CONDITION GRADING SCALE
In rating the items featured on the PosterGeist site, I've utilized the following condition grading scale written by Jacaeber Kastor, proprietor of the Psychedelic Solution Gallery - co-author of THE ART
OF THE FILLMORE and veteran poster collector, which first appeared in an issue of OFF THE WALL (Wes Wilson's early poster collecting zine) several years ago. I have clarified a few minor points by altering the text slightly. In most of the PosterGeist item listings, I have provided detailed descriptions of the damage along with the rating. Feel free to e-mail for confirming condition verification (Trust, but verify!)
- A / A-
- Almost, though technically not exactly perfect (about as close as you are likely to find). This designation was included to clarify the external question of what an "A" ("mint") condition really is. "A / A-" is generally the top condition that posters handled by human hands can exist in. "A" condition is perfect and many posters are, yet it is very difficult to keep them in this condition. It's even difficult to tell if a poster really is perfect (it's easy to miss a tiny bit of damage on these intricately colored pieces!). "A / A-" reflects the fact that a small bit of wear can happen to a poster and not actually be considered significant. Very slight rounding of one corner or corners, a slight ripple or bend or handling mark that isn't actually a crease, a touch too much direct light / yellowing....etc. etc. "A / A-" and "A" condition items usually have a comparable value (to some folk at least), it's very subtle and difficult to really say what is or what is not "perfect"...."A" condition is the top of the conditional scale in a purely theoretical sense only. There surely are perfect posters or handbills, though one might miss some minute defect. Human error alone could make it hard to prove a poster is perfect. Somebody could receive a poster and put a mark in it while unpacking it and think they received a less than perfect copy. Ephemera in it's very nature is at odds with "perfection". Deterioration begins immediately. Light, air, and human body oil, exhalations, etc. can subtly damage a poster or handbill.
- Probably an unused poster with a tiny crease in a corner or two. Just slightly bad handling. Could have 1 or 2 pinholes if discreet, though not severe tackholes. Corners might be rounded a touch (difficult to see). Basically it could have any type of extremely minor damage (including invisible tear/stain, whatever) but the damage is virtually invisible. Generally not a used poster (or handbill etc.)
- The cream of used posters. Usually crisp and with only one or two types of damage. If it has multiple damage it is cumulatively subtle. The classic is the great looking poster with 1 solid tack hole in each corner. No broken / cracked ink due to severe creases. No missing paper, as in holes or corners / chunks gone. It could have a sharp folded corner, though not visibly intruding into the image area. No image damage. Most damage to a B+ poster is in the margin, or fairly unobtrusive. Could be an "A" poster that is a good bit yellowed. Lots of B+ stuff gets framed and thus most of the edge damage becomes invisible. Probably just about the top condition for the earliest posters / mid '65 to early '66. About as low a condition as a collector would want for the easier to find posters. This is about as nice a condition as it gets for really thin stock posters. Easily removable tape on corners / not old tape, unless you move it and there is no visible stains. Real clean cub staple holes are OK.
- There are ten thousand ways you could damage a poster and have it be "B". Very minor damage to the image area is ok, nothing severe or distracting. Multiple but not severe tack holes. The damage is getting more visible now. Light tape stains, colored stains, abrasions, tape pulls, with the overall look of the poster still a good example of what it originally looked like. Some damage to the ink / image but not major. Crumpled and then pressed out again. Uneven age discoloration but not distracting to the 'look'. Common posters aren't worth much below this grade. Older posters are charming in this grade. Mainly used but damage doesn't compete with design work for your eye! Staple holes if neat / clean.
- Minor scars. Maybe beer spray from that wild party back in '74 nailed it, but definitely no the marinara sauce! Collectible but not very impressive, cut off point for value on easier material. Still charming looking and basically all there. Some very small holes, very small corner(s) missing, more major tears, but still pretty hidden, not with big chunks out. No big anything.
- Poster is starting to deteriorate. Still charming as a vintage / used item with an antique look. Multi-tack holed corners falling off a bit. Small corners gone, stains or holes anywhere, but not heavily destructive. Rarer or earliest posters are still worth $$ in this condition, though greasy ones are bargain basket. Fairly bad damage still fails in an aesthetic way. The charm is still there. Your classic sun baked, multi-tack-holed, couple of small stains poster. Possibly an "A" grade, missing a 3/4 of an inch size corner. Folded or crushed but not extensively thrashed.
- Missing most corners, though still looks OK. Various stains anywhere, though not over a couple of inches in size. You can keep it on a wall with thumb tacks for years (out of direct sunlight) and it will stay in the same condition basically. Your average very used poster. Tape pulls that came from the next poster in the stack having little rolls of tape on the back. Folded into quarters or eighths and not evenly! Creases have ink flaking. Image damaged - OK, though not wrecked. Small bit of ink writing in margin or writing on back showing through. Could be an "A" condition item with a trimmed margin. This is your average cheap decoration, been on the wall since the '60's poster and it has a tackhole or minor scar from every apartment it ever resided in. There is a grocery list or manifesto written on the back and it sort of shows through without ruining the look.
- Just about ruined, though you can't quite throw it away. Major stains or couple inch size chunks gone. Marker pen writing that doesn't look good. Someone may have crossed out a band that didn't play. Torn in half and pasted or taped back together in obvious manner. Could have sticker(s) on it that could be removed, though it would leave damage. Standard C- has super yellow tape stains in all 4 corners and top / bottom with a couple of big chunks gone. Could have been picked up off of sidewalk and has the shoe and cement imprint. Paper yellowing or color fading or bad staining totally disqualifies poster as looking like original cropped off border(s), tattered edges. Essentially a filler, its integrity has been compromised and the damage is more noticeable than the artwork. Someone wrote their phone number or address on the handbill / card heavily in ink right in the middle of the image area! Thrashed but not totally trashed.
- Trashed - Psychologically can satisfy a need to have a space in a collection filled. May have up to 1/3 of item missing in any of thousands of configurations. Colored on by young child (with unremoveable materials). Torn off wall in accident. Heavily stained by dirty water, ink, or absurdly patched all over with now fossilized yellow tape. Basically it's ruined and almost never has any value. Better used in a collage or decorating the garage / grunge room, nostalgic value not withstanding.