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    FD-26 Grateful Dead 1966 Legendary "Skeleton & Roses" Family Dog Concert Poster. A first-printing San Francisco concert poster for the Grateful Dead and Oxford Circle at the Avalon Ballroom on Friday and Saturday, September 16-17, 1966. Known alternatively as "Skeleton & Roses" or "Skull & Roses," it was designed by the legendary team of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley.

    Referred to as FD-26 in the Family Dog numbered series, this poster comes from the personal archives of Bob Cohen, the man who co-owned the Family Dog and ran it with Chet Helms from early 1966 until the firm's demise in late 1968.

    As all serious collectors know, this legendary Grateful Dead poster turned the hobby on its ear last November, when Heritage sold one for $118,750 in tip-top graded condition. This auction's specimen will appeal to a different audience... the collector who doesn't mind average condition, but is thrilled to know this piece is the only first-printing version found in Bob Cohen's archives. Thus, it can be said that this poster belonged to the Family Dog from the summer of 1966 until the summer of 2020, where it will now be unleashed on the outside world to the lucky collector who most appreciates very special provenance.

    For poster collectors, rock-music fans, pop culture historians, art lovers and just the curious with a good sense of taste, this poster checks every box. The Grateful Dead. San Francisco. The mid-60's. Unforgettable artwork. Legendary graphic artists in Mouse and Kelley. Charisma. Bright colors. First-printing rarity.

    Second printings and reproductions abound, but this is the only printing of this poster done 54 summers ago for the sole purpose of herding intrepid patrons into Chet Helms' second-story Avalon Ballroom at Sutter & Van Ness streets on one of the two nights. This was a year before the summer of love, so everything was still pretty innocent.

    It's a rush just to hold this in your hands, knowing the Dead had been called the Warlocks less than a year earlier. The telltale blue Band-Aid mark next to the ruby red wreath signals the original printing. Given this poster's recent ascendancy to the pinnacle of the hobby, it will be a treasure to have this original full-sized poster directly from the archives of the Family Dog... a once-in-a-lifetime provenance opportunity.

    Measures 14 ¼" x a little under 20" and grades to Very Good condition. COAs from Bob Cohen and from Heritage Auctions.

    To view Bob Cohen's biography, "A Patriarch of the San Francisco Scene," please click here.

    More Information: So why is this first printing such a rarity? The first 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 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 the rule surely was, "don't print any more than you needed."

    The other reason is obvious: As the most popular psychedelic concert-poster image ever created, everyone wants one, and owners usually don't sell. It's always a matter of supply & demand, and the supply of first printings is very low, and the demand for one, in any condition, is very high.

    Condition details: Has four staple holes plus a ding on the top center of the artwork, one obvious in the blue above the "F" and the others on the two black lines above the blue. A couple of them have a little bit of tear-away messiness. Then two more super-tiny holes on the poster's extreme white edge above the "U." All of this was mended with clear cello tape on the verso a long time ago. There is nothing in the two upper corners.

    Three more sets of staple holes at the very bottom, all in the white margin. Lower left is fairly harmless; lower center and lower right holes have a little bit of tear-away messiness. Like at the top, all three areas were secured with cello tape on the verso a long time ago.

    The only other verso-cello-tape-stabilizing done was for a ¾-inch tear on the right white margin to the right of "Circle." It stops at the first black line.

    Other issues consist of a tiny, barely noticeable quarter-inch tear on the white margin to the right of "Sept." The thick-stock paper used for this poster took creasing well, and this "26" is no exception. The verso reveals a good number of handling creases, but they barely show up on the front. The most visible one by far falls under the skeleton's right arm bone, which breaks a little blue color under the red rose petal. There's also one that barely shows, and doesn't break color, from the "N" in "Avalon" going down to "Records." There's also one a little visible in the skeleton's right thighbone and the blue area just below it.

    Toning is present throughout. And on the verso, "26" is written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a little black mark in the top center near the cello tape.

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2020
    8th-9th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 45
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,201

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