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    A THIRD, COMPLETELY UNKNOWN SPECIMEN SURFACES

    The Beatles 1966 Genuine Shea Stadium NY Concert Poster, Brand New to the Hobby. Well, it's happened again. Such is Heritage's reach with over a million registered users in our database, that one more non-collector, non-dealer, average citizen, baby-boomer Beatles fan who attended the group's 1966 Shea Stadium concert in New York and grabbed the advertising poster off a subway station wall, has stepped forward and said to the world, "I think I'll sell mine now, too."

    We're as surprised as you are, because the hobby's never seen anything quite like this. It's clearly a domino effect in action, and yet each time we've rightfully said, "Well, that's probably the last one for a few years." To refresh, we sold one in November 2019 for $125,000, and the second one in April of this year for a world-record price of $137,500. In all three cases, we (and the hobby) had no knowledge of their poster until the consignor contacted us. Remarkably, in all three cases, the consignor has not been a poster collector, an enterprising dealer, an antique store, or any kind of collectibles professional. They've just been everyday people with the old souvenir they happened to have innocently snatched one summer day half a century ago, and with time marching on, decided it's time to cash in and let someone else enjoy their trophy.

    We're talking, of course, about the most coveted poster in the entire hobby, and one of the most famous collectibles in any hobby: The Beatles 1966 Shea Stadium, New York original advertising concert poster, printed weeks before the show to goose sales for a concert that clearly wasn't selling out. Up until a year ago, only 4-5 were known to exist in elite collections. Then Heritage got... well yeah, OK, we'll say it, we got lucky... and three consecutive, previously unknown specimens of the poster walked through our doors and would go up for sale over the following 12 months. It really is just that simple.

    In each case, the consignor - all three men of retirement age - said, "Well heck, if it's worth that much, then I'll sell mine now." It's a win-win situation; the new consignor gets to sell while the market's hot, and collectors get a rare additional chance at an amazing, super-rare trophy piece.

    So once again, what we have is a truly authentic cardboard advertising poster for the Fab Four's summer 1966 personal appearance at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. It's been bootlegged a million times, but this is the real deal, pulled down by our consignor before he attended the show... see the accompanying signed Letter of Provenance, included of course in the sale. Happily, this lot also includes his original ticket stub and a seldom-seen small handout from promoter Sid Bernstein. The latter admonishes fans to stay in their seats, and reveals random tidbits including Sid's plan to get the Beatles back in N.Y. during 1967's Summer of Love!

    "The Beatles" and "Shea Stadium" are two sets of couplets that go together in pop culture like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers up through Jay-Z and Beyonce. Not only world-changing music, but entertainment history was made there by the Fabs in 1965 and '66, and it's easy to see why: by stepping on stage at Shea, the Beatles faced an audience that probably exceeded the size of all of their 279 appearances at Liverpool's Cavern Club combined - all in one night.

    For their first appearance there in 1965 - and yes, Mr. Bruno attended that show as well - no advertising materials were needed. Word of mouth alone was enough to sell the place out 10 times over. Once New York radio DJs started mentioning it on the air, promoter Sid Bernstein just sat back and watched the ticket money roll in. Who needed to spend money on advertising? Concert posters were, after all, just an advertising expense, despite collectors' love for them today. They weren't created frivolously in the 1960's; they were produced only if needed.

    Bernstein did, however, take advantage of the situation in '65 by creating a small B&W 'marquee-style' poster and handbill - with no pictures or art elements - that touted several other concerts he had coming up, along with the Beatles.

    But in 1966, Bernstein had to pull out all the stops.

    The world had grown weary of Beatlemania, the band had experienced a rough time of it overseas, everyone was getting tired of the fans' screaming, and worst of all, John Lennon's "We're more popular than Jesus now" remark had exploded in the media in July, directly impacting ticket sales for this August concert. Although the Beatles were still creating fantastic music - many fans & reviewers now consider their summer 1966 album Revolver their greatest ever, even better than Sgt. Pepper - ticket sales were not robust at many stops on this tour, which would end up being their last. The upcoming hippie ethos, which would completely dominate pop culture for the next few years, had started to seep its way in. So... Shea '66 was anything but a sellout.

