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Something New is Here: Special Blacklight and Headshop Poster Auction

Something New is Here: Special Blacklight and Headshop Poster Auction

While vintage concert posters are our passion here at Psychedelic Art Exchange, we are thrilled to announce that our next auction will focus on a different type of material; something different and something special. This auction will feature 100 lots that were exclusively consigned by lifetime psychedelic art collector, Houston Freeburg. Mr. Freeburg maintains one of the largest collections of vintage head shop and blacklight posters in the world. He has been collecting this material since the late 1960's, and could easily be named one of the greatest collectors 1960s paper ephemera of all time. The collection we are offering you tells the story of the 1960s counterculture movement from many different angles.

As a young teenager in Memphis, Tennessee the 1960s, Freeburg was in a band that played mostly soul music from the Memphis Stax/Volt & Detroit era. Then in 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut album, "Are You Experienced?".This also happened to be the year that he began collecting blacklight posters. According to Freeburg, the album "changed my life and the band's repertoire". A few years later in 1969, Freeburg was lucky enough to be able to attend one of Hendrix's live shows, along with his classmate and friend Chris Bell, who went on to be one of the founding members of the power pop band Big Star. Hendrix remains one of Freeburg's favorite artists of all time, and a significant portion of his collection is devoted to the guitar playing legend.

In addition to his collection of vintage head shop and blacklight posters, Freeburg maintains a collection of vintage ballroom concert posters from San Francisco and Detroit. Portions of his incredible collection have been on display in multiple museums including the Toledo Museum of Art and Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. We asked him to share some information about his collection as well as this specific type of ephemera, and are pleased to present this to the members of our community.

How and when you started building this collection?

Freeburg: I started collecting blacklight posters in 1967 at the age of 14. My father built an annex to my bedroom which I called my black light room. By the time I had the walls filled with original posters, I had about twenty on display (several of which are currently consigned for this auction). I purchased a massive 4' long, double tube black light fixture. Some of my happiest childhood recollections were spending time in this room, burning incense, listening to psychedelic music, and smoking dope. I purchased the majority of the posters for $1.00 each at a curio/head shop in Memphis called "John Simmons" who designed his entire basement to accommodate these posters. I still have a few never opened. All the posters were rolled and wrapped in a plastic sleeve at the time of purchase.

What has inspired your sustained interest in this material over the years?

Freeburg: I have maintained a very particular interest and enthusiasm for this vintage artwork, partly out of sentimentality, but mostly from the content. One must keep in mind that it is no coincidence that all the late 60s music, concerts, counter culture artwork, peaceful demonstrations, etc. occurred during the Vietnam War era. I have continued to this day acquiring the very few I do not have, or duplicates of those I already have in my collection. Not to mention the appreciation in monetary values.

What’s unique about blacklight head shop posters in the world of collectibles compared to other types of posters?

Freeburg: In my humble opinion, there are four categories" of black light posters:
-Musicians of the era or music related
-Drug related
-A wide variety of posters created solely for the purpose of exhibition under a black light, i.e. landscapes, floral displays, geometric designs, zodiac concepts, and just about everything that doesn't fall into one of the 1st three categories.
I am tempted to add a 5th category, that being the works of Peter Max. Mostly whimsical in nature, his series addressed this era with 24" x 36", mostly black light, posters identified by a specific logo with title, year, and id number. I have several of each, and consider them to be of the greatest investment value. Take a look at his website and see for yourself what he values these timeless treasures in dollars. I would not sell any of my NM ones for less than $1000. There are very few out there.
But to properly address your question, I'd have to say the concert posters from this era defined a specific event at a specific venue with very talented, popular, and successful musicians. Whereas, the posters under discussion here tell more of a story in art form. For the most part, they did not make a formal announcement, but more a person or persons' viewpoint of the (then) current times.

Which piece in this auction has the most significance to you and why?

Freeburg: I was afraid you'd ask this question. It is most difficult for me to narrow down my collection because I love nearly all of them. My hands down, personal favorite is Pandora's "Mr. Experience", a colorful depiction of Jimi Hendrix with a halo of flowers, silkscreened on Pandora's trademark quality stock.
It was the very first poster I ever owned, and I love it as much now as I did when I bought it back in 1967. The poster is absolutely gorgeous with or without a black light. The transformation from the raw poster to the black light enhanced is breathtaking.
Then there are the extremely rare ones which I cherish:
1. Lucy in the Sky; Personality Posters Inc.; 1967; Artist: Maxcy;

2."Fuck The Draft"; The Dirty Linen Corp.; New York, NY;

3. Hendrix Blacklight; Taken from the Silverstein (Osiris) photo; art by Joe Roberts Jr.

4. "One Side Makes You Taller...."; Steve Sachs 1967; Artist: Cathy Hill
5. And of course, Martin Sharp's "Explosion" taken from Linda McCartney's famous photograph. There are not many of the "Explosion" posters in VG condition, and I dare say there are less than half a dozen of the 1st four above in excellent condition... anywhere!

    Is there anything else you’d like collectors to know about this material?

    Freeburg: All I can say is, while mostly pleasing to the eye, to own one of these is to own a very prominent and profound piece of American history. As for the investment aspect, I can safely say that virtually all the posters in PAE's auction and in my collection have, and will continue to skyrocket in value. Though many have been duplicated, the originals with all their provenance, substance, and beauty are truly a rare opportunity for the "counterculture" enthusiasts to make some serious money.
    Our auction titled "The Counterculture: An Exclusive Offering of Vintage Headshop and Blacklight Posters" begins on Tuesday, May 18th and will close on Thursday, May 27th at 9:00 pm EDT.
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