity. But, because most were loved to death, a high-grade example—such as a CGC-graded 9.6 or better—is downright rare. And it has everything going for it: it’s simply the most iconic psychedelic poster out there. I expect that the total quantity graded by CGC in 9.6 or better tops out around 20 posters total (it is currently less than 10 pieces). In 9.8, less than half that number. For the world. Period.
Second, you can expect to see a couple more cherry FD-26 originals pop up in the next year. It’s a natural occurrence when a record is set. In fact, Classic Posters has a 9.8-graded example as part of its reference set that it will make available to collectors. If you have an interest, feel free to call and discuss it with me.
Third, you will also see more lower-grade and restored examples come to market, in an effort to capitalize on the coattails of this new record. All of this means that a prospective buyer will have more opportunities in the near future to acquire one.
If you look at the price levels of virtually every other collectable, an FD-26 at $118,750 seems ridiculously cheap. A 1962 Ferrari GTO at $48.4 million, a 1933 $20 gold piece at $7.59 million, a #1 Action comic book at $3.2 million, a Honus Wagner baseball card at $3.12 million, and a stamp from British Guiana for $9.5 million are but a few examples of what heights the collectables markets can reach. For those who will loudly exclaim that these posters are not commodities or collectables, but rather are art, let’s not forget that Da Vinci painting at $450 million.
While I try my best to refrain from the hype, I truly think that the future of this hobby has never looked brighter. Sure, some posters like an original, 9.8 FD-26 have become so valuable that they are out of the reach of most, but more affordable examples abound. I predict that the prices of truly scarce or rare concert posters will continue to climb to levels most cannot imagine today. Conversely, the common BG and FD posters that Wolfgang’s Vault has dumped on the market by the hundred—the ones you now see in every auction—will lag far behind.