SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – It’s far out, man. Stephenson’s Aug. 14 auction of rock concert posters from the Estate of Perry Pfeffer will take you on a trip back in time to the days of peace, love, incense and sitars. The mind-blowing 339-piece collection was amassed by Pfeffer for his own personal enjoyment. However, Pfeffer later ventured into the commercial side of concert posters with the 2001 launch of a successful online business, Postercade, which he operated until his passing in February of this year.
“Perry Pfeffer was a pioneer collector of concert posters,” said Cindy Stephenson, owner of Stephenson’s Auction in suburban Philadelphia. “He bought his first posters on New Year’s Day in 1972 after wandering into show promoter Bill Graham’s store in San Francisco. On his website he wrote that the date was ‘cemented’ in his mind because it was the day after he attended his first Grateful Dead concert, a New Year’s Eve show at Winterland. He said the posters displayed in Graham’s store were ‘eye-opening’ and ‘life-changing’ for him. Once he became immersed in the concert poster world, he never lost his passion for it.”
The collection includes many rare first printings of posters for bands and solo artists who were mainstays of the San Francisco music scene during the 1960s and ’70s. Some of the musicians achieved legendary status, while others developed cult followings and became more widely appreciated as time went on. The same could be said for the talented poster artists whose psychedelic images so vividly recall the “flower power” era.
One of the premier entries in the sale is an original first printing of a Bill Graham Presents The Doors/Yardbirds Fillmore Auditorium concert poster (top image) from July 25-30, 1967. It is signed by its creator, poster artist Bonnie MacLean (American, 1939-2020), who also was Graham’s wife at the time. This particular poster is significant because it promotes one of the Yardbirds’ last shows with both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on guitar. Beck quit the band shortly after the California gigs. Additionally, the Doors’ career-defining single Light My Fire rose to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 the very week these shows took place. The poster is estimated at $3,500-$4,500.
A second Doors poster, also an original first printing, advertises the LA band’s Feb. 5-6, 1970 concert at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It is signed by the artist, Randy Tuten, and is estimated at $1,000-$1,500.
In addition to operating the Fillmore West, Bill Graham promoted shows at his original Fillmore venue in New York City. The top-estimated lot in the auction is an original preconcert first printing of a lithographed poster touting two back-to-back shows by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, May 10, 1968, at the Fillmore East. David Byrd’s dazzling pink and yellow op-art design (below) features the faces of Hendrix and bandmates Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. Below the date and show times it says “Fantasy Unlimited 1968, Bill Graham, NY. No 7.” Estimate: $6,000-$9,000
Posters promoting Bob Dylan’s early performances are rare and in great demand. Perhaps the most sought after of all Dylan posters is the historically important example publicizing a Nov. 3, 1963 show sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The afternoon event took place at University Regent Theater in Syracuse, New York. “This poster is significant because it is one of only a few items that tie Dylan to the Civil Rights movement,” Cindy Stephenson noted. The preauction estimate is $3,000-$5,000.
During the British Invasion of the late 1960s/early 1970s, the Rolling Stones took America by storm with their charismatic stage presence and blues-based rock repertoire. The auction features two rare West Coast posters from that seminal period of their career. The first was produced for a Nov. 10-11, 1969 show at the San Diego International Sports Arena. An original rare version with Bill Graham’s copyright, the poster is signed by its designer, Randy Tuten, and is estimated at $1,000-$1,500. An original first printing of a Winterland Ballroom concert poster with art by David Singer is emblazoned “Bill Graham Presents’ Rolling Stones ‘Tumblin’ Dice” and announces two shows at the Winterland Ballroom, June 6 and 8, 1972. Its estimate is $600-$1,000.
An original first printing of a poster for blues forefather Howlin Wolf’s Sept. 23-24, 1966 appearance at the Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, was designed by Alton Kelley (1940-2008) and Stanley Mouse. It is hand-signed “S. Mouse” with a mouse doodle added in pencil. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500
Every poster in the collection is a gem, so highlights are too numerous to mention in their entirety, but among them are Alton Kelley’s Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead “Sore Thumb” poster for March 15-17, 1968, show at Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco $1,500-$2,000; an original first printing of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Heart and Torch” Fillmore West concert poster, Sept. 12-14, 1968, with artwork by Rick Griffin, $600-$1,000; and an original first printing of the Grateful Dead’s “Aoxomoxoa” Avalon Ballroom concert poster, Jan. 24-26, 1969, designed by Rick Griffin (1944-1991), $1,000-$2,000.
Stephenson’s Aug. 14 auction of the Perry Pfeffer Estate Collection of Rock Concert Posters will be held live at the company’s Southampton gallery, with absentee and Internet live bidding available through LiveAuctioneers. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. In-gallery inspection on Aug. 14 from 11 a.m. till start of auction. For additional information on any lot in the sale, call Cindy Stephenson at 215-322-6182 or email email@example.com.
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