20 Years of Rare & Important Travel Posters at Swann

Swann Galleries’ November 14 sale of Rare & Important Travel Posters marks the house’s twentieth annual sale in the category. Below we share Nicholas D. Lowry’s entry to the catalogue, in which he reflects on the history and impact of the sale.

Rare & Important Travel Posters 1999-2019

Twenty years ago the vintage poster market was very different—not only for simple reasons, like being the era before the internet, but it was a time when American posters were still widely held in lower regard than their European counterparts. And there was scant appreciation for travel posters among collectors.

Image of Travel Poster catalogues.
Twenty years of Travel Poster catalogues at Swann.
Come to the exhibition to pick up a copy of the poster.

The First Sale: 100 Rare & Important Travel Posters

Sascha Maurer, New York World’s Fair / Thru Grand Central Gateway, circa 1939. Estimate $5,000 to $7,500.
This image served as the cover for the inaugural travel poster auction in 1999.

In 1999, with Swann’s first auction of 100 Rare and Important Travel Posters, we created a showcase in which these works could flourish. The sales have been carefully curated, with the posters researched, referenced and placed within their historical, geographical and artistic context. As the success of these auctions became apparent, more and more items came out of the woodwork. In the intervening two decades, the field has blossomed into a vibrant niche.

More Highlights from the Rare & Important Travel Posters Catalogue

Gone, now, are the days when travel posters were considered to be generic advertising, churned out by the French railway companies, showing scenic images of destinations and listing train schedules that were largely overlooked and even ignored by collectors. In their place can be seen a host of posters that display captivating graphic design, accomplished mis-en-page, and fresh, innovative perspectives on all aspects of travel.

Bringing American Travel Posters to the Forefront of the Market

The images we chose for the covers of our catalogues reflect our two-decade adherence to offering only travel posters that are, in fact, rare and important. They are all startlingly good designs—many previously unrecorded. They represent the level of quality we strive to represent within the catalogue as well.

Leslie Ragan, Chicago / New York Central Lines, image of chicago park, 1929.
Leslie Ragan, Chicago / New York Central Lines, 1929. Estimate $5,000 to $7,500.

Perhaps most proudly, we have elevated American travel posters from the obscure corner of the market where they were barely recognized, to a much bigger spotlight. Works by artists such as Leslie Ragan, Bern Hill, Sascha Maurer and John Held, Jr., are now recognized and appreciated as much as posters by Roger Broders and A.M. Cassandre.

Roger Broders, Winter Sports in the French Alps, skiers filing up a snowy mountain, circa 1929.
Roger Broders, Winter Sports in the French Alps, circa 1929. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

Throughout this whole journey we have set innumerable auction records, prices that have remained unmatched through the market, but it is the posters we unearth that haven’t been seen before (and the artists whose work is not yet recognized) that is the most rewarding and exciting thing for us.

We hope that when you read our catalogues you are as astounded by the scope and freshness of the images as we are when we assemble the auctions.

We are looking forward to the next twenty years.

Complete Catalogue

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