Visual Guide to Poster Grading

Valuation of concert-rock posters
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Michael Erlewine
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Visual Guide to Poster Grading

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Visual Guide to Poster Grading

by Michael Erlewine

The best way to learn how to grade the condition of posters is by looking at a lot of examples of what can happen to a poster. Luckily for you, and not so for me, my collection happens to have a lot of fine examples of poster degradation, so I have put together a little archive of what you don't want to have too much of in your collection.

To start with, be sure to read the Rosetta Stone for estimating condition, as written by Jacaeber Kastor of Psychedelic Solution, considered by many, including myself, to be the expert's expert when it comes to the fine art of postering. You can read it here !A CP000037 "Poster Grading Chart".

WARNING!!!! Some of these images are large, so that you can see the poster defects, so be forwarned if you have a slow connection. Also, there are a lot of them, so have fun.

PERFECT: A/A. Here is the corner of a poster fresh for the printers box. It does not get any more perfect than this, but even here you can see some ink imperfections, so a rule to consider is: If life is imperfect, posters are too. They are, not by design, but by nature, imperfect. The perfection may affect the price, but seldom need to affect the enjoyment of the poster. In fact, many a funky poster has made for great enjoyment. Sometimes I like the odd raggedy poster, because I am not afraid to touch and enjoy it.
A/A Perfect, Fresh From the Box
A/A Perfect, Fresh From the Box
CA000360.jpg (42.4 KiB) Viewed 941 times
WRECKED: If you want to see a poster that is beyond salvaging, except for an illustration like this, check you this copy of FD-26, perhaps the most immediately recognizable poster in the FD-series. Our thanks to Jacaeber Kastor for contributing this (our worst nightmare) poster.
Beyond Help
Beyond Help
CP060255.jpg (57.21 KiB) Viewed 923 times
The next sections will take you through a brief tour of condition.

Corner Defects by Michael Erlewine

CORNERS: The corners are the first to go, because they stick out in the world and are the most vulnerable. Almost any poster that has been handled much has some corner wear, and this is to be expected, and not considered a harsh defect, as long as it is slight. When it gets seriously blunted, that is a different matter, and when torn off, well…..
Corner Damage Inconsequential
Corner Damage Inconsequential
CA000353.jpg (46.14 KiB) Viewed 947 times
Soft Corner
Soft Corner
CA000340.jpg (30.09 KiB) Viewed 944 times
Softer Corner
Softer Corner
CA000341.jpg (24.84 KiB) Viewed 938 times
Corner Bend, Missing Ink
Corner Bend, Missing Ink
CA000343.jpg (68.66 KiB) Viewed 947 times
Corner Missing
Corner Missing
CA000344.jpg (28.11 KiB) Viewed 944 times
Corner Bend, Tack Hole
Corner Bend, Tack Hole
CA000345.jpg (36.32 KiB) Viewed 959 times
Corner Bent, Slight Buckle
Corner Bent, Slight Buckle
CA000368.jpg (47.57 KiB) Viewed 956 times
Corner Taped
Corner Taped
CA000377.jpg (57.48 KiB) Viewed 946 times
Corner Taped Fill
Corner Taped Fill
CA000378.jpg (69.01 KiB) Viewed 953 times
Corner Tape over Tack Hole
Corner Tape over Tack Hole
CA000379.jpg (77.17 KiB) Viewed 933 times
Corner, Torn Tip
Corner, Torn Tip
CA000383.jpg (40.28 KiB) Viewed 943 times
Corner Soft, with Fold
Corner Soft, with Fold
CA000355.jpg (19.16 KiB) Viewed 933 times
Tack and Pin Holes

TACK AND PIN HOLES: Posters were designed to tacked (or glued!) to the wall, so it makes no sense to go crazy about their being tack holes in a poster. In fact a nice set of pinholes ads a touch of world elegance to a poster, much like the odd gold earring sends an "out of the box" message. A set of holes means this poster actually was used for the event or to grace someone's quarters. Not a bad thing.

Pinholes are generally very acceptable and a nice set of tack holes, even with the circular impression of the thumbtack head is not to be overly frowned on. Tack hole tears are another matter. They are to be discouraged and generally affect the price of the poster. And harsh tears, where the poster was ripped down with the tacks in place, leaving long tears are not welcome. The same goes for a set of staple marks, which are like multiple pinholes, at their best. Staple holes are cool, unless they are some big whopper that tears up the poster. Multiple holes are uncool.
Pin Hole
Pin Hole
CA000375.jpg (34.97 KiB) Viewed 946 times
Tack Hole
Tack Hole
CA000374.jpg (58.76 KiB) Viewed 937 times
Tack Hole Tear
Tack Hole Tear
CA000376.jpg (49.06 KiB) Viewed 935 times
Staple Holes
Staple Holes
CA000373.jpg (38.36 KiB) Viewed 958 times
Multiple Tack Holes
Multiple Tack Holes
CA000037.jpg (58.77 KiB) Viewed 932 times
Single Tack Hole
Single Tack Hole
CA000338.jpg (39.23 KiB) Viewed 958 times
Tack Tear
Tack Tear
CA000354.jpg (52.24 KiB) Viewed 943 times
Edge Wear: The Crease and the Crumple

EDGE WEAR: THE CREASE AND THE CRUMPLE: Posters get edge wear, in particular with glossy slick posters, edge wear is almost to be expected. Large glossy posters seem to defy handling and almost always show edge wear. While edge wear is never welcome, it usually does not affect the central image and vanishes the moment the poster is framed. And there is all kinds of edge wear, as looking at the shots below will illustrate. These range from tiny abrasions that just flare the lip of the edge to gaping sections gone, showing air.

