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    PINT-SIZED SKELETON & ROSES STILL ROCKS

    Grateful Dead 1966 "Skeleton & Roses" Handbill FD-26 Graded Mint 9.6 and Signed by Stanley Mouse. The famous Family Dog psychedelic concert handbill from the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on Sept. 16 & 17, 1966, with the Oxford Circle as opening act. This original first-printing flyer has been signed by its co-creator, Stanley Mouse, and graded to a gorgeous mint 9.6 condition by CGC (Certified Guaranty Company), the industry standard.

    Heritage's last poster auction, in November, shocked the psychedelic poster-collecting world when a CGC-graded 9.8 specimen of the full-sized Skeleton & Roses poster sold for $118,750. It was a tectonic shift in the mainstream world's perception of the very best psychedelic concert posters and what they could be worth in museum-quality condition. The hobby is still buzzing, months later.

    So it's a pleasure to be able to come back the very next auction and offer an equally stunning mint grade of 9.6 on the smaller-sized handbill. And it's artfully signed by its co-creator, Stanley Mouse, to boot.

    We say "smaller-sized handbill," but really, it's terrific that FD promoter Chet Helms & Co. printed their fliers with such healthy dimensions. While Bill Graham was turning out handbills across town with sizes down around 5" x 8", the Family Dog was cranking out beauties like this measuring a full 8 ½" x 11". It doesn't feel big enough to be called a poster, but it sure is large to be calling it just a handbill.

    The story behind Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley's artwork is well-known in the psych poster world. But to the uninitiated, Mouse & Kelley would often search the shelves of the San Francisco Public Library to get images & ideas they could then build their posters around, with seemingly nothing off-limits. Earlier that summer, they had famously appropriated the image from Zig-Zag wrapping papers to create a popular Family Dog concert poster for Big Brother & the Holding Company. What could they come up with next?

    They struck gold by discovering a small black & white drawing by British book illustrator E.J. Sullivan. His book The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, first published in 1913, contained several images of skeletons. This particular one, of a skeleton picking roses and assembling a wreath of the flowers as well as wearing another as a headdress, really jumped off the page at them. How could it not? What a perfect image for a band called the Grateful Dead!

    Their sublime psychedelic lettering and gorgeous red & blue coloring sealed the deal, creating a four-color masterpiece that looks better with each passing decade.

    Measures 8 ½" x 11" and has been CGC-graded a beautiful mint 9.6. COA from Heritage Auctions.


    More Information: For poster collectors, rock-music fans, pop culture historians, art lovers and just the curious with a good sense of taste, this poster offering checks every box. The Grateful Dead. San Francisco. The mid-60's. Unforgettable artwork. Legendary graphic artists. Charisma. Colors. Rarity. In a top mint condition. What more could one possibly ask for?

    So why aren't there more of these around? The main reason is that print runs were still relatively low in the summer of 1966, with the whole process having just been birthed a few months earlier. The first Family Dog and Bill Graham posters & handbills had appeared only in February, so there was no momentum yet behind saving & collecting these things. They were still being created purely as marketing tools to fill the ballrooms, so... "don't print any more than you needed."

    The other factor is that this poster & handbill were so popular that people all over the Bay Area would proudly tack them up on their walls, exposing them to daylight, pinholes and all measure of aging. In fact, sometimes hippies would move from pad to pad, taking this eye candy along with them each time. So the majority of original handbills are in used - even if lovingly - condition. To find one that was seemingly slipped into a protective folder right off the printing press and not touched again for decades can almost be called a "hobby miracle." When it did happen, it was by accident. Certainly nobody could anticipate that these would be held up as museum pieces half a century later. And the word "investment" was as foreign to the Bay Area counterculture as the New York Philharmonic playing the Avalon would have been.

    Oh, and the music behind it was pretty good, too.

    Literature: See Grushkin, Paul, The Art of Rock - Posters from Presley to Punk, Abbeville Press, New York, 1987, p.97 (illus.).


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    4th-5th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 34
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 694

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