DALLAS – The only known poster that reflects the tragedy known as “The Day the Music Died” became the most-expensive concert poster of all time November 11 when a Winter Dance Party poster from Feb. 3, 1959 sold for a record-setting $447,000 at Heritage Auctions.
The poster’s final price, realized after a bidding war that ended with the auction room erupting into applause, shattered the previous record price of $275,000 previously held by a Beatles 1966 Shea Stadium concert poster that sold at Heritage on April 18.
It’s no surprise it is now the most valuable concert poster in the world, as it dates from the very day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson, were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, on their way to a show in Moorhead, Minnesota. The musicians were en route to the Moorhead Armory as part of the Winter Dance Party tour when their single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in a cornfield. This is the only known poster from a concert that inexplicably wasn’t canceled – The Day the Music Died, as Don McLean famously called it in his song American Pie.
“Heritage is thrilled to break the previous record for a concert poster by more than $170,000,” said Heritage Auctions Director of Concert Posters Pete Howard, adding, “but not the least bit surprised, given the importance, the uniqueness and the gravitas of this amazing window card, which advertised rock and roll’s first tragedy.”
The poster was one of 43 sold during the first session of Heritage’s Nov. 11-13 Music Memorabilia Signature® Auction. The first day not only saw a new record, but exceeded all expectations when it realized a total of $684,943.
November 11 marked just the second time a Winter Dance Party poster has been offered through Heritage. In April 2020, previously unseen cardboard from the Jan. 25, 1959, show at the Kato Ballroom in Mankato, Minnesota, realized $125,000.
The poster that sold on the first day of the mid-November auction may well be the only one ever discovered. Originally, it had been affixed to a telephone pole in advance of the 12th stop on the tour, but fell to the ground. It sports no pinholes, only the residue of the sticky material used to keep it in place. The maintenance man who found it placed the poster in a closet, face down, and forgot about it for 50 years.