I sat down with half a dozen poster art collectors to chat with them about how they started collecting artwork and how they manage their collections. Over the course of our discussions we came up with these Top 10 tips for collecting poster artwork. I want to share these tips with you along with some personal experiences and advice from each of these seasoned collectors. Before we get to the tips let’s take a moment to get to know our expert collectors:
- Alex Haugen — Alex is active in the Star Wars community where he is a member of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion. While many of us are used to seeing Alex in his Rebel Pilot or Scout Trooper gear he also shows up regularly in full Indiana Jones regalia. Alex collects mainly Star Wars and Indiana Jones artwork with a focus on limited editions and rare artist proofs.
- Charlie Arnold — Charlie collects mostly original Disneyland poster art and memorabilia. I met Charlie several years ago at Disney’s D-23 Expo and we bonded over our shared passion for vintage silkscreen Disney attraction posters. With Star Wars now becoming part of Disney, Charlie has gained an interest in adding more Star Wars artwork into his collection.
- Sidney Brunson — Sidney is a Star Wars fan who enjoys attending conventions and events with his family. Sidney collects primarily Star Wars artwork and likes to add artist proofs to his collection when he can. If you run across Sidney at a convention you might find him rocking full Han Solo gear.
- Jazz Kopeček Rathore — Jazz lives in Norway and collects a wide variety of Star Wars artwork including some poster art and some canvas prints. Jazz can be seen at events like Star Wars Celebration chatting with artists and looking for special items to add to his collection.
- Sharon Bronson — Sharon owns DarthShader Window Tinting in Orlando Florida. Her shop serves as an overflow display for her personal collection. Sharon enjoys sharing her art and collectibles with clients.
- Adam Vélez — Has attended Star Wars Celebration and collects artwork from Celebration art-show artists as well as other Star Wars art and collectables.
Now, on to the top 10 tips!
TIP #10 — COLLECT WHAT YOU LIKE
This one may seem obvious but how do you define what it is you actually like and want to collect? For some of the experts their collection revolves around other hobbies in their lives, like being a member of the 501st Legion or Rebel Legion and collecting specific Star Wars artwork. For others their collection may revolve around a central theme like Propaganda style artwork created for one or more fandoms. Still others have collections centered around collecting artwork from one or more artists. Deciding on a niche for your collection can be as simple as, “I like Star Wars” or as complicated as “I only collect silk screen artwork in the propaganda style for the Rebel Alliance”. It’s totally up to you and what artwork makes you happy!
Here is what our experts had to say when we asked them about the poster artwork they like to collect.
Alex: Lots of my poster art collection has a Propaganda or Travel vibe to it but fitting into a Star Wars or Indiana Jones universe. I have always really had a love for WWI and WWII Propaganda artwork and for some reason mixing that with my love for Star Wars or Indy just seemed to fit.
Charlie: I collect Disneyland 36”x54” silkscreened attraction posters and Brian Miller art; mostly his Star Wars art but other works if they pique my interest.
Sharon: My collecting has no limits, I have a wide range of styles. Propaganda is a favorite, artist Cat Staggs sparked my interest in this particular style.
Jazz: I collect a mix of original Star Wars artwork and giclée prints on canvas. Art makes your life richer, go for what appeals to you
Sidney: Mainly collect Star wars poster art, specifically propaganda pieces, Plus some Disney, Marvel, and DC.
TIP #9 — HOW TO START YOUR COLLECTION
A lot of people I speak with at live art events want to collect poster art but they are not sure where to start. It can be overwhelming when you visit a gallery, comic-con, or Star Wars Celebration and see so much amazing artwork. What I see most often is people drawn to maybe 2-3 illustrations but their budget allows them to choose only one. They might be debating over characters or colors and I always tell them to go with the one their heart wants most. The one they will regret and think about forever if they don’t get it. I suggest they start their collection with that one special poster and grow their collection from there. That’s advice I give as an artist. Let’s see what our experts have to say.
Sidney: I started collecting in 2010 on a trip to Disneyland. Mike Kungl was doing a signing and had some of his pieces there and I thought they were awesome. It was the first time I had seen any art like this. I ended up purchasing 5 pieces that day. And from that trip my collection has only grown.
Jazz: The first giclée (canvas print) I got was Christian Waggoner's "Boba". At the time I thought I would stick only to his Reflections series, but to this day, that is the only one I have acquired in my collection.
