Jean McClelland: Travel posters can be pricey, but interesting, collectible
Some called the late 19th and early 20th Century the Golden Age of Travel because for the first time people found travel generally accessible. The Industrial Revolution had generated more people with more money and more leisure time than ever before. Many of those with an expendable income decided to use their leisure time seeing places they could only once read about. Hence those in the business of travel such as the railroads cruise liners and places of destination took to advertising with posters.
In the late 19th Century the European advertising industry began to use lithography to produce their posters. The resulting product was exceptional showing off an exotic travel life with sharp images and bright vivid colors. The technique was quickly embraced around the globe and famous artists were engaged to create beautiful images to lure the traveler to that venue or place. Today those posters are much sought after by collectors.
Important events such as World's Fairs or Expositions generated some very interesting and popular posters particularly those made prior to World War I. These early posters used a different lithography process than those created after WWI and that is appealing to collectors. Those printed in the 1920s and 30s that reflect the Art Deco age are also very much admired.
As with any type of advertising, particularly paper products, they come and go in a fairly fast fashion. The original posters were hung until a newer one emerged and then the old ones were usually trashed. This caused a shortage of travel posters for collectors and a fairly pricey venue of collectibles.
When collecting posters there are few rules one should consider. Being original, unique, rare and attractive are strong factors to investigate with any vintage poster. Having artistic appeal always helps the price, so look for posters by known artists. Finally, no one wants a poster that is ripped, raveled and run down at the heels, so condition is exceptionally important to this class of collectors.
These posters spoke to the magic of faraway places that folks could only once dream about but had become accessible. These vintage travel posters range from about 1880 through the mid 20th Century and have become collectible art as well as a unique part of transportation history. It is interesting to note that these chic travel posters were once described as a 'visual shout' to draw the viewer into the world of far away places.
Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.
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