    So what's a promoter to do? Market and advertise, of course. So promoter Bernstein went to the Murray Poster Printing Company there in New York and had an advertising poster (aka window card) designed, printed up and distributed, to try to increase sales.

    While relatively simple and straightforward in presentation, at the same time the poster is a masterwork of charisma, color, type fonts, our heroes' faces and, of course, rarity. How many did Sid have printed up? Nobody knows. A couple hundred is a good guess, with a range ultimately of anywhere from 100 to 500. We just have to remember that in the 1960's, nobody saved anything. The world was having too much fun to bother stopping and documenting it all. Why would they want to save this piece of cardboard? The poster didn't have a unique photo of John, Paul, George and Ringo... just their current standard publicity shot. So what's the big deal? Besides, they were certainly returning again in 1967, and then 1968, and then 1969...

    Not.

    That's right; another thing nobody knew is that this was the Beatles' last hurrah, live-performance wise. Within a week of this concert, it would be impossible to ever see the Beatles live in concert again (rooftop frivolity aside). It would all end in San Francisco six nights later, and a page would then be turned that nobody on earth except the four men from Liverpool wanted to see turned.

    But first, there was the Big Apple and getting butts into those 55,000 seats. We don't know what promoter Bernstein did with radio and newspaper ads, but we sure know about this poster. It was likely stapled to telephone poles, fences, record-store walls and anyplace around Manhattan - yes, including subway stations - that would gather the most eyeballs. Young eyeballs. Pop music was still a young person's game at this point. Parents were relegated to dropping their kids off at the stadium and patting them on the head for wanting to see the "yeah, yeah, yeah" quartet. Only later would everyone realize that the Fabs were making revolutionary rock-music history that would have tremendous influence well into the next century - and presumably beyond.

    But everyone just threw away advertising posters after the event.
    Sometimes the ones that were saved were saved accidentally. In the wonderful case of this auction's consignor and his prized poster, it was spotted in a Brooklyn subway station while he was walking his dog. Be sure to see his letter.

    It wasn't too long before promoter Bernstein realized how iconic, and marketable, his concert-poster image was. Thus began the trickle, which turned to a flow, which eventually turned to a tidal wave, of limited-edition lithographs, reproductions, signed editions (by Sid, not the untouchable Beatles of course), bootlegs, pirates, knock-off's... just pick your term. The sheer scope and variety of "Beatles Shea 1966" concert posters out there in eBay-land is staggering, and sometimes humorous. I like the one with a Dezo Hoffman shot of the Fabs from 1963... really? They had just put out an album with "Tomorrow Never Knows," and the pirates couldn't do any better than a photo from the picture sleeve for "I Want to Hold Your Hand"?

    I've been a serious poster collector for over 25 years, so between that and Heritage's enormous reach, naturally I get lots of phone calls from strangers. Honest to goodness: When somebody starts to say, "I've got this old Beatles concert poster, and...", I get bored. Immediately. My eyes roll and my goal switches to finishing the call as quickly and politely as I can. I'd much rather they have said "this old Aretha Franklin poster" or something. Why? Because with Beatles concert posters, they're always fake. ALWAYS! They're always contacting me about one of the million boots out there. I usually say, "Does it have the year on there?" And then when they say, "Yes, sure, of course!" and give me '65 or '66, I'll respond with something like, "So what do you think of the Mets' chances this year?"

    None of these posters needed the year on there... they were created to have an entire lifespan of six or eight weeks. When you're standing in Times Square in the middle of summer looking at a poster, you know what year it is. All you needed to know was that the event was on Tuesday, August 23. (However, it should be pointed out that even to this day, probably about 5% of genuine concert posters do have the year on there, for whatever reason. And there are also many Beatles Shea boots out there now without the year, trying to mimic the original.)

    So from the perspective of a serious collector, any poster printed after the last Beatle said to the crowd, "Thank you, goodnight!" is worthless garbage. Any poster printed before they stepped foot on that stage is the main goal. The former is nothing but a merchandising poster, created in huge numbers to be sold for money; the latter is an advertising poster, created in tiny quantities to be thrown away the moment it couldn't be used to sell tickets anymore. Collectors ignore the former and go bananas for the latter.

