One of the great benefits of collecting posters is that you can actually use them as decoration. Frame up a great poster and you’ve created a spectacular display for your home or office.
Plus, there is an unending variety of types to collect. Concerts? Check! Movies? Check! Travel? Check! Museum Exhibitions? Check! There really is something for all interests and wallets.
I collect magic posters. I’ve always been attracted to the vibrant colors, the imagery, and the characters!
With the intent of hyping the show, these posters tried to show as much as possible! There’s a common theme in magic posters from the early 1900s . . . people had a fascination with the Far East, and magicians did all they could to cash in on it!
(Random note . . . Harry Blackstone, shown in the poster above, was the father of Harry Blackstone, Jr, who had a Saturday morning tv show, and introduced hundreds of thousands of children to magic every week. He certainly influenced me).
Look at the colors on this “George, The Supreme Master of Magic” poster. They truly pop!
Again, note the eastern influences. This poster also shows another collected sub-genre of magic . . . the imp. The little red devilish guys that were often used to show a connected with an other-worldly force. As a bonus, one-sheet posters like this aren’t expensive, ranging from $300 to $750, depending on condition.
One of the most stunning magic posters was of a magician named Harry Kellar. This is the one poster I want the most!
How simple is this? Striking image and the name. Boom! Kellar is coming to town, and you must see him perform! Kellar posters aren’t cheap, and easily venture into the thousands of dollars for a nice one!
Another favorite magician of mine was Chung Ling Soo, the “Marvelous Chinese Conjurer.” His story is fascinating, and I highly suggest Jim Steinmeyer’s biography The Glorious Deception.
How beautiful is this poster? Again, simple. His image, his name, and a great tagline! In his day, Chung Ling Soo was as popular as Harry Houdini, bringing in huge crowds all around the world. Chung Ling Soo posters were always beautifully designed, with amazing dragons, flowers, and other Far East imagery. Usually only found in half-sheet size, they’re not cheap, costing at least a few thousand.
Harry Houdini material is always popular. Posters of his work are rare. Those you do find tend to be from his movie serials. You can find beautiful broadsides, though. This one is also from my collection.
This broadside poster, from 1905, shows Houdini traveling with a vaudeville group. Even then, early in his career, he was the star of the show. At this point, Houdini really made a name for himself escaping from handcuffs (his attempts at starring as a pure magician were duds). Later on, as his escape attemps got more complicated and hyped, his stardom increased, becoming the most well-known magician in history.
Magic posters really connected with me. The colors, the images, the influences . . . all played a role in why I collected them. Not only that, they gave me a doorway to a fascinating time in our history. If you have any more interest in this era, I also suggest another book by Jim Steinmeyer, The Last Greatest Magician In The World.
(look for another blog post soon, detailing more modern magicans and posters).
Doug, I can already tell that I am going to learn a lot from your blog. Whole new areas of collecting that are totally foreign to me. Keep up the great work!
Doug, amazing posters here. I always enjoy seeing early 20th century posters in such great condition. I know they were produced a cheaply as possible, just to last as long as the advertising campaign was planned to last. Looking forward to the next installment.