Alex: I started collecting art going to comic conventions. I have always had a love for art, and I just started collecting unique pieces that fit my fandoms. As years went on it grew to collecting more specific scenes from movies that I loved or getting unique pieces for actors to sign vs just getting an autographed photo of them. As far as a piece of art that I must have I still am trying to track down a copy of Brian Miller’s Defend the Death Star print. I am a biker scout for the 501st and that piece must hang in my gallery at some point!
Sharon: My serious collecting started with a Jerry Vanderstelt piece from Star Wars Celebration 3. It was love at first sight, and a print that sparked interest in art at Celebration conventions. But even before that, I enjoyed collecting posters from as early as the 70's! The folded magazine series got me hooked, the Drew Struzan style from Star Wars: A New Hope was my absolute favorite. The Burger Chef poster collection was something I had to have as well, bugged my Mom to eat there because of the promotion.
Charlie: I saw a full-size reproduction of the Submarine Voyage attraction poster for sale in the Disney Gallery at Disneyland and had to have it. I soon discovered the original silk-screened posters and the fuse was lit!
TIP #8 — SHARE YOUR FANDOM
Collecting and decorating your home and office with artwork you love can connect you more strongly to your fandom and make everyday more enjoyable. Your collection can also connect you with others who may not have known of your shared interest otherwise. Blank walls are boring when you can surround yourself with artwork that makes you feel closer to fandoms you love most. It’s even better when you can share it with others. Here is what each collector said about the way their collection makes them feel.
Sharon: Collecting art makes me feel appreciated as a fan. I am directly supporting an artist, who appreciates the support. I do not get that with other forms of collectibles. Love to see the different takes on scenes and characters, from so many different perspectives.
Sidney: Collecting these art pieces can be pricey so I pick ones that I absolutely need. Being someone who understands the time and effort put into your own art, I enjoy looking at the choices of colors and how the artist puts the piece together. Some of my pieces are attached to memories and I try to meet/ talk to each artist. So, it's the art, the experience in acquiring the piece, and meeting the artist.
Alex: Our collection means everything to us. Lots of good memories form conventions, speaking with artists like yourself, and friendships made. Also a way for us to share our love for good art and our fandoms with others who visit. Our art is hung gallery style in our entertainment room and throughout the house. We proudly display our nerdom to the world.
Jazz: I don't really view myself as a collector, just a person who appreciates art, and decides to decorate their home with Star Wars art. I usually go for things with lots of color to bring color into my everyday life.
Charlie: I love Disneyland. Always have. My first memory of life was waking up terrified in the Submarine Voyage at the age of 3, lol! Collecting these posters satisfies my desire to own a little bit of Disneyland, and the careful use of color to convey an image is something that has always intrigued me. Plus, I’m a sucker for the old attraction poster art of the 1950’s, which (to me) also explains my love for Brian’s work. His style really “speaks” to my collecting soul.
TIP #7 — UNDERSTANDING THE JARGON
Art collecting can be confusing because there are terms you may have not heard before. Understanding the jargon used by galleries and artists will help you make better decisions about the artwork you want to collect and how you want to expand your collection over time.
Silkscreen print: The silkscreen process is arguably the most popular for limited edition collectable posters. Ink is forced through the fine mesh to transfer onto the paper, except as where blocked intentionally by the artist’s design, using a large squeegee type blade. There is one mesh silkscreen made for each ink color used to create the illustration so you will often see silkscreen prints referred to by the number of inkcolors used. Silkscreen prints are frequently printed on high quality, acid free, art papers. Most tend to be offered as limited editions of 250 or fewer.
Giclée print (zee-clay): A high quality digital print process which can apply pigment directly to canvas or paper prints. When applied to canvas these are sometimes enhanced with gesso or other gel media to create visible brush stroke-like textures.
Lithograph: A full color mechanical printing process used to print most modern collectable movie posters as well as limited edition prints you might find for sale in the Star Wars Celebration art-show.
Limited Edition/Numbered Edition: If an edition size is 200 pieces and you see a print for sale marked 24/200 you are looking at print number 24 of 200.
Open Edition: If art is sold as an open edition that means there is no limit to how many can be sold or produced. This does not mean the edition may not be rare, but there is no documentation proving if 100 were created, or 1000 or more.
AP/PP: Artist Proof/Printers Proof. Depending on the type of print and the process used there may be some proof prints created beyond the Limited Edition prints. These proofs are mainly used by the artist, printer, gallery owner, and license holder to ensure the print truly represent the artist’s original illustration. The artwork, colors, and paper stock are all evaluated and approved before the limited edition prints can be released. In some cases the artist may make some of their AP’s available to collectors and occasionally galleries will make their PP’s available as well. While there is no physical difference between a limited edition print and a proof print the AP/PP will be much more rare as there are generally only a few dozen artist proofs or printers proofs created. Some AP/PP prints may be numbered. Others will simply have an AP or PP where the number would usually be seen. Some collectors only collect AP’s due to their rarity and because you can typically only obtain them directly from the artist.
