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Posters of Rock

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss

Posters from the 1950s are eminently desirable to collectors of rock memorabilia. Concert posters in particular, can command high prices, with those of Alan Freed’s groundbreaking package tours (the first time black and white musicians shared a rock stage) particularly collectable. Concert posters are understandably rare (although you can find reproductions for sale), since so few have survived. Far more available, but still not exactly cheap, are rock movie posters and lobby cards from the era. They’re more plentiful, but still not exactly common items after all this time.

However, to really have any value, the posters need to be in very good or mint condition, although rarer ones in good condition will still sell. An excellent lobby card for the film The Girl Can’t Help It, which featured several 1950s rockers, sells for £175, with a poster for the same movie going for £300. That might seem high for a mere poster, but still quite reasonable for a piece of rock memorabilia, especially one that can be displayed (although, if you’re having any old posters framed, consult a professional framer first to make sure it’s done properly).

What to Look For

The most valuable concert posters are dated ones, advertising a specific show. However, they should only have the day and month of the gig. If they include the year, you know it’s a fake. Generic tour posters are still collectable, although much easier to fake, so you need to establish they’re real before parting with your money.

If you can find a poster advertising an early gig by a star, before they became famous, it’s going to be worth a lot more if you ever re-sell. Many 1950s concert posters are extremely plain, mostly black type with perhaps a black-and-white photo or a name highlighted in red. If you can find real posters of early Elvis gigs in Memphis or as part of the Louisiana Hayride, you’ve discovered a goldmine.

Why Collect Posters?

Posters are still the relatively cheap items in terms of early rock memorabilia, and the rarer ones will undoubtedly go up in value. They’re often easy to store (although you need to take precautions to ensure there’s no deterioration, since older ones are printed on cheap paper), which can be a huge plus if you’re amassing a large collection.

Movie Posters

Concert posters might be rare and expensive, but you can purchase movie posters quite easily. Since so many early rockers made films, this crosses the boundary between rock memorabilia and movie memorabilia.

Curiously, posters for American rock movies go for much more than those for British films. A poster for Expresso Bongo, one of the major British rock films of the time, can be found for less than £25.00 – perhaps because the American films are better known and held in higher regard (Americans have little respect for early British rock, seeing it as a pale imitation). So, if you’re really looking for investment items, go for the American films.

Some, like Don’t Knock the Rock from 1957, can bring £300.00, with an Elvis Jailhouse Rock poster being sold for £375.00. In other words, it’s a very nice market – not too expensive, but one that’s going to grow. Although you’re unlikely to become rich from collecting 1950s posters, the continual slow rise in value means you’ll turn a profit

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