2017 Q2 Concert Poster Market Update (Pt.1)

The first half of 2017 is now over and it can safely be said that the market for vintage concert posters is evolving at an exponential rate! Activity and interest is at an all time high fueled by the following developments:

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Intense Focus on Quality. One of the signs this market is starting to mature is a heightened focus on state of preservation. Even though quality is the number one value determinate of every other major collectible such as coins, comic books, baseball cards, stamps,etc, this concept is still relatively new among vintage concert poster collectors.

It wasn’t that long ago that mint condition posters brought very little premium compared to damaged examples. Collectors now recognize that the percentage of posters that have survived in mint condition represent a miniscule fraction of what was originally produced.

The competition for these beautiful Gems has really begun to heat up because knowledgeable collectors understand that the premiums commanded in today’s market for mint condition are STILL just a tiny fraction of what is commanded in every other collectible. These collectors believe this situation is temporary-- so the race is on to assemble mint condition collections while prices are still dirt cheap.

Intense Focus on Originality. Up until a few years ago, collectors would think nothing of taking a 100% original concert poster with minor problems and have it “improved” through restoration. This situation has changed drastically and has now also fallen in line with other collectible markets.

Today’s collectors are focused on 100% original posters with no restoration. Most collectors we deal with would rather have a poster that is 100% original and completely “unmessed with”, than have a poster in their collection that has had paper added to fill in pinholes or ink and color added that was not part of the original poster.

The thinking can best be summed up this way: When it comes to restoration, where do you draw the line between owning “the real thing” versus owning something that is “not 100% real’? The answer to this question must be answered by each individual collector for themselves. But collectively, the people and the marketplace have spoken. Today’s collectors are focusing on 100% original posters with no restoration. Values and demand for original posters are growing faster than those of comparable restored examples.

Widespread acceptance of CGC. Independent authentication and grading by CGC is a market development that was inevitable and long overdue. In today’s fast growing market for vintage concert posters, small differences in quality represent large differences in value. This generates an inherent conflict of interest between buyers and sellers that results in several problems. First, the seller, naturally, is incentivized to grade their posters as high as possible in order to sell it for as much as possible. Second, just because the dealer you buy a poster from grades it a certain way, that is no guarantee that anyone else will agree with that grade when the time comes for you to sell. Third, if you have a really superior “finest known” example of a poster you wish to sell, it will be hard to realize the extra value that is inherent in the quality of your item without independent verification. Fourth, if you have a poster you wish to sell that is not CGC graded, no dealer can give you an accurate quote without in person inspection. Lastly, if you are new to a collectible field, you won’t have the expertise or knowledge to determine for yourself whether a poster has been professionally restored or if it the actual printing (or reprint) that it is represented to be.

Psychedelic Art Exchange believes that third party authentication and grading by CGC is a major leap forward for collectors of vintage concert posters and handbills. CGC is an internationally recognized leader in third party authentication and grading of collectibles. They have graded literally BILLIONS OF DOLLARS of rare coins, comic books and rare currency over the past 20+ years.

We have made the decision that if a poster is eligible for CGC grading, we will ALWAYS have it submitted to CGC before it is offered for sale.(Unless the poster is of negligible value under $100)  Why? The answer is really simple. We want to be on “the same side of the table” as our loyal and highly valued clients. And we want to offer a safe and secure platform for collectors to CONFIDENTLY buy and sell. In other words, we believe that by doing what’s in the best long term interests of our clients, we are actually doing what is in the best long term interest for our company and the marketplace as a whole. It’s an old fashioned idea that often gets lost in today’s fast paced world.

Currently, CGC grades all of the posters featured in The Art of Rock by Paul Grushkin, (subject to size constraints), and all of the posters in The Collector’s Guide to Psychedelic Rock Concerts Posters, Postcards and Handbills, 1965-1973 by Eric King. (Again,subject to some limited size constraints). Mr.King’s encyclopedic Guide features the entire concert poster series from the Family Dog Avalon Ballroom, Bill Graham Fillmore Auditorium, Grande Ballroom, Neon Rose and Vulcan Gas. CGC has announced that in the future they will continue to expand the universe of posters eligible for their service.

If a poster is not currently eligible for CGC grading, we will offer it in a PAE certified package similiar to CGC, as we have for the past 10 years. Every PAE certified item is backed IN WRITING by a Lifetime Guarantee of Authenticity and Grade. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the strongest guarantee available anywhere in the world and it’s a guarantee that has earned us a loyal clientele around the world before CGC grading was introduced.

One final note. CGC grading is a new market development and just a tiny fraction of the posters that have survived the past 50 years have been CGC graded and authenticated. Just because a poster does not have CGC grading does NOT mean there is anything wrong with it. Like all collectibles, it’s simply a matter of the condition you receive and the price that you pay.

Are you knowledgeable enough to tell an Original First Printing from a reprint? Are you experienced enough to detect expert restoration that can be almost impossible to detect? Are you confident enough to “pay up” for a high condition example based on the opinion of the person selling it to you? Do you know collectors that will pay YOU top dollar for your collection based on solely on your opinion? Certainly, we know many experienced and sophisticated collectors that are regular readers of this blog that can answer “Yes” to these questions.

But the great majority of today’s market participants would be better served, for all of the reasons outlined above, to stick with posters that have been independently authenticated and graded by CGC. Third party grading is the defacto standard in every other collectibles market, and the numerous advantages are now readily available to any collector of vintage concert posters that seeks them out.

Part 2 of this market update will be posted 7/13/17.