    Getting down to the nitty-gritty details, the poster measures 18 x 24" and grades to a strong Very Good Plus. As with the previous two, we had the poster professionally repaired because it had a couple of minor issues which were easily eliminated. But it still has its original staple holes, pin pricks in two corners, overall toning, light creasing and such, feeling like it was just lifted off the subway wall 54 years ago.

    So I've been lucky enough to have thousands of rare posters pass through my hands over the last quarter-century, and I had several of my own 1961-62 original Beatles Liverpool concert posters on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio for the first decade they were open (1995-2005). But up until last year when our first Beatles Shea '66 arrived at Heritage's offices in Dallas, I had never, ever seen or held one in person before. That is just silly. And the world's biggest private dealer of vintage concert posters told us that it's the only big poster he can think of that has never passed through his hands, ever. And that he's never even been offered one, at any price. It truly is the holiest of the grails.

    It's still as rare as hen's teeth, no question about it, because the demand for it is absolutely spectacular. The owners of the few existing specimens are clinging to them for dear life, and one of them was on display last year at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock 'n' Roll exhibit. The Met is the fourth most visited museum in the world, and a Beatles 66 Shea poster fit right in, alongside instruments played by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and others.

    It's as popular, reliable, solid and spectacular as any concert poster, or dare I say any music collectible period, in the world.

    I sure wish I could take this one home for myself, too.

    Pete Howard, Consignment Director
    Heritage Auctions, Entertainment and Music

    Ticket stub measures 3 ½" x 1 ½" and grades to Very Good Minus; promoter's note to fans measures 3 ½" x 2 ¾" and grades to Very Good.

    LOP from the Consignor and COA from Heritage Auctions. Minor repair done by Chameleon Restoration.


    More Information: Poster has toning throughout, on both the front and verso, meaning of course the original white board has typically turned light brown. There are a number of surface creases you can see when you tilt the poster at an angle to the light; other than the yellow background, they intersect the "S" of "Beatles" and George and Paul's hair. The strongest one is above George's left eye in his hair, and peters out just as it barely touches the edge of his right eye. This is all for the sake of full disclosure; almost none of this is visible when viewed straight-on. There are also creases in the yellow under "TL," three to the right of "In Person" going to the poster's edge, and one at the bottom of "B" going over to the margin. Another small one in the "S" of "Show."

    The poster was also once folded neatly all the way across, in the black line right above "Shea Stadium." You can see the creases in the margin on either side of the black line, but the line itself is visually unaffected.

    The strongest corner crease is in the lower left, about 1 ¼" to the left of "Singer." The upper right corner has a half-inch harmless crease. Pinholes are found in the upper two corners, and small staple holes are found in the "S" in Beatles, the "U" in "Tuesday" and next to the "2" in "23."

    The original poster was in the best condition of the three we've found in the last year. Very little needed to be done with it, but still, we turned it over to our world-class poster conservation expert (Chameleon Restoration) who had likewise touched up our previous two Beatles 66 Shea Stadium concert posters.

    What needed to be done was mostly in the margins: there were a few bug nibbles on the surrounding white margin which were easily eradicated; and there was a small missing notch of the board in the upper left margin to the lower left of the "B" in "Beatles." Neither one of these afflictions ever touched the yellow.

    In addition, staple holes from the Brooklyn subway posting had left a little white fraying in a small area of the "S" in "Beatles," "U" in "Tuesday" and "2" in "23." The staple holes are still there, but the black was restored.

    On the verso, you can see how a strong crease "followed the artwork" and arched perfectly under the oval of "In Person" on the front, but didn't intersect it. Funny how some colors can actually add extra strength against creases. The previously discussed horizontal crease 5 ½" from the bottom is also clearly evident, and just a tiny bit less rigid than the rest.

    Ticket stub: Strong creasing to the right-hand portion, luckily the Beatles' photo has only the very lightest of creases going through Ringo's hair. Creased and handled from decades of showing it off, and our consignor's name, "Tony Bruno," written in pencil on the verso.

    Sid Bernstein's note to fans: Toned and discolored a bit over the years, creases down the middle and in every corner, top two corners dog-eared, and a miniscule amount of edge paper notched away twice in the upper right corner.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2020
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 43
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,185

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    Sold on Nov 14, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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