DALLAS — During the last two years, The Beatles, Hank Williams and the Grateful Dead have each held the distinction of being the subjects of some of the world’s most expensive concert posters. This weekend, for the first time, the trio of immortals go head-to-head-to-head in a concert-poster auction for the ages. On Nov. 6, Heritage Auctions hosts its latest Music Memorabilia & Concert Posters Signature® Auction, easily the most star-studded event in the auction house’s history, in large part because of the trio of history-makers being offered among the nearly 120 posters available. It will be a race to the top. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“Everyone’s going to be watching Saturday’s auction like the Kentucky Derby,” says Pete Howard, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Concert Posters.
That’s because collectors will find a newly discovered example of the coveted cardboard featuring the Fab Four making their bow at New York’s Shea Stadium. And the beloved Family Dog poster that barked about the Dead’s September 1966 show, played just two weeks after the band inked its deal with Warner Bros. (It’s also graded: CGC Near Mint+ 9.6, in better shape than just about anything 55 years old.) And here, too, is the immortal advertisement for what proved to be the Hank Williams concert that never happened.
Only two years ago, a summer-of-’66 first printing of the Grateful Dead’s Skeleton & Roses concert poster, made by the man called Mouse and collaborator Alton Kelley for two shows at the Avalon Ballroom, became one of the world’s most valuable — and coveted — concert posters. The Family Dog poster, advertising Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, 1966, shows at the historic San Francisco venue, was the pick of the litter, especially among the heads willing to pay far-out prices for a piece of history.
In November 2019, the Dead poster sold at Heritage Auctions for $118,750. A touch of … green, let’s say.
Only a few months later, on April 4, 2020, the yellow Beatles-at-Shea poster set a new world record for the most expensive concert poster ever sold at auction: $137,500. This was the poster that shouted to collectors louder than a teenage Beatles fan during The Ed Sullivan Show. If you found the Shea poster, you could, well, let it be.
Yet that highwater mark stood for only 13 months.
In May 2021, the poster for Hank Williams’ two shows scheduled for New Year’s Day 1953 at the Canton Memorial Auditorium in Ohio sold at Heritage Auctions for $150,000. The price tag reflects its scarcity, but also its tragic backstory: Williams never made that concert, having died of a heart attack in the backseat of a car somewhere between Bristol, Tennessee, and Oak Hill, West Virginia, en route to that Ohio show.
All three posters are among the hardest to find — the Williams poster, especially, with just three known examples. But those prior record sales brought them from the shadows to spotlight for this newsworthy event, the likes of which might not take the stage again for a very long time.
“I can’t believe Heritage’s good fortune in getting the three biggest concert posters in the hobby all in the same auction,” Howard says. “Not one is a re-sell or a re-consignment. This is our first time around with all three specimens in this 800-pound-gorilla category. It will be an auction to remember.”
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