How is value
determined on a unique collection of posters like these?
"Value" in any "collectible"
or antique is based in a string of tangibles and intangibles:
rarity, significance, uniqueness, aesthetics, quality, provenance,
and desirability, and is ultimately determined by the marketplace...what
are collector's willing to pay for X, Y, or Z?
A dealer could look at any one
of these posters and give you a ballpark estimate of its worth
ON ITS OWN....and the price evaluation for a single poster would
vary from dealer to dealer. Most of these posters are unobtainable.
But that isn't what
we have here.
This is a COLLECTION that has
been kept intact from the period, with a few posters given away
to friends and musicians over the past 32 years (for
instance, I gave Ginger Baker the two Cream posters from their
first appearance at the Fillmore when I took drum lessons from
him in 1991...it seemed more appropriate that he have them than
me). This is a COLLECTION that was
given to me by Bill Graham, and this is a COLLECTION displayed
in unique and relevant circumstances in the famous Funky Features
house in the Haight-Ashbury, and in my equally infamous flats
in "swinging London," so it drips with color and rock
history, being owned by a recognized artist of the period (as
well as now) who was knee-deep in the Haight-Ashbury psychedelia
of that amazing time.
The mere fact that this is a
collection that has been maintained since that period adds value
to each poster, AT LEAST doubling or trebling its overall value
if you added the posters up one-by-one. From the sheer practical
aspect of trying to "put together" a collection like
this, it would take any collector considerable time and effort...as
the curator of the Experience Music Project in Seattle said to
me, "Where were you nine years ago when we started putting
our collection together?" It took them EIGHT years of hunting
and digging using their heavyweight resources to complete their
collection....and still, their wonderful collection has no "history"
of its own.
The fact that I have owned this
collection and displayed it in historical and relevant circumstances,
with all the stories that go with these beautiful posters adds
more value (see individual posters for story vignettes)...and
certainly not least, the fact that this collection was given to
me by Bill Graham himself adds even MORE value. But HOW much more
value? It's pure guesswork because there has never been a collection
like this anywhere.
And there never will be again,
unless Bill Graham's estate sells
his, and I wouldn't count on that ever happening. So there's no
way to really determine an ultimate value on this collection until
it is sold. Just like trying to price Dorothy's red shoes, Marilyn's
famous white dress, or the piano on which John Lennon wrote "Imagine."
Once someone has paid cold, hard cash for a unique item, it has
established a value in the marketplace...but only until then.
We all know how even experienced auction houses like Christie's
and Sotheby's get it consistently wrong on unique, one-of-a-kind
items...usually on the low side time after time.
This is no different than selling
a 60's Fender Strat, say, for $10,000...but what if it was once
owned by a famous guitarist? Ahhh....things change! A bass player
friend of mine and Eric's who played several tours with Clapton
coveted a bass that EC owned. Eric gave it to him at the end of
the last tour, then added as an afterthought, "Oh, by-the-way....Bill
(Wyman) used it on 'Satisfaction.'" That guitar went from
being worth a few grand to maybe WELL over a hundred grand instantly--POWIE!
"Oh, by-the-way" indeed!
Nice one, Eric.
Now I'm not saying I'm the artistic
equivalent of Bill Wyman, EC, or any other rock star (but I've
played with EC and used to practice on Charlie Watts' grey pearl
Gretsch drum kit at the Stones' rehearsal studio in Bermondsey....how
about that???)...but I'm a fairly well-established artist now
and was during that time...so the same principle applies. This
is art, as well as rock 'n roll history. Some of the early Avalon
posters are second and third editions that were produced contemporaneously
in 1966 and 1967 because the Family Dog was such a hand-to-mouth
operation that it was common for first runs to run out before
the concerts and more had to be printed...but in the case of this
collection, that fact is irrelevant. If you had a beat-up, common
Strat that belonged to Eric Clapton...it would be worth as much
as a classic, collector's Strat that belonged to him..because
the value is not in the guitar, but in WHO it belonged to, where
it has been, and what historical significance it has. And this
collection has that in spades...more than other in the world.
It is truly unique.