CoA: Certificate of Authenticity. In the majority of cases any art that is sold as a “limited edition” or “numbered edition” should include a Certificate of Authenticity. The CoA should include the edition size and specifics like the art is authorized or official artwork.
Artist's Authorized Signature: Some prints are hand signed by artist, some are signed using the auto-pen (celebrity signed photos and posters most commonly use this technique), and some have the signature printed as part of the art print itself. If you have the opportunity to meet the artist in person you can always have them sign or re-sign the artwork while you watch them do so to ensure a live signature. Most artists will be happy to personalize the artwork to you or a loved one as well.
Embellishment or Remarque: When an artist adds additional details on top of an existing print. This can be something as simple as a sketch added to a paper print to something as elaborate as the artist painting additional elements and details onto a canvas print. Sketch remarques and embellishments may add to the cost of the print but are typically a great way to own something unique at a fraction of the cost of an original.
TIP #6 — HOW TO AVOID BUYING COUNTERFEIT OR FAKE POSTER ART
It is pretty obvious to any Star Wars fan the toys in the image above are fakes but could you spot counterfeit Star Wars artwork as easily? When you are spending $50, $100, $500 or more for a limited edition poster or print you want to be sure you are spending your money for an authentic item and not a counterfeit or fake. While this is not a huge problem in the poster collector community, those people just getting started in collecting can easily fall prey to scams before the know any better. I have seen my own artwork, as well as the artwork of other artists I know, stolen, reproduced, and offered on auction sites and via social media from unscrupulous sellers. I would hate for one of my fans to think they were buying the genuine article only to discover it was a worthless, poorly made copy.
Many have stories of finding rare artwork for sale online that seemed too good to be true... because they were fakes. In other cases we have seen online auctions offering legitimate art for multiple times what the artist or gallery are selling it for... because those sellers know their buyers would not typically check if the items were available directly from the artist. There are scammers out there who see collectors of Star Wars and pop culture art as easy prey.
The best way to protect yourself is to purchase directly from established artists and galleries where you know you are getting what you are paying for. Luckily most of these expert collectors had never run into a problem themselves but a few chimed in with their own thoughts on the subject.
Sharon suggested buying at official events like Star Wars Celebration or from the official websites of galleries like Dark Ink Art, ACME Archives, Mondo, and Bottleneck Gallery.
Sidney warns us not to buy from sellers if you can not verify the art they have for sale is real (authentic).
Charlie advises us to avoid auctions for used works as they often have artificially high prices. He also reminds readers not to let someone convince you to collect for investment. If it goes up in value, great! But if it goes down in value and you don’t love it, you’ll hate it.
TIP #5 — CONNECT WITH THE ARTIST
When starting your collection you may build it around a theme like Star Wars, Disney Attractions posters, or Travel Poster art. As you build your collection you might discover you are drawn to the styles of a few artists in particular. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about the individual artist and start collecting more of their work. You may find your collection becomes more personal and important to you once you find the artists whose work truly speaks to you. Once you discover an artist you like you will want to seek out their website and social media accounts. They may also have a fan club or mailing list to join which can give you early access to pre-sales, special editions, and discounts. The experts I spoke with explained how shifting their attention to artists changed their collecting experience.
Sidney: Funny story I started just buying art I liked and later realized that I was only buying a handful of people’s art. I follow my favorite artists on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I always try to see my favorite artist at events and conventions.
Sharon: There are several artists I follow on different platforms, and meet at conventions for purchases. I do collect art from my favorite artists based on their style, and purchase non Star Wars art from them as well.
Charlie: My main collecting interests are Disneyland, and to a significantly lesser degree, Star Wars. Honestly, I only collect Star Wars because of Brian’s awesome illustrating and use of color. And no, I am not being paid to say that! Once you find an artist you like, follow them on social media, befriend them if possible. Become one of their patrons. They will appreciate the support, and, if necessary, they will go the extra mile to help you get their artwork, even when it’s a limited run.
Adam: I do follow artists that have a style that really speaks to me. As of now those I follow have been involved in Star Wars pieces.
