The Fillmore – there were two of them with the Fillmore West in San Francisco which was the more famous and East was in Manhattan. Fillmore West was the crown jewel of San Francisco concert venues. Until 1968 it was at Fillmore and Geary, before owner Bill Graham moved to a new site. Graham re-opened the original location in the 1980s, but it was damaged in an earthquake and closed. Graham himself died in 1991, but the building was re-opened as a concert venue a little later in the decade.
Its heyday, though, was in the 1960s and early 1970s, when it hosted not only all the San Francisco psychedelic bands, but also visiting artists from all over. Each show was advertised with posters, and it’s these that comprise the real memorabilia of the venue (many of them can be seen, framed and displayed in the theatre itself).
Buying Fillmore MemorabiliaWhilst a number of dealers carry some old Fillmore posters, it has to be said that’s there’s really one source with the most. Wolfgang’s Vault, bought much of the memorabilia from the estate of Bill Graham following his death, and have done a very brisk trade in it ever since.
They offer an entire section of newer posters, from the re-opening of the venue, but check by artist on the company’s web site and you can find many from the 1960s, such as one for a 1966 Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service show, where a first run poster will cost you more than £400. That’s just one example among literally hundreds, and at the higher end of the price spectrum, although, depending on what you want, you can pay more.
TicketsThe collection also has a selection of tickets, mostly for the Fillmore. Many of the 1960s tickets have beautiful designs (the equal of the posters), and sell from £15 up to £350, depending on rarity.
They can be a good, and fairly inexpensive, way to start a collection of Fillmore memorabilia. The older, and the rarer, ones will keep on increasing in value as time passes, although, in most instances they’ll never achieve the same prices as posters.
ControversyWolfgang’s Vault has been sued by a number of artists regarding memorabilia sales. They claim they never intended their property to be sold commercially in this manner.
OthersHowever, Wolfgang's Vault doesn't have the monopoly on Fillmore memorabilia. You can also find an excellent selection at Lotsarock, which also had memorabilia from the Fillmore East, a place often viewed as the poorer cousin, although some of the handbills are excellent bargains. They also auction some of their posters on eBay, although with the reserve you won’t be able to buy them cheaply.
There are other dealers who sell posters, too, although few match the two mentioned. However, if you’re seeking specific items, it’s well worth checking around, as offerings vary greatly. Before buying, though, be aware of the differences between first-run and second-run posters – educate yourself on Fillmore posters beforehand; it can save you many problems later.
Even if you’re not seeking investments, Fillmore posters from the 1960s – and even more modern ones – make for very decorative artwork, and even at higher prices are cheaper than some prints.