Vintage Pin Up Posters

Lucille Ball Pin Up, circa 1945

Vintage pin up posters in excellent condition are one of the most sought after types of collectible posters. This saucy art form was at its best during the 1940s and '50s, but there are examples from many other decades. The term "Pin Up" was coined in 1941 to describe pictures that men pinned up on their walls, although even the Gibson Girl of the early 1900s can be considered a pin up. While much of the art may be considered risqué, it is generally not pornography.

Major Artists

There were hundreds of artists that created pinups for everything from magazines to calendars but of these, a handful created pin up art that was not only titillating but was artistically exceptional as well. A good pin up poster allowed the viewer to feel as if they had come upon the scene quite by accident, appealing to the voyeur in everyone. It also allowed the viewer a peek at the personality of the model.

Alberto Vargas

Alberto Vargas was an extremely popular pin up artist, working in a combination of watercolors and airbrush. His favorite model was his wife, Anna. She was the first of what was to become known as the Varga Girls. He worked as a publicity artist for the Ziegfeld Follies but was not really well known until he began to work for Esquire magazine in the years of World War II.

Vargas did numerous centerfolds for Esquire, and it was his editor in esquire that requested that he use models other than his wife! He is considered one of the finest of the pin up artists. Vintage pin up posters by Varga, or Esquire magazines with Vargas centerfolds, can claim top dollar at auction if they are in excellent condition.

George Petty

George Petty created the Petty Girl, an American icon from the 1930s through the 1950s. Calendars, pin ups, billboards, advertising, and even a 1950 motion picture carried the "Petty Girl" moniker.Petty worked with Esquire magazine creating covers and centerfolds. His other works were commissioned by:

  • Pepsi Cola
  • Time magazine
  • True magazine
  • MGM motion pictures

Enoch Bolles

Enoch Bolles was a contemporary of both Vargas and Petty and is considered in the same caliber. He was best known for racy images of flappers, and the images that graced the covers of Film Fun magazine.He used a greater variety of color in his work than most artists of the time. His models were generally posing provocatively for the viewer, although at times they seemed to be self conscious or embarrassed. His work was more classically Art Deco in design, and he used many props and techniques to draw the eye and mind into the poster.

More about Vintage Pin Up Posters

  • Vintage posters of all types are becoming increasingly popular as a collectible. If you want to collect these pieces of art, research them so that you can spot the difference between an original and a fake. Remember that too good to be true is usually a fake.
  • Prices vary widely even with original vintage pin ups. Artists like Vargas, Petty, and Bolles will naturally be more expensive to collect than some of the lesser known artists. Pin ups from World War II, especially those that are autographed by the model generally will also be more valuable than the centerfold torn from a 1938 Esquire magazine.
  • Actresses like Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, and later, Farrah Fawcett, all became known for their pin up images. These photographs in good condition are valued a little higher if they bear a personalized autograph.


There are many collectors of the vintage pin up, both men and women. Here are some great resources:

Original pin ups can be hard to locate. Ebay sometimes has original pin ups but it is important to check the seller's feedback and their return policy. Buying vintage ephemera online is always risky.

Antique shops, auctions, and garage sales are good places to locate these collectible posters. Develop a relationship with a local antiques dealer and let them know what you are looking for. They will be able to let others in their network know that you are looking for a particular type of item and you may quickly have it hanging on your wall.

Displaying Your Pin Up

  • Have your pin up framed by a professional. In order for it to be preserved for a long time it needs to have special care in the framing process.
  • As with all vintage artworks, hang the poster out of direct sunlight. The ultraviolet rays will fade and damage your poster.
  • If you wish to highlight the picture, use a spotlight on the floor rather than a display light on the frame. The heat from the display light will cause damage to the poster.
  • Keep the image protected from the fireplace, grill, oven, stove, and cigarette smoke.
  • Have it checked by someone skilled in restoration if it needs to be cleaned.
  • Do not hang it in a damp area.

Vintage pin up posters are a specialized genre of art that people seem to either love or hate. Choose the type of pin up you want to collect, learn a little about the artist or artists, and display your collection in a way that you can enjoy it.

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