Alex: I can't say I have a big collection of any on artist except yourself Brian. I also own some from Cliff Cramp, Brent Woodside (one of our local Missouri boys), Christopher Clarke, and one of our local artist friends Arleana Holtzmann. If you love an artist follow them on social media, get on email groups, and so on. Watch what they have coming out and buy when you can. Also don't be afraid to contact them, talk with them, they are awesome people.... and just that people! Everyone that I have bought from has been super personable. The ones that haven't.... well I have passed on their art. If I am going to fall in love with art, I likely am going to buy more of it from an artist. So having a connection with the artist and not just the piece is just as important to me. I have actually stopped buying from an artist I loved because he turned into sort of an ass over the years. Which is sad. I loved his work. So to my artist friends out there, STAY COOL! You guys rock! Keep up the good work! Keep blowing my mind with crazy things!
TIP #4 — DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY!
Every collector has the story of “the one that got away”. Each of our experts shared their frustration with missing out on artwork they really wanted to add to their collection. The takeaway from this discussion was basically, if you see something you like, buy it. You will never regret collecting artwork you love but you will regret missing out on artwork that sells-out and becomes unobtainable. That said, our experts also advise staying within your budget, even if it means missing out on awesome artwork once in a while. Here are a few that got away and our experts still wish they could get their hands on.
Jazz: I would really love a print of Tsuneo Sanda's Elegant Amidala to go with my Lovely Leia print
Sharon: Mark Raats does amazing work. He does super limited pieces and private commissions. He did a gorgeous piece for The Prop Replica Store for Star Wars: A New Hope. Way outside my budget.
Adam: Russell Walks Hope Celebration Orlando exclusive poster.
Alex: Well I think I already hit on this. I missed out on Defend the Death Star by Brian Miller and regret it. Wish I could have purchased an Artist Proof. Moral of the story. If you like it don't wait for it to still be there. Buy it!
TIP #3 — DISPLAY AND STORAGE
One aspect of collecting you may not have considered is display and storage. You may want to think of your artwork as seasonal displays where you rotate different artwork into your home and office to be displayed throughout the year. This can be a fun way to keep your display fresh and exciting. I know other collectors who have special rooms devoted to their collections where they may have action figures, movie props, costumes, and artwork all on display together. However you choose to display your artwork it should be a reflection of your passion and personality. Another area of consideration is storage. Some collectors use flat-files, others may use portfolios, and still others may have their own ingenious way of storing art. Our experts weighed in with their tips for display and storage.
Sidney: I hang mine and store them in a portfolio.
Jazz: I hang all my art, apart from what is in tubes. That works for now.
Sharon: I will rotate pieces and change my displays several times each year. Mylar bags and backer boards are less expensive display options if you cannot afford professional framing. Great for storage, too. I use Itoya portfolios for storage
Charlie: I display my posters on foam core in wooden frames using acid-free archival tape. The frames have UV-rated plexiglass. They were gifted to me by a Hollywood producer who was getting out of collecting these massive 3’ x 4.5’ posters.
Adam: Most of my art is still in its packaging. But those I have displayed I like to put in good quality frames. Glass that limits fading is important as well.
Alex: All of my art I have purchased lately gets hung up gallery style in my media room or around my home. I typically frame everything, and if it is an artist proof (which I am a big collector of) and not just a print I tend to have it professionally done, under acid free materials, under museum glass. Typically I try to preserve them for years and years to come. Until I do get them framed they typically stay flat on a foam core board under plastic and kept in a climate controlled room. I take care of my things. Collecting art for me is like collecting a piece of history.
TIP #2 — DISCOVER NEW ART & ARTISTS TO COLLECT
As an artist I know most of the new fans I meet are at events like Epcot International Festival of the Arts, Star Wars Celebration, Disney’s D-23 Expo, or San Diego Comic-Con. I asked our experts: How they discover new art and artists they may want to add to your collection?
Sidney: I always discover new artists by walking artists alley at cons and events. I also look on websites and walk the rabbit hole on artist liking other artists works. I typically find out about new art via social media and newsletters. It seems to be the quickest and most reliable way.
Jazz: Social media is the best way to discover new art and to interact with artists. I only wish I were more active on Instagram. I have bought a print of Greedo by Brian Rood for a friend that cosplays as Greedo (helping to introduce that friend to an artist they may want to collect).
Sharon: Events like Star Wars Celebration have opened awareness to art prints, and have led to purchases.
Charlie: Once you find an artist you like, follow them on social media.
