Before the advent of television, posters were the most effective and broad-reaching medium for advertising and propaganda. Designed to grab the attention of people passing by, posters presented artists with the challenge of distilling a commissioned message into minimal words with maximum visual impact.
Some of the designers achieved this goal by creating spectacular designs that exuded warmth, comfort and style; others rallied the masses to new victories in war and peace. Being topical, posters absorbed and reflected the prevailing and changing art styles and fashions at a rapid pace and became part of the avant-garde art movement.
They were meant to be displayed temporarily on walls and discarded. For this reason, not many survived and this makes them highly collectable.
Today original vintage posters make a great statement and ideal Christmas presents. With such a variety of subject matter, styles and colour schemes, they can work in modern offices, apartments, Victorian houses, or childrens’ rooms. Posters can often trigger emotional responses, appealing to our sense of nostalgia and happy memories of childhood, travel, or hobbies, such as the Austrian art deco skiing poster above.
The other benefit is that their wide price range suits any budget. They make a fantastic talking point and a sound investment – if you get it right.
Five top tips for buying vintage posters
Authenticity is a key factor in determining and maintaining the value of your poster. Consult a specialist dealer so you can be sure you’re buying an original and not a reproduction print.
Art Deco posters are very stylish and have a strong collector base. They look fantastic in modern homes and maintain their value.
Designs that represent good investments include ski posters for their timeless appeal and cinema posters, especially Oscar winners, popular actors and cult classics (such as James Bond).
Posters from the 1950 and 60s can be a great entry point into collecting as the designs are often bright, bold and quirky.
Make sure that the poster is reasonably good condition without significant losses, stains or tears. They can be restored but, depending on the extent of restoration required, this will add cost to your purchase. Avoid posters that are backed on board or posters that are laminated as this decreases their value.
When hanging, keep framing simple. Most poster designs are bright and colourful and don’t need any additional boost or distraction.
A simple black frame works well in separating the poster from the background. Non-reflective glass will allow it to be seen to its best effect and, like all artwork, they should never be displayed in direct sunlight.
With little of that about in December, it’s the ideal time of year to choose, share and enjoy these pieces of history.
AntikBar sells a range of vintage posters. AntikBar, 404 King’s Road, London, SW10 0LJ. 020 7352 9309; antikbar.co.uk