A good friend of mine just bought
a scratchy, ordinary, 45 record of the William Tell Overture for
over $500. His new, very young, hilariously funny French Canadian
fiancee called me up and good-naturedly complained, "Paul,
Ken is CRAZEEE! Can you talk some sense eento eem! He just spent
$500 on an old, scratchy record...and what about my ring?!!!!"
Ken grabbed the phone and laughed while Nikita was protesting
loudly in the background, ranting and raving. "Paul, it's
not quite like that...this is the copy of the William Tell Overture
that once belonged to Clayton Moore." (the actor who played
The Lone Ranger). Of course, Nikita had never heard of the Lone
Ranger and couldn't appreciate the object. To her, it was a scratchy
45 not worth ten cents. By-the-way, Ken still has his charter-membership
card from the Cavern Club! (he's from Liverpool). In a weak moment
he almost sold it to me for three hundred bucks....but my eagerness
to have it alerted him and he backed off. Rats.
While Bill Graham was getting warmed
up with the Fillmore Auditorium in March 1966,
I was making a name for myself as a true "pop" art event
and image artist. The front-page "Stop Art" stunt
that March was my artistic jab at the City for positioning an
arterial stop sign at the top of one of
downtown's steepest hills, when the other three level streets
had stop signs as well! Madness. I got caught
on prom night at the top of this stupid hill in my parents' brand-new,
non-synchro stick shift VW.
It was a nightmare to a novice driver trying to impress his date!
This gag put me on the front page
of the paper and was picked up by the wire services and printed
all round the world, launching my artistic
career and making my paintings instantly desirable and "collectible."
Bill Cosby then recorded a comedy sketch about getting stuck on
this very hill as a result
of my making it world famous (it was only famously frustrating
among local denizens until then).
I also made a bunch of "explosion" paintings as a send-up
to pop art, by glopping tube acrylics
around firecrackers and lighting them (and running)....even doing
one on the Gypsy Rose Lee Show and getting everyone and everything
in the studio splattered with paint. Gypsy loved it.
I formed the "Psychedelic Raiders"
with famous madam
Margo St. James and we painted fire hydrants bright colors in
the middle of the night that were instant hits with the
people of San Francisco (but not with the Public Works Department).
I then joined Jack and Sam
and formed the Funky Features poster company and acquired and
showcased this collection!
1967 Nob Hill
(photo for a Macy's ad)
Being an artist, I am used to
pricing paintings whose value is ephemeral: whatever I think they
are worth, basically. But how do I come up with that? Pull a number
out of the air?
not too far off the mark...there's certainly a bit of voodoo involved.
My judgement of value is the inverse of what a potential buyer
considers when they decide whether they want to buy a particular
painting: do they want the painting enough to pay the asking price?
I price my paintings on what it is worth for me to let them go.
There's a bit more to it than that---like what I think a piece
of work is worth in the scheme of things...but that's the meat
of it. And that's basically my bottom line as to what I think
this collection is worth for me to let it go. I would actually
value this collection at about the $500,000 mark....it's value
will escalate to a hell of a lot more in a few years after my
book and movie come out.
Yeah, O.K.....(blah-blah-blah)........but, so what's the value?
Think about this: where else
could you obtain a museum-quality collection
of 232 classic images loaded with
style, art, and history averaging just $1,500 to $2,600 each?
You have an instant, museum-quality, recognizable art collection
of 232 pieces
for the price of one small painting by a major artist. The added
bonus is that these images all relate to each other in a way no
other collection of images ever will.
So why am I selling this collection
now if it will double or treble in value in just a few years?
Because, as you will see if
you peruse this site, I have several creative projects in development
that require money to complete and promote them...The Book of
Love needs to be promoted, my children's character, Pussyraptor,
needs development and promotion funding to set up a production
company for a full-length animated feature. I need the time to
sell my completed western screenplay--The Adventures of Pecos
Pete and Black Bart, finish The Book of Haight, write the screenplay
Funky Features, and promote my other books, The Loop, Jasmine,
The Whole Enchilada, Airbrush----and further develop my toy, Dormouse
(whew!)....this all takes money, as well as time.
