Beatles concert poster sets new world auction record at Heritage

1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster, $275,000

1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster, $275,000

DALLAS – The most iconic concert poster of all time is now the most expensive concert poster of all time. On April 16, during Heritage Auctions’ latest Music Memorabilia Signature® Auction, the stunning bright-yellow slab of cardboard promoting the Beatles’ August 23, 1966, concert at New York’s Shea Stadium sold for $275,000 to set a new auction record. That shatters the previous high-water mark of $150,000 shared by both the Shea Stadium poster (set in November) and another advertising Hank Williams’ two concerts scheduled for New Year’s Day 1953 at the Canton Memorial Auditorium in Ohio (established last May).

Unlike previous Beatles-at-Shea record-holders, the one sold on April 16 was untouched by conservation experts. Its previous owner, who had it for decades, took great care of the keepsake and just, well, let it be. The poster was, as the auction catalog noted, the crown jewel that needed no polishing. That decision paid off: Live bidding opened at $115,000, then immediately jumped past $200,000 to land at its new record high as the auction room burst into applause.

The nearly sold-out auction, which doubled pre-auction estimates, attracted more than 1,660 bidders worldwide and realized a total of $2,039,313 in just a few hours. And the Beatles weren’t the lone chart-toppers in the sale.

1966 Grateful Dead Skeleton and Roses concert poster, $137,500

1966 Grateful Dead Skeleton and Roses concert poster, $137,500

A near-mint example of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley’s adored Family Dog Skeleton and Roses poster, made for the Grateful Dead’s Sept. 16 and 17, 1966, concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Avalon Ballroom, sold for $137,500. That poster, graded Near Mint Plus 9.6 by Certified Guaranty Company, came from the KC Murphy Bindweed Press collection and is now the most expensive concert artwork from the psychedelic era ever sold at auction, besting the previous record of $118,750, set at Heritage Auctions in November 2019.

“It was unspeakably exhilarating to break two world records in a single afternoon – in the same hour, no less,” said Heritage Auctions’ Director of Concert Posters Pete Howard. “When I joined Heritage Auctions three years ago, the thought of two concert posters combining for more than $400,000 was unthinkable. No more.”

“The Beatles’ Shea reaching $275,000 wasn’t surprising, so much as it was long overdue,” Howard said. “Compared to the highest-priced movie posters and comic books, there’s still a lot of blue sky ahead for the best concert posters to keep increasing in value. And to see Skeleton & Roses soar to $137,500 is a testament to the beauty and power of the best psychedelic concert posters.”

Murphy brought 40 of the best of the best psychedelic posters to auction during the weekend, and collectors responded accordingly. Eleven of the offerings from Murphy’s collection – which came straight from San Francisco’s historic Bindweed Press – sold for more than $10,000, among them the Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1966 Red Bull poster graded CGC 9.8, which sold for $20,000, and another Kelley-and-Mouse-made advertisement for the Jefferson Airplane’s 1966 Edwardian Ball at the Fillmore graded CGC 9.6, which realized $19,375.

“To see the Skeleton & Roses from the KC Murphy Bindweed Press collection set a record was, of course, immensely gratifying,” Howard said. “But it was equally rewarding, and not a little surprising, to see 10 of KC’s other posters exceed $10,000. That’s the real indicator of where this hobby is going.”


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