Don't expect an expertise which size is definitely the correct one of a vintage poster. Here are some examples of typical sizes (one-sheet and larger). Germany introduced a new standard size in 1922. It is called DIN A1, it measures 59,4 x 84,1 cm, exactly half a square meter. But many german posters of this time are larger or smaller. In the U.S., one-sheet travel posters are very common in the 25 x 40 inch size (as opposed to movie poster sizes, which have their own rules). American Airlines and Pan Am followed the rule "size matters": their posters are usually larger. In Switzerland they often printed extra large posters called "Weltformat" (90,5 x 128 cm), but smaller formats have been popular, too. Depending on former used printing machines, available paper sizes and accuracy of the cutting process you must allow small deviations. Especially if a poster has been wet mounted on linen or japanese paper, it could have been stretched a little bit.
Some airlines (e.g. TWA, BOAC, QANTAS, Air France, SABENA, Lufthansa...) produced the same or very similar image in a smaller size, too! Be careful when buying or bidding online, always read the description carefully. Compare with poster descriptions from recommended galleries. Have a look at the size comparison of some small original vintage airline posters. These are sought after by poster collectors, too, but their price is usually much lower.
SABENA large and small posters
Air France large and small posters (”quarter”)
QANTAS large and small posters (”quarter”)
TWA large and small posters
Deutsche Lufthansa large and small posters
B.O.A.C. large and small posters
Please note: the small posters are not part of my collection (exception: Deutsche Lufthansa). May be, these pictures do not show colours correctly.
Different sellers have different definitions of grading condition. Make sure you understand what is meant by „fine” condition. Ask about folds, tears, stains, scratches, pin holes, foxing, dirt, discoloration, yellowing, fading or any retouches or repairs. Make sure you know the condition of the poster before it was backed and how much restoration has been done to it.
A+: Mint / Perfect
The poster presents absolutely no defect. It’s colors are very fresh, the backside is clean too. Very rare.
A: Very fine
The poster can present very light traces of wears, some light marks of folds, not more than one small pinhole in each corner.
The poster can present traces of wears, light brown spots, some marks of folds, some light marks of tears, more than four pinholes. There may be some slight dirt or very minor restoration. A poster that was folded but is otherwise flawless is rated as fine.
B+: Fairly good
The poster may have traces of wears, spots brown, marks of folds, tears in the margins or the surface of the poster, little down colors. Possibly with minor light-staining. It can show traces of minor restoration.
The poster can present some slight paper losses, brown spots or other, folds, tears in the margins or the surface. The paper may have yellowed, the colors may be light-stained. It can show traces of restoration.
B-: Slightly average down
The poster can have paper losses in the margins or the surface, many brown spots or other, marks of folds, long tears, insolated colors. It can show traces of major or noticeable restoration.
C: Average down
Light-staining of the poster may be very pronounced; restoration, folds, or flaking are clearly visible. Only collectable if very rare or old and sought-after. Needs restoration.
D: Bad condition
Many parts of such poster may be missing or colors are extremely faded. Not collectable.
A vintage poster which shows slight creases, stains or minor tears is NOT WORTHLESS! The criteria under which vintage posters are evaluated, is different from that of printed graphic art.
If a poster has been restored by professional, that should be detailed in the description. Painting over or spraying irreversible colors (such as acrylic) ist not the way restoration professionals fix posters.
NEVER BUY dry mounted vintage posters! Dry mounting causes hyperacidity of the paper: after a while the paper yellows more an more. This process cannot be reversed and devalues the poster.
If a poster is backed on pasteboard, foamboard, masonite, wood, aluminium or similar material it is worthless too. In most cases it is impossible to detach it without destroying the paper.
The value of a vintage airline poster depends on a lot of details, condition is just one of them. An important criteria is the age of a poster. And the name of the artist as well as the airline or destination which is depicted. The very first examples of a new style (e.g. modernism) are mostly expensive too.
Another criteria is definitely, how expensive it has been sold at international auctions before. For your interest, I publish every month a few selected auction results. Please notice, some prices shown in the screenshots are exclusive buyers premium.
Auction results 2021
Auction results 2020
Auction results 2019
Auction results 2018
Auction results 2017
Auction results 2016
Auction results 2015
The condition of a poster can be improved by linenbacking. This is a poster conservation method, very popular in many countries (e.g. United States, Australia, France).
Museums and a lot of European collectors prefer backing with thin acid free Japanese lining paper only. If a poster has been restored by professionals, in nearly all cases it has been backed too.
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