When I was living in Barnes,
in southwest London in the early 70's, I began a correspondence
with David Niven that we kept up over the years as a result of
a letter he sent to the Times. He stated that ten years previously
he had seen a Miro painting for £1,000 that he wanted to
buy. The dealer told him the story of the painting: that Miro
had started it, got bored with what he was doing and put it aside
for quite a while, came upon it again and finished it. After he
finished it, he realized he had finished it upside-down to how
he had started it. That put David off and he didn't buy it because
he figured if the artist couldn't give a damn about the painting,
why should he?
The previous day to his Times
letter David was walking down South Audley street in Mayfair and
spotted the very same painting for sale for £10,000! It
irked him no end that he could have bought it for £1,000
and passed it up and now it was worth ten times as much!! Groan.
What he wanted to know, was if his integrity was still intact?
I wrote and told him he should
have bought the painting if he liked it enough to spend the £1,000
on it (and also went on about art and value), and he responded
with, "Of course I should have bought the bloody thing!"
We corresponded regularly after that until his death. Lovely man....I
would love to have met him.
Art is worth what it's worth,
and beauty is in the eye of the beholder....and that's why firemen
Andy Warhol put his finger on
it when he sarcastically quipped: "Art is anything you can
get away with." Closer to the mark than most people in the
game would care to admit. At the end of the day, it's all smoke
and mirrors...just like the stock market. If enough people think
something is valuable, it's valuable. Just like the painting immediately
below....if enough people think it's good, then it's good
(but it isn't very good, really, and the Emperor has no clothes).
We've all been to galleries where
the painting we think is the best is not the highest-priced one...and
the highest-priced one may not even be second or third best. I
see stunning works of art in museums that are relegated to insigificant
positions in their galleries, while works of art I don't think
are so great occupy pride-of-place. Everyone has a different point-of-view
not only of intrinsic value, but relative value....and of aesthetic
value. Total subjectivity. So you can see right away that "value"
is a total crapshoot...and it really is. Remember the Van Gogh
that was valued at something like 6-10 million and sold for 43
million? And now a 1902 "blue period" Picasso (because
blue paints were the cheapest colors and he had no money) has
just sold for 52 million! One painting! Is one painting
worth that much? Not to me....but to somebody it is, so now it
Let me give you two museum examples---I
have three favorite Impressionist artists (I like them all, but
these are the kings for me): Renoir, Monet, and The Guy above,
in that order. Most "artsy" types reckon Monet over
Renoir...I can't agree. Monet is certainly great and gets most
of the attention (because he "started" the movement
with his "Impression" painting), but Renoir is easily
the better artist...so you see how it goes? The National Gallery
in London has an Impressionist room where on the "main"
wall (at the deep end of the room) they have grouped six of their
Van Goghs, including the sunflowers one above and the one of the
chair he painted for Gaugin's room in Arles--famous paintings,
but not great ones to my way of thinking. Not even close. The
Van Gogh wall gets all the attention from the visitors,
and even has rows of benches you can sit on to study his paintings;
but these famous Van Gogh's to me are lifeless, poorly done, and
with muddy colors compared to some of his other paintings which
are spectacular....and many of them really are the best of the
best. This just ain't one of them. It's famous, but it's not great
(sorry!). I like color, anyway.
On the opposite wall are some
Monet's which again are by far not his best ones, and most people
just pass them by on the way to the next room. On the archway
wall leading into the next room (the least-best place for a painting
to hang because you are either leaving and looking to the next
room, or you are coming in and don't look back over your shoulder)
is EASILY the finest painting in their collection: a sparkling
Renoir of two women in a longboat on the Seine ("Boating
on the Seine") that jumps off the wall with its radiance
and vivid colors...it's a masterpiece, yet it gets passed by and
is not showcased. I stood and watched people come and go into
this room...and they were all looking for the Van Gogh's and paid
ALL their attention to them, when this jewel below went begging.
It's one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen in my
life. Yet there this lovely work of art hangs, like a poor cousin.
Ridiculous. I would have centered it on the main wall and given
it 6 feet of space either side.
Even the musem's reproduction
of it on their website is not very good...I had to color correct
it. They got the Van Gogh right, though.
THIS is a PAINTING!
Boating on the Seine
I know it's apples and
oranges---or sunflowers and water, but this painting knocks the
spots off the Van Gogh.
