Vintage Posters

<em>Juliette</em> by Erte

Vintage posters are a collectible art form that is available to almost everyone. Values vary but even very rare or collectible posters can be found in the $400.00 to $2,000.00 range. A poster is considered vintage if it is at least twenty-five years old and is an original advertising print.

Origin of the Poster

Posters got their start in the 1870s when Jules Cheret, a Parisian artist, developed a printing method that allowed him to produce images with both intense color and texture. The idea took off and soon posters were everywhere in Paris, their bright colors and stylized images advertising nearly everything imaginable. The posters were instantly recognized as a collectible art form and there were even exhibitions of them. This was the period known as Belle Epoch, the beautiful era. It was a time of peace and a renewed interest in the arts that affected every aspect of social life.

Determining Value of Vintage Posters

The value of a vintage poster is essentially determined by four things. While other factors may be considered in the valuation of a collectible poster, these four have the most impact on the final price.


As with any art form the value of a poster is somewhat dependent on the artist who created it. Of course Cheret's work is very sought after however other artists' work can be even more desirable. Henri deToulouse-Lautrec is well known for his images of the Parisian night-life. His posters are filled with images of showgirls, bright colors, and stylized fonts. The auction record for an art poster is held by his Moulin Rouge, which sold for an amazing $241,500.00 in 1999.

Other popular poster artists are:

  • Alphonse Mucha
  • Leonetto Cappiello
  • A.M.Cassandre
  • Jean de Paleologue

Of course there are many more, and the artist is not the only determination of value.

The Image is Important

The poster's image will have a large impact of the value of the poster. Someone will have to want to hang that image in their home and look at it daily.

Popular images include:

Movie posters are often reissued when the movie is. Always check the bottom of the poster. A number like R65 means that that poster was reissued in 1965 and will not be worth as much as the original issue.


The value of a vintage advertising image often depends on how rare it is. Posters are easily damaged, and many were glued to walls, or nailed to posts. After being subjected to all kinds of weather these posters often did not survive. Every once in a while a treasure trove of unused posters is found in an old warehouse and the posters are released to collectors in pristine condition. Depending on how many are found the images can disappear quickly into collections and suddenly become rare.

World War 2 Propaganda Posters, for example are not at all rare because there were so many of them created. On the other hand, posters created for silent films are extremely rare and command top prices at auction.


Look carefully at the condition of the poster that you are considering.

  • What are the colors like?
  • Is there wear or tearing?
  • Holes?
  • Foxing?
  • Painted over?

Most posters, like other collectibles and antiques, are assigned a grade by the seller. The grades are scaled A through F for condition, with A being perfect. The higher the poster is graded the more value it will have.

Posters can be restored by professionals if they are in very poor condition. It is important to consider carefully the changes that you plan to make because most collectors are most interested in posters that have been untouched.

How to Identify a Reproduction

Many antique posters have been reproduced numerous times. Reproductions are worth nothing, and they can be hard to spot.

Look at authentic vintage posters so that you can more easily spot the difference when you see a reproduction. The paper will be different, for one thing, with the reproduction papers being shinier and smoother. They just feel new. Also check the print in the lower corner of the poster. On original posters this print will be clear while on reproductions it is often blurry.

Caring for Your Posters

While posters were never meant to be a collectible there are some steps that you can take to make sure that your valuable poster lasts as long as possible.

Posters were originally printed on the most inexpensive papers available. This paper is high acid and over time it creates a condition known as acid burn. The acid in the paper destroys the fibers of the paper until it is nothing but dust. Keeping the poster in a cool, dark place will help but not totally keep this from happening over a period of time.

A conservator can actually de-acidify a poster by applying a solution that will stop the process by balancing the ph of the paper. The solution is sprayed or brushed on and will help to preserve the piece in the future.

Once the poster is treated it should be attached to acid free backing and framed. The poster should be separated from the frame glass by spacers to allow circulation of air and the glass should be UV glass.

UV glass is designed to protect the image from the harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight and to keep it from fading. Using this special glass will keep your collectible poster looking bright and fresh.

Collecting and preserving these wonderful graphics is a fantastic way to enjoy art in your home.

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