The most iconic concert poster of all time is now the most expensive concert poster of all time.
On Saturday, during Heritage Auctions
latest Music Memorabilia Signature® Auction, the stunning bright-yellow slab of cardboard promoting the Beatles August 23, 1966, concert at New Yorks Shea Stadium sold for $275,000 to set a new auction record. That shatters the previous highwater mark of $150,000 shared by both the Shea Stadium poster (set in November) and another advertising Hank Williams two concerts scheduled for New Year's Day 1953 at the Canton Memorial Auditorium in Ohio (established last May).
Unlike previous Beatles-at-Shea record-holders, the one sold Saturday from the Fab Fours final tour was untouched by conservation experts. Its previous owner, who owned it for decades, took great care of the keepsake and just, well, let it be. The poster was, as our catalog noted, the crown jewel that needed no polishing. That decision paid off Saturday: Live bidding opened at $115,000 then immediately jumped past $200,000 to land at its new record high as the auction room burst into applause.
The nearly sold-out auction, which doubled pre-auction estimates, attracted more than 1,660 bidders worldwide, and realized a total of $2,039,313 in just a few hours. And the Beatles werent the lone chart-toppers in Saturdays event.
A near-mint example of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelleys adored Family Dog Skeleton and Roses poster made for the Grateful Deads Sept. 16 and 17, 1966, concerts at San Franciscos legendary Avalon Ballroom sold for $137,500. That poster, graded Near Mint Plus 9.6 by Certified Guaranty Company, came from the extraordinary KC Murphy Bindweed Press Collection, and is now the most expensive concert artwork from the psychedelic era ever sold at auction, besting the previous record of $118,750 set at Heritage Auctions in November 2019.
It was unspeakably exhilarating to break two world records in a single afternoon in the same hour, no less, says Pete Howard, Heritage Auctions Director of Concert Posters. When I joined Heritage Auctions three years ago, the thought of two concert posters combining for more than $400,000 was unthinkable. No more.
The Beatles Shea reaching $275,000 wasnt surprising, so much as it was long overdue, Howard says. Compared to the highest-priced movie posters and comic books, theres still a lot of blue sky ahead for the best concert posters to keep increasing in value. And to see Skeleton & Roses soar to $137,500 is a testament to the beauty and power of the best psychedelic concert posters.
Murphy brought 40 of the very best of the very best psychedelic posters to auction over the weekend, and collectors responded accordingly: Eleven of the offerings from Murphys collection which came straight from San Franciscos historic Bindweed Press sold for more than $10,000, among them the Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1966 Red Bull poster graded CGC 9.8 (which sold for $20,000) and another Kelley-and-Mouse-made advertisement for the Jefferson Airplanes 1966 Edwardian Ball at the Fillmore graded CGC 9.6 (which realized $19,375).
To see the Skeleton & Roses from the KC Murphy Bindweed Press Collection set a record was, of course, immensely gratifying, Howard says. But it was equally rewarding, and not a little surprising, to see 10 of KCs other posters exceed $10,000. Thats the real indicator of where this hobby is going.
Another big hit in the auction was the 1970 Martin D-35 that Bobby Whitlock played on Derek and the Dominos Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and George Harrisons All Things Must Pass. The guitar, gifted to Whitlock by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on his 22nd birthday, sold for $87,500.
But the Beatles, still making headlines and topping music and TV charts 52 years and six days after Paul McCartney announced the bands end, dominated the auction.
In July 1963 the Beatles played five shows at the Winter Gardens at Margate in Kent, England. A program from that legendary run, signed by all four of the Fabs, sold for $45,000 after a heated bidding war. Moments later, two more Beatles-related items sold for $40,000 each, both setting new records: a fab foursome of 15-inch Beatles bobbleheads made in 1964, and one of the few surviving picture sleeves for Harrisons 1979 single Love Comes to Everyone. The first one we've ever seen opened bidding at $15,500 before climbing to $40,000, even without the record inside.
And this one really tied the sale together: An original concert-advertising cardboard window card for the Beatles final concert held August 29, 1966, at the long-demolished Candlestick Park in San Francisco sold Saturday for $32,500, smashing previous highwater marks for the artwork. The poster, graded a 9.2 Near Mint Minus by CGC, was signed by Wes Wilson, the dean of San Francisco psychedelic concert poster design.