Alex: I recommend going to a convention (even more so a specific convention to your fandom such as Star Wars Celebration, art exhibition, or if you are lucky enough Epcot Art Festival) and looking around. I rarely buy anything until I have looked over every booth of artists to see what is there and what speaks to me. I really like to write down ones I like, chat with the artists, get to know them and what they where thinking in making the piece. Typically one or two pieces will really jump out at me and I will just have to take them home no matter what the cost.
TIP #1 — HOW TO SCORE RARE PRINTS AND DISCOUNTS
I spoke with each collector about how they go about securing the rarest poster art for their collections and over and over again they mentioned the same two suggestions. One was to take advantage of pre-orders and pre-sales when available. I know from personal experience that some of my top selling art never becomes publicly available as it will completely sell-out during the pre-sale time period. The second most popular suggestion was to attend events with exclusive artwork like Star Wars Celebration where the art-show artwork is only sold live during the event. Lastly, don’t miss out on opportunities to join collectors clubs or mailing list that might offer you early access or exclusive access to upcoming artwork. These strategies can help you add the rarest and most desirable artwork to your collection. Especially in cases where the artwork is never officially offered to the public. Here is what each expert had to say on the subject.
Sidney: I attend cons but I would love to attend the Epcot Festival of Arts (where exclusive artwork is available). I try to pre-order art online when I can and highly recommend it.
Jazz: I regularly attend Star Wars Celebration, and also some smaller cons where artwork is available. I have only infrequently pre-ordered, and in those cases I have used the con website.
Sharon: Get to know your favorite artists! Stay on their email lists for the latest news, and best chance to secure a limited print. I love pre-sales! So much less stress to deal with at a convention! I am lucky to live in Orlando, and take advantage of live artist appearances as often as possible.
Charlie: Shows like Comic-con, D23 Expo, Star Wars Celebration, etc. are great sources for new art. Also, once one finds an artist (or art publishing house) they like, they can get on the email lists for pre-sale opportunities. And they ARE opportunities! Much of the good stuff sells out fast, so it pays to get on those mailing lists.
Adam: Cons, and pre-orders is my main way of purchasing. As for getting them before they sell out, be ready to get to them as soon as possible. My experience has been a very positive one. Artists have been ready to talk and appreciate your interest in their art. Ether by web, or on site. If you are ordering on a website, it’s good to set up an account and get all your info saved on it so there won’t be any info to fill out at checkout.
Alex: I only really have attend cons so far that are in relation to my fandoms, such as Wizard World, Star Wars Celebration, Adventurer Summit, and so on. Typically I walk out with a few hundred, sometimes a few thousands of dollars of art, but it IS worth it. I also like to pre-order some of my favorites and will from time to time contact my favorite artists for special requests such as Artist Proofs or even commissions. Heck I even got contacted by a local artist friend asking if she could use my photography to turn into art! Super cool experience.
That’s the Top 10 Tips for Collecting Poster Art Including 1 Big Mistake to Avoid! I hope the advice fr0m these master poster collectors has you ready to start and grow your poster art collection. Studies show that most fans and collectors purchase the majority of the art sold online between September and December each year. Artists and galleries will be offering some of their best poster art during this time of year and will appreciate your support. It’s the perfect time to expand your own collection and buy poster art as gifts for others. Feel free to connect with me on social media to share stories and photos from your collection. I’m sure the other talented artists mentioned in this story would appreciate you following them online too.
HAPPY COLLECTING — Brian Miller
Artist Mentioned in this story:
- Cat Staggs — catstaggs.com
- Mike Kungl — mkungl.com
- Christian Waggoner — christianwaggonerartist.com
- Jerry Vanderstelt — vandersteltstudio.com
- Cliff Cramp — cliffcramp.com
- Brent Woodside — woodsideillustrations.com
- Christopher Clarke — christopherclark.com
- Arleana Holtzmann — nibsandbristles.com
- Russell Walks — russellwalks.com
- Brian Rood — brianrood.com
- Joe Corroney — joecorroney.com
- Brian Miller — oktopolis.com
Galleries Mentioned in this story:
- Dark Ink Art — darkinkart.com
- ACME Archives — acmearchivesdirect.com
- Mondo — mondotees.com
- Bottleneck — bottleneckgallery.com
Events Mentioned in this Story:
- Star Wars Celebration
- Epcot International Festival of the Arts
- Disney’s D-23 Expo
- Comic-Con International (aka San Diego Comic-Con)
- Wizard Wold
- Adventurer Summit
Photos used in this story contributed by the author and collectors plus Dalan Granat who contributed the main photo of his collection of Brian Miller's Star Wars artwork. All artwork, characters, and properties are copyright their respective owners.