And there is the crease and the crumple. Creases can be at the corners, but they can also affect large sections of the poster. Same with the crumple. These are never cool and while they may be insignificant, they often extend into the poster image. Some posters of handbills have been folded in half, and that's that.
Big Crease
Big Crease
CA000337.jpg (40.34 KiB) Viewed 941 times
Edge Crumple
Edge Crumple
CA000346.jpg (29.96 KiB) Viewed 942 times
Edge and Corner Crumple
Edge and Corner Crumple
CA000347.jpg (43.58 KiB) Viewed 934 times
Edge Damage
Edge Damage
CA000348.jpg (68.66 KiB) Viewed 932 times
Edge Damage, Serious
Edge Damage, Serious
CA000385.jpg (30.06 KiB) Viewed 912 times
Edge Damage and Crumple
Edge Damage and Crumple
CA000361.jpg (39.48 KiB) Viewed 927 times
Taped Edges
Taped Edges
CA000362.jpg (77.94 KiB) Viewed 930 times
Fingerprints and Back Hinges

FINGERPRINTS AND GLOSSY STOCK: Watch out for these, because you can easily create them, in particular on glossy thin stock. A technique for handling these, taught to me by Brad Kelly, is to use a poster-it note to pick them up and raise them so that you can get your hands under them. Fingerprints can be removed, but I will have to get one of the experts to write a short description of how to do it.
Fingerprints
Fingerprints
CA000349.jpg (20.99 KiB) Viewed 936 times
BACK HINGES: There are dozens of ways to attempt to mount posters for matting and framing, and most of them involve sticking some form or archivally-safe glue-hinge to your poster. I don't do it. Period. What most collectors I know do is to mount the poster to the backboard using transparent plastic corners that are self-adhesive. Place these corners on the poster, carefully place the poster on the backboard, align (and that is the hard part) and press down. This is a safe way to mount your posters. However, watch out for the self-adhesive corner that folds in half or in any way turns its sticky side up and grabs your poster. It happens.
Back Hinges
Back Hinges
CA000351.jpg (29.8 KiB) Viewed 942 times
Missing Pieces and Smudges

MISSING PIECES: Hey, there are no good missing pieces, so I can't help explain that away. If it is gone, it is gone. There is a article on this site on restoration and some poster collectors restore their posters to raise their value. While I understand why they do this, I have never done it and don't even like to see the signs of restoration, but that's just me.
Missing Piece
Missing Piece
CA000356.jpg (46.95 KiB) Viewed 950 times
Missing Piece and Tape
Missing Piece and Tape
CA000357.jpg (35.7 KiB) Viewed 937 times
Damage Serious
Damage Serious
CA000359.jpg (52.58 KiB) Viewed 942 times
Signature on Back
Signature on Back
CA000364.jpg (42.6 KiB) Viewed 934 times
Poster Mounted on Board
Poster Mounted on Board
CA000358.jpg (40.04 KiB) Viewed 956 times
SMUDGES: Smudges are easy to come by and hard to see coming and to get off. There are ways to do this, but I don't know them well enough to be your instructor on this. They are not cool.
Corner Soft, Smudge
Corner Soft, Smudge
CA000365.jpg (31.07 KiB) Viewed 934 times
Smudge
Smudge
CA000366.jpg (37.56 KiB) Viewed 949 times
Tears

TEARS: Tears of all kinds can happen, in particular as the poster gets old and brittle. Some of them are just along the edges and at the corners, but they can occur right in the middle of the image and do. Taping them is not good. You will find a lot of old posters taped to beat hell. Check out some of the examples below.
Tear with Piece Missing
Tear with Piece Missing
CA000363.jpg (35.39 KiB) Viewed 955 times
Tear, Stains
Tear, Stains
CA000372.jpg (67.71 KiB) Viewed 942 times
Tear, Taped
Tear, Taped
CA000380.jpg (53.27 KiB) Viewed 948 times
Tear
Tear
CA000381.jpg (89.36 KiB) Viewed 942 times
Tear, Abrasion
Tear, Abrasion
CA000382.jpg (29.49 KiB) Viewed 952 times
Tear
Tear
CA000384.jpg (32.64 KiB) Viewed 949 times
Tear and Hole
Tear and Hole
CA000352.jpg (39.79 KiB) Viewed 931 times
Stains

STAINS: Stains, especially big greasy or oil stains are bad. They really affect the value of the poster. Most any other damage does not matter too much if you want to frame the posters, but stains are visible and alter the way the poster works, in particular if they are large and in the image area.
Stain in Poster Center
Stain in Poster Center
CA000367.jpg (21.77 KiB) Viewed 911 times
Stains, Bad, Acceptable Pin Hole
Stains, Bad, Acceptable Pin Hole
CA000369.jpg (32.56 KiB) Viewed 936 times
Stain, Edge
Stain, Edge
CA000370.jpg (30.66 KiB) Viewed 949 times
Stain Severe
Stain Severe
CA000371.jpg (69.28 KiB) Viewed 926 times
Grease Spots
Grease Spots
CA000350.jpg (21.14 KiB) Viewed 926 times
So there you have it, at least some introduction to what can go wrong to our posters and what to look for in buy or selling a poster. Combine looking at these images with Jacaeber Kastor's article on grading, mentioned above, and you are on your way to learning the fine art of poster grading.
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