A few days ago, I had a talk with someone on Facebook who had posted a picture of his impressive collection of WWI posters. Out of curiosity, I asked him if these were originals or reprints, and he replied that they were all originals. Other websites I've read over the last few months say that buying original posters is always the best option. But there is a pronounced market for reprints as well, and there are those who prefer them, (myself included.)
So how do you choose what's right for you? My answer is, it depends...
Here are two reasons why an original poster might be the preferred option:
I think it goes without saying that there is something very special about owning anything that is genuinely of its time period, and having been an avid antique collector at one point in my life, I understand this allure firsthand. The indescribable feeling of owning something that was actually part of its historical period, that was touched by the hands of those who inhabited that time period and who are now only an echo of the past, is truly a life-affirming experience.
As with almost any antique, posters can fetch a very high market value, and as time goes by, that value keeps going up. As previously mentioned, a genuine product of the times is usually highly sought after, and as such, the market value is likewise impacted.
And as for reprints, there are equally important reasons why one might prefer them over originals:
For companies such as Dominion Graphic Arts, the standard practice is to restore the images before reprinting them, and it's easy to see why. A restored reprint has more aesthetic value than one that is simply scanned from the original. And as someone who does these restorations on a regular basis, I am strongly of the opinion that the restoration process can breathe new life into a work of art that might otherwise appear faded, discolored, or unclean. As with anything, these images are affected by age and will inherently include these imperfections, which, depending on how severe they are, may have an impact on how suitable they are for framing and hanging.
Another thing that differentiates reprints from originals is that reprints are sized according to your preference. So while you may like a certain poster, you may not want to buy it at its original size either because you don't have enough wall space, or it would dominate a space too much, or for some other reason. The reverse is also true, particularly for book illustrations and such. These were originally sized to fit a book, and there may be certain instances where one might prefer a larger print in order to make a statement. The same holds true of magazine art, some of which can make a lasting impression in poster size.
Because originals are of such high value, they will most likely cost you a pretty penny. Many original WWI posters I found on Ebay after a quick search are priced anywhere between roughly $175 and $250 dollars - and that's just for the poster without the frame! Aside from this, many original pieces of vintage art can be quite hard to find as originals, and this can also raise the value (and the price) considerably. (Good ol' supply and demand...) So, if you're willing to sacrifice prestige for the chance to simply have a particular piece of art that you like, reprints are a great way to access that special piece of art without breaking the bank.
4.) What are your priorities?
While historical artifacts are often considered especially valuable, the fact is that not everyone wants posters as a piece of history, and many of us just like them because they look nice on the wall. Originals are nice to have, but ultimately you have to decide for yourself what is right for you.
But if you like both concepts, why not get both?
That's right! Who says you have to have one or the other? Both are great for all the reasons I just mentioned, and if you have both, you can have prestige and value, but also sprinkle it with a little variety and fun. Life is too short to limit yourself. Maybe you can get an original vintage poster as a centerpiece, and surround it with smaller magazine art reprints, or you could also decorate one wall with originals and an adjacent wall with reprints. Or maybe you can scatter them, and keep everyone guessing which is which. The sky's the limit!
These are just my opinions on the subject, so ultimately it's entirely up to you, but I still want to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment if you're so inclined, and I look forward to our next chat.