I could look at this wonderful painting every day for the rest
of my life.
Isn't it beautiful?
If I could do just ONE painting
like this in my lifetime, I will have felt I achieved something
as an artist.
But do you see what I mean??? Of ALL the paintings in the National---and
they have a surfeit of masterpieces---this is the one I would
love to own, and might even be my favorite of ALL French
Impressionist paintings. Yet it's hung as an afterthought, almost.
The other museum is at Kenwood
House in Hampstead Heath, London. This museum has a great collection
of Gainsboroughs...and has a large Rembrandt self portrait (above)
which is a phenomenal painting. He was the first, true Impressionist.....just
look at the way he handled paint the next time you see one of
his originals. I remember seeing "The Pageboy" at a
traveling exhibit in The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San
Francisco in the early 60's...the gold buttons on the pageboy's
red coat were splats of various colors daubed on his brush and
slammed into the canvas, WHAP-WHAP! You could see where the paint
had spattered off the brush with the force he used. And when he
was done with this exercise that took him less than a minute,
BOOM! there was a row of sparkly, golden buttons made of paint
splats. That kind of knowledge and confidence is daunting. Rembrandt
is rightly considered one of the greatest of all artists. A real
This great painting above is
hung in a narrow back gallery where the light reflects off the
surface of the painting from the skylights, and there is no place
in this terrible room where you can stand obliquely enough to
view the painting without reflections and light glare from facing
windows right next to the painting (a real no-no) ruining your
appreciation of it. I think this painting is much more important
than anything else in the museum...but this is the kind of judgement
call all art is subject to. Who's right? Me, or the museum? I
think I'm right (I bloody well know I am) but they have
the painting, so they're right!
On the other hand, I have
these posters! So this is my call.
As an artist, I look at these
posters not only from an historical perspective, but from an artistic
one...and my value of what they are worth artistically and in
an historically significant perspective is more than that of a
mere poster dealer who deals in single items. These images are
very important in terms of American artistic expression
and heritage and that truly unique period of time in our culture
that they capture and represent, and so to me, and to all the
museums who have collections of them, they are very valuable for
The Whitney Museum wants my
collection precisely because of the uniqueness
of it....THAT'S what makes it valuable
to them, much more so than a similar collection acquired piecemeal
over many years with no historical integrity or significance,
as all the other major museums have, including the Experience
Music Project in Seattle and the MOMA in San Francisco. This collection
As mentioned earlier, I will
be happy to sign and authenticate each poster as being from my
collection...this should be done on the reverse or on a separate
sheet of paper for each poster. That will add an indeterminate,
but significant amount of value to the collection straightaway.
When some of the Funky Features posters were auctioned off in
London in 1998, my signature on them added a 30% to %50 premium
on each one, (depending on whether they were my artwork, or that
of an artist we hired)...my signature gave them provenance--authenticity,
and provenance adds value.
Also, I am writing a screenplay
called "Funky Features" about our colorful and unbelievable
experiences during that zany time. I have "The Book of Love"
coming out in January, and am working on a book of the Haight
Ashbury called "The Book of Haight" which will be published
next year. The Book of Haight and the Funky Features movie will
add significant value to this collection...and digital images
of this collection could be used as props in the movie, earning
a tidy use fee from the film production company. So all-in-all,
the value I will add to this collection will be considerable.
Remember...this is a museum-quality
collection; and there aren't many of those of anything.
I go on about the Fillmore posters,
but actually, the Avalon poster series contains more interesting
images than the Fillmore series overall, and is artistically
more valuable. But pound-for-pound,
Fillmore posters seem more desirable because of the name
associated with Bill and his highly visible style of promoting
his venues and acts. He was always a high-profile personality
in the business, whereas Chet Helms, who ran the Avalon Ballroom
concerts, was much less the hustler and more the hippie...hence
the "value" of the Fillmore name. It's "branding,"
pure and simple. No one could ever accuse Bill of being a hippie!
Ha! He was a streetwise New Yorker with both feet on the ground
while all those around him were floating in air. That must have
something to do with the fact that the Avalon series is more interesting,
artistically, because they certainly are.
Have I cleared anything up...or just made it more confusing??!!