How retro concert posters are cleaning up at auction

·2-min read
A poster advertising a Rolling Stones concert was recently sold for £30,000 (about $40,400) in London.

Retro posters have been adorning our home interiors for years, but now they're taking the auction rooms by storm. Recently, a poster for a Rolling Stones show sold for £30,000 in London.

This red and black poster was used by the rock band to promote one of their concerts in Windsor in the early 1960s. Mick Jagger and his bandmates were to perform at one of the events staged by the famous Ricky-Tick club, which also hosted Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Pink Floyd. Bob McGrath, leader of the R&B group Hogsnort Rupert, designed this promotional poster for the Rolling Stones' performance.

The poster was offered for sale on October 28 at Dawsons Auctions, which estimated it to fetch £800 to £1,200 (between $1,080 and $1,900, approximately). In the end, it sold for £30,000 (about $40,400) after an online and phone bidding battle. The sale sets a new record for a Rolling Stones poster, according to the auction house.

However, it's still a far cry from the $150,000 that a poster advertising two Hank Williams shows sold for at Heritage Auctions in May. This unprecedented sum reflects the rarity but also the historical significance of this collector's item. The American singer never performed the two shows scheduled for New Year's Day 1953 at the Canton Memorial Auditorium in Ohio because he died of a heart attack while driving there. Almost a year earlier, the American auction house sold a poster for a Beatles concert at Shea Stadium for $137,500 -- a record for a promotional poster at the time.

How the digital age is changing the game

Collectors' interest in vintage concert posters isn't new. Christie's created its department dedicated to rock and pop memorabilia in the 1980s, while the specialized auction house Julien's Auctions was founded in 2003. But the phenomenon has become more pronounced since the beginning of the pandemic. The reason? The boom in digital sales has allowed many music lovers to become more familiar with the world of auctions. "There has never been a better time to sell at auction... A huge new global audience, which has been forced to work from home over the past 12-18 months, has discovered the world of auctions and they like it -- a lot!" explains Dawsons Auctions.

These new collectors are particularly attracted to pop culture memorabilia, such as posters, vinyl records and band T-shirts. This is no surprise to Jacques van Gool, owner of the specialized auction house Backstage Auctions: "Certain things are disappearing. They hardly print concert posters anymore; they rarely print concert tickets," he told the website Music Appraisals . "So everything 'common' in the 1960s-1980s is still what people collect these days: Posters, shirts, tickets, guitar picks, vinyl." In other words, make sure you hang onto your music memorabilia!

Caroline Drzewinski

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