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    WE LOVE THIS POSTER, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH

    The Beatles 1966 Genuine Shea Stadium NY Concert Poster, Newly Discovered Specimen. In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened: A fourth family in the last 24 months has stepped forward and consigned their original 1966 Beatles Shea Stadium concert poster to Heritage Auctions. Not a collector, not a dealer, not an antique store and not a winner of one of our previous three Shea's; a totally everyday, "hidden" family saw our results and decided to sell their heirloom, too. Same story as the others: no other concert posters in the household, same owners for 55 years, and just a casual piece of wall decoration until they realized the value of what they had. In Heritage's eyes and probably yours, too, it's the best, most fun kind of consignor. In all four cases, we (and the hobby) had no knowledge of their poster's existence until the consignor contacted us.

    In this case, it's the father who originated the poster, but sadly he's been deceased since the 1970's. The mother is still with us, and attended both Beatles Shea Stadium concerts, in 1965 and this one in '66. However, she didn't meet her husband until years after the concerts. He was a musician who grew up in Brooklyn, and the Beatles were a huge influence, naturally, on his young garage-rock band. This information comes from their son, who is consigning the family heirloom to us.

    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 the first one in November 2019 for $125,000, the second one in April 2020 for a world-record price of $137,500, and the third in November 2020 for $106,250.

    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 two years 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 four consecutive, previously unknown specimens of the poster walked through our doors and would go up for sale over the following 24 months. It really is just that simple.

    "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, 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 that touted several other concerts he had coming up, along with the Beatles. We have one of those in this auction, too.

    While relatively simple and straightforward in presentation, at the same time this 1966 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, subway stations and anyplace around Manhattan 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.

    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"?

    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 in 2019 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 guitars and instruments played by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and others.

    This treasured gem measures 18 x 24" and grades to restored Very Good condition. Repair Work by Chameleon Restoration and COA from Heritage Auctions.


    More Information: In 1966, promoter 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.

    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 Marvin Gaye 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 Jets' 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 big prize. 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.

    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 our first Beatles Shea '66 arrived at Heritage's offices in Dallas in 2019, 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.

    Condition details: This rare specimen was found with blue electrical tape all around the margins, on all four sides, which has been meticulously and skillfully removed by Chameleon Restoration. Chris Fennell at Chameleon also worked on the previous three specimens of this poster that we've had in the last two years, so he has the best eye in the business for this poster. A little bit of the white margin had also been trimmed away, all now carefully restored. Likewise with a "tape lift" on the highest ticket price.

    Maintaining all of its 1960's look and the house-display it's had ever since, the board is heavily toned to brown. Toning is common and almost impossible to avoid on decades-old window cards, and this is no exception, especially since the family displayed it for years as a proud memento of attending. There is also a bit of unevenness to the yellow, about ½" to one inch wide, in a band all across the top and down the sides, but not on the "All Star Show" edge. This was a result of the yellow portion that was under the electrical tape for decades. It blends in fairly nicely but not perfectly; please see our picture.

    There also remains a bit of surface creasing to the board, not breaking any black or yellow color post-resto. This would include through the "LES" of "Beatles," in Paul, George and John's hair, on George's shoulder, on John's chest including his necktie knot, and in the black lettering on the "Tues. Aug. 23" line. The "DIUM" in "Stadium" had to be blacked in a bit. And of course, there's the usual surface blemishes and imperfections here & there, fully expected on a board with this much history and display.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    6th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 34
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,068

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