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Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal

Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal

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Published by Michael Erlewine
These are articles on concert-music posters and poster collecting from the site ClassicPosters.com founded by award-winning archivist of popular culture Michael Erlewine who founded All-Music Guide, All-Movie Guide, Astrologyland.com and many other popular Internet sites. All articles copyright and written or produced by Michael Erlewine. Do visit ClassicPosters.com in its current incarnation.
These are articles on concert-music posters and poster collecting from the site ClassicPosters.com founded by award-winning archivist of popular culture Michael Erlewine who founded All-Music Guide, All-Movie Guide, Astrologyland.com and many other popular Internet sites. All articles copyright and written or produced by Michael Erlewine. Do visit ClassicPosters.com in its current incarnation.

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Published by: Michael Erlewine on Jan 08, 2011
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Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal
Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal
by Michael ErlewineMichael@Erlewine.net
Dealing for Art
 First, let me be clear. This is probablynot the article you are looking for.Perhaps one of you reading this, withyears of poster-negotiating experience,can help out here and write somethingfor us.I am not an expert on poster dealing,having never (to this day) sold a singleposter, but only bought them -- collectedthem. And I must confess that I am not agood negotiator myself, tending to setwhat I consider a fair price on somethingand stick with it. On the collecting end, Iknow a little about the rules for posterbargaining, and I will say somethingabout my experience there.In the world of posters, as I have cometo know it, keeping your word is veryimportant. Since up to now, this entirefield has been loosely organized and alittle like a wild-west town, one's word isperhaps your most valuable asset. Still,in the course of events, one has todiscuss and arrive at an arrangementthat will satisfy both parties.There are a great many stories of postercollectors finding huge stashes,sometimes many feet high, at a fleamarket or in a basement and negotiatinga fantastic deal, as in: less than penniesper dollar. Of course, the seller had noidea of what the poster was worth. Thequestion as to whether the buyer has anobligation to inform the seller of aposter's value is one that has beendebated and will be debated into thedistant future.Many collectors' secret joy is in getting afantastic deal and they won't buy aposter unless that is the case.However, my take on the postercommunity of dealers is that mostreputable dealers and collectors seemto have a self-imposed ethic: offer areasonable price to a seller, even whenyou could just as easily avoid doing so.In other words, they could get it for asong, since the seller has no idea as towhat it is worth. Instead, they will advisethe seller that they have a valuableposter, and offer a fair (often wholesale)price. This is not always even justfairness on their parts, but rather asound business practice. You can takeadvantage of a customer perhaps once,but you can bet once they find out whata bad deal they got, you won't be doingthat again anytime soon. And, of course,in some cases, neither party has anyreal idea of a poster's actual worth.I can attest to at least one very wellknown dealer, who was selling a seriesof posters on Ebay that is a little out ofthe mainstream, who obviously had noidea which posters in the series wereworth more and which less. When Iasked him about it, he said he did notcare. He just wanted to move them outthe door. Of course, I bought a bunch.My point here is that there are severalways the sharp collector can find a goodor even great deal. Looking for dealerslike the one described above is just oneof them.Another approach is to try to figure outwhich posters will be more valuabledown the road, and there can bedifferent reasons for this appreciation.The easiest to count on is physicalscarcity. If a poster printing wasaccidentally destroyed and there are
Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal
only a few copies that have survivedAND it is part of a series or importantvenue, then you can more or less counton these posters appreciating in value.For example, posters featuring apopular band like the "Grateful Dead"can generally be counted on to go up invalue, so that is another approach.And last, and perhaps most dangerous(and most seductive), is to try and figureout which posters as 'works of art' will bemost collectable and thereby valuable. Itseems to me that we all feel that we cansee the beauty in these items andtherefore buy them on that basis. I knowI do. And we can agree that we all havedifferent concepts of what is beautiful.Simple probability theory would suggestthat we can't all be right, but perhaps wecan, more or less.
The Negotiations
