Soaring High with Vintage Airline Posters
In the summer 2015 issue of Fine Books & Collections, Martha Steger wrote about the glory days of travel posters and how the field has opened up to collectors in recent years. (Read the full article here.) As Richard Davies at AbeBooks.com writes in his primer on collecting vintage airline posters, "You could ... collect by era, destination, artist, or style. There are lots of routes to go."
For those of you feeling the pull of vintage airline posters, AbeBooks has pulled together a series from the glamorous days of air flight--i.e., 1940 to 1984--being offered by various booksellers on its site.
The usual book collecting points apply to posters, but below are a few in particular to keep in mind:
1. Posters were not mass-produced and were generally printed in a single run. Most were tossed after a few months, so scarcity can drive up demand, with prices ranging from $100 online to $162,500--the record Swann Galleries set for a travel poster three years ago. Which leads to:
2. Condition, condition, condition. If you're interested in a particular poster, find out if it was ever tacked on a wall--are there holes in the paper? Water stains? Sunning? Dirt? Even if a poster is rare, you may be able to negotiate a better price if the poster needs restoration.
3. Love the posters but want to stick to a theme? Consider collecting by airline or by geographical region, and go from there. If you're thinking of building your collection around a particular artist, like Donald Brun, Franz Fiebiger, or Gert Sellheim, know that it may be harder to authenticate their work--illustrators rarely signed posters.
To help your collection soar, consider reading Fly Now!: The Poster Collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, chapter 2 in the scholarly Poetics of the Poster: The Rhetoric of Image-Text by David Scott, and the gorgeous Airline Visual Identity by Callisto Publishers.
Check out ABE's catalog of vintage airline posters here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/abebooks_inc/sets/72157682180444595.
Images used with permission from AbeBooks.