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.
The First Sale: 100 Rare & Important Travel Posters
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.
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.
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.
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.