Are you thinking about dipping a toe into the pool of concert poster collecting? Then grab a seat and settle in. Let’s take a look at the collecting potential of concert posters and answer the question: Why are Concert Posters perfectly positioned to rival comics as a collectible category?
Why Concert Posters Have the Potential to Reach the Size of the Comic Books Collectible Category
Similar to comic book and video game collecting, concert poster collecting has not always been done with a monetary goal in mind. Concert posters fit right into a mantra; “Anything that’s truly collectible needs to be originally consumed in some way”. The tension between consuming and preserving is part of what creates the market for collectible categories.
The reason beanie babies aren’t worth much today is that, from right out of the gate, consumers wanted them to be collectibles and they were decently accessible. None of us were able to touch that TY tag. We couldn’t play with those things without mom or grandma slapping our hands! But, on the contrary, let’s consider comics. The act of consumption is reading them, and 8-year-olds weren’t putting them in protective cases and setting them on shelves. Same with video games. Who actually opened that Super Mario Bros. Duck Hunt and console on Christmas morning in 1987 and then decided to keep those games in the sealed box? Hardly anyone, because with video games, the act of consumption is pulling the game out of the box and playing it.
For concert posters, the act of consumption was advertising for an upcoming show. They were then discarded or left to slowly decay as they were exposed to the elements. And because of those factors, concert posters have the same propensity to become a highly coveted collectible, just like comics and video games.
The Rule of 25
Just as with other collectibles, concert posters have a time maturity element. Generally speaking, newer items in any collectible market are easier to find and in larger quantities than older pieces. With plenty of available inventory of the newer works, people are able to buy them in “real-time”. Right after you see a concert, it’s easy to find a poster from the event. If you’re like most people who consider themselves collectors, these pieces get stored or displayed somewhere and are left alone to perhaps appreciate in value over the years.
This is where the 25-year cycle begins. A young collector from the 90s might recall reading Carnage’s first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #361, playing Mortal Kombat, going to see Green Day play live, and playing Magic the Gathering or Pokemon for the first time. As these people mature over the next 25 years, they begin to diverge as an audience and get economically categorized. Some of those folks now have the capacity to spend more money on the collectible items they desire. Once they age into being able to afford higher-priced items, the supply of those items shrinks, especially in higher-grade surviving items.
Though older, limited edition pieces can seem impossible to find, that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared completely. Much of the supply of the rarer earlier posters is sealed away in private collections.
What are Concert Poster Collectors Watching For?
Remember, the most desirable concert posters have never sold on the market.
The most desirable posters are from the earliest days of collecting. A small group of people holds and continues to hold the rarest and most valuable pieces in existence, even today. We’re now seeing them begin to emerge from the treasure chests of the original owners and land in the hands of people who want them badly. A few people have invested in and hidden away many of these grail pieces. Some of these items have not leaked out at scale at all to the collecting audience. We’re in such an early stage of the market that it’s very hard to determine what will be considered valuable in the long term.
Every band starts somewhere. The most iconic bands of all time started off playing in hole-in-the-wall venues for small crowds. Their shows were advertised with a small print-run of posters. For those iconic bands, while the collectibility of ANY of their posters can hold value, their earlier advertorial pieces are where the investors are. For instance, it seems unlikely that an auction would ever put up anything Nirvana’ that will sell for less $1000. There is high demand for the band’s pieces, as the band gets credit from so many for being the birth of the grunge band. The band’s instantly-recognizable MXP-79.1 Mudhoney poster in a CGC 9.6 sold in June, 2020 for $1,920 through PAE and a 9.4 sold in April of this year for $900 through ComicConnect.
Today, things have changed dramatically in the collectible climate. Once you’ve gotten to the modern era, you’ll see that there are huge dollar signs found in the small-run prints we see today. Concert posters have taken a turn into more limited-edition items in a similar way to sports cards and comic books; they created variants. For example, there are Tool posters that are ridiculously valuable because they’re a chrome edition with only 50 created, as opposed to 500 of the standard edition. In this era, though, there are only a handful that are desirable according solely to monetary value.
Looking for a way to get a leg in the door? Newbies will find that the punk-metal and hip hop stuff from the mid-80s/early 90s is a great place to begin. Also, as of right now, pieces are very affordable, in most cases.
In addition, there is a built-in core audience for this style of music. Early hip-hop art like Run DMC or NWA posters are only going to climb. One might even (humbly) call hip hop the new rock and roll. In another 20 years, those concerts will have changed from 30 to 50 years ago. Then, those are the items that will continue to be sought after and grow.
In terms of things that are actively sold on the market, you’re most likely to see Bill Grahams and Family Dog. The practice is still too new and too varied to determine definitively what sells regularly. We should get a better idea as the years pass. And in the meantime, our Concert Poster Price Guide is a great resource for checking out the FMV and recent sales of pieces that interest you as you expand your collection into a treasure trove.