 Negotiation is no-doubt an art. Buyerand seller tend to dance around a price,neither wanting to be the first to drawblood - to dare offend the other. But weall manage to get around to the nitty-gritty sooner or later.A typical trick of the unscrupulousnegotiator is to try to pin you down andhold you to a price, before you haveagreed to it, to kind of draw you into asituation, where they can declare:"Deal!," and hold you to it. One way toavoid this is to announce up front thatyou will not be held to a price until yousay to the other: "We have a deal."Anything and everything up to that pointis all foreplay. You must say: "I agree tothis," and the other person has also tosay "I agree to this." Then you have adeal.Many times these negotiations can goon for hours, days, weeks, months, andyears. I know of collectors who havebeen trying to strike a deal for years ona particular piece.One way to determine a price is to havea third party that both seller and buyeraccept as an authority look at the itemand suggest what they think it is worth,at least as a starting point fordiscussion.But always keep in mind the differencebetween retail and wholesale. Is theexpert quoting the price he would buy itat or the price it would sell at? I had oneproblematical deal, where we had twoexperts, one who was quoting the retailprice and the other the wholesale price.Of course, the seller wanted to go withthe retail price and the buyer with thewholesale price.A rule of thumb is that if you only arelooking for the big killing, you don't wantto trade, buy, and sell with other postercollectors or dealers. Instead, you wantto find an ignorant rube, who does notknow what these things are worth.If you are going to work with thecommunity of collectors, than you hadbetter resign yourself to getting a fairdeal, perhaps occasionally a good deal,but probably not a fantastic deal. Onecan build a great collection, one thatappreciates in value on getting fair andgood deals. These things do increase invalue, particularly if you exercise care inselecting which posters to invest in,paying attention to scarcity, the bandsinvolved, and the artistic value of thepiece.And you will find better deals on postersif you look for those that are out of themainstream a bit. If you are going afterthe rare Family Dog posters, beprepared to pay for them, becausethese things have an established value.
Classic Posters - The Art of the Deal
However, if you are poking around forout-of-the-way sets of posters orvenues, you may have a better chanceof finding a very good deal, particularly ifa seller has reached the point wherethey don't want to collect them anymoreor just want to sell their entire holdings.And this happens all the time.And of course, if a seller needs cash,the deal can get better and if you buymore from a seller, you can almostalways get a sweeter deal.What you cannot do is to tell a buyeryou will sell a particular poster at aparticular price one day and then thenext morning, want to continuenegotiations. That is a no-go, and a sureway to ruin your reputation in thebusiness. It is best to approach thiswhole business of negotiation with theattitude that the person you are dealingwith is someone like yourself and thatyou will be working with this person andthe community of persons like them fora long time into the future. That is agood approach.When you discuss price, that is a goodtime to look at the condition of theposter, to point out the tears, tack holes,adhesives, fading, and any otherphysical detriments to that particularpiece. And you can also focus onrelative rarity or lack of rarity in a piece.Is it signed? Can anybody attest to itsauthenticity? Is it common or rare? All ofthese things figure into either raising orlowering the final price.If you are negotiating by email, be sureto figure out who picks of the shippingcosts and whether the item is beingshipped flat or in a tube. If the poster isnot in excellent condition, it may beimportant to have the seller agree totake it back if you feel the condition isnot as advertised.
 And, yes, I believe there is an art toprice haggling, knowing just when topoint out this or that blemish, when tocomment on how common the poster is,or how it is (or is not) artistic. I just don'tknow that art. How about some of youout there who do, write something for uson this topic.I am not a haggler, but here are somestandard haggling rules:(1)Article: Never say yes to the firstoffer. Let them worry.(2)Article: Always flinch at the offer.(3)Article: Ask for more.(4)Article: Never split the difference onthe first pass.(5)Article: Save some concession forlast.(6)Article: Stop when you get a fair deal;don't squeeze
Overall Strategy
 It is good to have some sort of strategy,and plenty of patience. It can be helpfulto decide in your mind how much youwill pay for the poster or how much youwill accept for a poster. Have you doneyour research? Are you certain whatprinting or edition of the poster youhave? Have you checked to see what afair price for this poster is or what it hassold for in recent history?If the seller's price is way out-of-line, doyou have a higher authority that you canrefer them to, who will quote a fairprice?And money is not everything.Sometimes it is more satisfying to pay

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