How are collectible concert posters categorized and cataloged? The most widely accepted system was developed by Eric King and is laid out in his book The Collector’s Guide to Psychedelic Rock Concert Posters, Postcards, and Handbills 1965-1973. Though other cataloging systems have been developed alongside this one, King’s is the one used by CGC to identify and label posters. Here is a glossary and explanation of the numbering system and the terms associated with it.
Poster Series Designation
The series will always the first part of a poster’s catalog title. It will be followed by a number that generally corresponds to the chronological order in which the concerts the posters were designed to advertise took place. However, in some cases, the number corresponds to the date that the concert in question took place, or something else entirely. Here’s an explanation of the poster series designations that you may come across as a collector.
FD: This is used to designate that a poster, handbill, or postcard is part of the Family Dog numbered series. The Family Dog was a production company run by Chet Helms, that put on shows in San Francisco at the Avalon Ballroom from 1966-1968. There are 147 individual posters in this series associated with the Avalon shows, and an additional 13 posters associated with shows that the Family Dog put on in Denver, CO. The Denver posters are identified with a D that precedes the poster number. For example, the first Denver poster is entitled FD-D-1. The San Francisco posters are numbered chronologically. For instance, the 26th poster in the series is titled FD-26. However, there are some posters associated with the Family Dog that were not part of the numbered series. These are designated by date.
BG: This indicates that a poster, handbill, or postcard is part of the Bill Graham numbered series. Bill Graham put on concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco from 1966-1971. There are 287 posters in this series and they are numbered chronologically. For instance, the 105th poster in the series is titled BG-105.
G/G: This means that the poster, handbill, or postcard in question is part of the Grande Ballroom series. The numbers that follow G/G correspond with the first date the concert took place, beginning with the year. For example, the first poster in the series is titled G/G-661007. The concert occurred on 10/7 and 10/8, 1966.
AOR: This designates a poster, handbill, or postcard that is part of the Art of Rock series. Posters in this series appear in the book The Art of Rock by Paul Grushkin. The number following AOR corresponds to the chapter from the book in which the poster appears, and the order in which it appears. For example, the 207th poster that appears in chapter 2 of the book is designated as AOR-2.207.
NR: This means that the poster, handbill, or postcard in question is part of the Neon Rose series. The Neon Rose series was created by Victor Moscoso to advertise concerts at The Matrix in San Francisco. The posters are numbered 0-26.
VG: This is used to designate a poster, handbill, or postcard that is part of the Vulcan Gas Company series. The numbering is odd, as sometimes it will be a roman numeral (I-VII), a number, or a date.
BGP: This designation means that the poster, handbill, or postcard in question is a part of the Bill Graham Presents series. These are more modern posters associated with promoter Bill Graham and date back to 1985. They are numbered chronologically.
NF: This means New Fillmore. Posters with this designation took place at the Fillmore in San Francisco after 1988. They are numbered chronologically.
M: This stands for Moonalice. These posters were created for the band of the same name.
MXP: This is the newest poster series to be graded by CGC! This stands for Maximum Plunder, and the posters in this series are those that appear in the book Maximum Plunder: The Poster Art of Mike King. The number following MXP is determined by the page in the book where the poster appears, as well as where on the page it appears. For example, the second poster on page 15 is designated as MXP-15.2.
Designations for Type of Print
O: If you see “O” as a part of the poster’s designation, it means “original”. If a print is designated as an original, this means that it was printed before the concert it was created to advertise took place. On some occasions, there are multiple original printings of the same poster.
R: This means “Reprint”. This simply means that the print in question was printed after the concert is was designed to advertise took place. A print will only be designated as such if the reprint was authorized by the lawful copyright holder.
P: If a print is designated with a “P” before the type of print (poster, handbill, etc) this means it is a pirate or an unauthorized printing. This is not to be confused with the “P” that appears after the letters O, R, P, or F, which means “poster”. Pirate prints are not usually produced with incredible accuracy but are produced in large quantities at a low cost.
F: This means “Forgery”. Unlike a pirate print, a forgery is printed with the intent to deceive collectors. Forgeries are generally produced with great accuracy and sold at high prices.
P: A “P” listed after the letters O, R, P, or F indicates that the item in question is a poster.
HB: This designates a handbill. A handbill is usually printed on thin paper and is significantly smaller than a poster.
PC: This indicates that the item in question is a postcard. A postcard is smaller than a handbill and generally has either a “place stamp here” or a “bulk mail permit” reverse.
For more information about concert poster formats, check out this article.
Numbers and Letters
Numbers are where things can get a bit more confusing. Generally, there are two sets of numbers. As explained above, the first set of numbers will appear right after the poster series designation. For some of the series’, this is the number that corresponds with the order in which the concerts took place. For others, it corresponds to the date on which the show in question occurred. For the series’ that are associated with books, what this number means varies based on the book. The numbering systems that come from AOR (The Art of Rock) and MXP (Maximum Plunder) are explained above.
The second number that appears as a part of the poster cataloging system comes last. This is where the confusing part comes into play. However, this is really only something to keep in mind for the vintage poster series’, such as BG and FD, that feature multiple prints of the same poster. This second number simply corresponds to the order in which the posters were printed. For example, the first printed poster will be designated an OP-1. If there are several OP’s, meaning original posters, the numbers will ascend. Now, the numbers will continue even as the print designation changes. For example, if a poster is a reprint (RP) that was printed after three original poster prints (OP), it will be designated as an RP-4. Even though it is the FIRST reprint, it is the fourth total print that exists, hence the designation.
When it comes to vintage handbills and postcards, the numbers are replaced with letters. There are often multiple versions of the same handbill. The first is designated as OHB (original handbill) or OPC (original postcard) followed by letters beginning with A. For example, if there are three versions of an original handbill, the third will be labeled as OHB-C.
Examples of the Cataloging System
BG-105-OP-1: This poster is the 105th in the Bill Graham series. It is an original poster and was the first one to be printed.
FD-26-RP-3: This means that the poster is the 26th in the Family Dog series. It is the third version that was printed, and is a reprint.
FD-14-PP-5: The poster is the 14th in the Family Dog series and is a pirate print. It was the fifth version of the poster to be printed.
BG-46-OHB-B: This means that the print is the 46th in the Bill Graham series. It is the second version that was printed of the original handbill.
FD-122-OPC-A: This print is the 122nd in the Family Dog series. This is an original postcard and is the first version of the postcard that was printed.