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Theater Memorabilia

Even after the curtain closes and the magic of a theatrical performance begins to fade, theater memorabilia has the power to keep the spirit of the stage alive. From grand debuts to memorable revivals, theater posters and playbills chronicle important theatrical moments for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

The association between theater performances and posters promoting them can be traced to the Middle Ages, when members of theatrical troupes would parade around town either sporting a banner or verbally announcing an upcoming show. This tradition grew in scope over the subsequent years, with placards and playbills announcing approaching performances incorporating increasingly-catchy prose and images.

The advent of lithography in the field of poster art allowed for multicolor and more dynamic poster and playbill designs by the end of the 19th century. Growth in the advertising industry gave rise to the multi-page program now customary in theaters. Though the World Wars dampened enthusiasm for theater and increasingly-lavish promotional materials, the tradition of theatrical poster and playbill design continues to captivate theatergoers and theater historians today.


Quick Facts

  • The earliest English playbills date to the late 1580s. French poster designers created the first two color playbills (black and red) in the late 1670s
  • The immense popularity of some plays and performances led to the creation of stock posters in the early 1900s, wherein theater promoters simply had to add the pertinent text to an predesigned poster
  • The iconic playbill, immediately recognizable by its black text on a yellow banner across many prominent theaters' programs, began production in 1885 and continues more than 130 years later

Recommended Items at Auction

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Musicals, 3 in House Brochures & Programme for Royal Albert Hall Irish Concert 18th March 1916, in
Oct 27, 6:00 PM BST
Musicals, 3 in House Brochures & Programme for Royal Albert Hall Irish Concert 18th March 1916, in
by Chaucer Covers & Auctions
Est: £10- £14
£101 Bid
French Theater Cluny Poster after Alfred Choubrac
Nov 17, 12:00 PM EST
French Theater Cluny Poster after Alfred Choubrac
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$501 Bid
Mabel Dixey Western Cowgirl Photo Print
Nov 13, 2:00 PM EST
Mabel Dixey Western Cowgirl Photo Print
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $30- $60
$200 Bids
§ Scottie Wilson (British 1890-1972) Untitled, circa 1970s
Oct 29, 10:00 AM BST
§ Scottie Wilson (British 1890-1972) Untitled, circa 1970s
by Lyon & Turnbull
Est: £3,000- £5,000
£1,5000 Bids
BLACKSTONE, HARRY (HENRY BOUGHTON). BLACKSTONE THEATRICAL R...
Oct 30, 10:00 AM CDT
BLACKSTONE, HARRY (HENRY BOUGHTON). BLACKSTONE THEATRICAL R...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $300
$800 Bids
Early 20th Century Theater Posters, 4
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Early 20th Century Theater Posters, 4
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Framed Vintage New York Show Posters, 4
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Framed Vintage Show Posters, 4
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Framed Vintage Show Posters, 4
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Framed Vintage New York Show Poster
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Framed Vintage New York Show Poster
by Showplace
Est: $100- $200
$250 Bids
SWIERZY, Waldemar (1931-2013). "Lajkonik". Opera dla dzieci - libretto: M. Kownacka. (Conductor: J
Nov 16, 1:30 PM CET
SWIERZY, Waldemar (1931-2013). "Lajkonik". Opera dla dzieci - libretto: M. Kownacka. (Conductor: J
by Burgersdijk & Niermans
Est: €65- €80
€650 Bids
Vintage Loew's Grand Theatre, Atlanta Photo Print
Nov 27, 2:00 PM EST
Vintage Loew's Grand Theatre, Atlanta Photo Print
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $40- $80
$200 Bids
Elfenbein-Dirigentenstab mit Goldmontierung, Flanierstab und Reitgerte.
Oct 28, 9:00 AM CEST
Elfenbein-Dirigentenstab mit Goldmontierung, Flanierstab und Reitgerte.
by Auktionshaus Wendl
Est: €0- €0
€200 Bids
Collection of concert programmes, opera
Oct 29, 10:00 AM BST
Collection of concert programmes, opera
by Vectis Auctions Ltd
Est: £20- £30
£100 Bids
AN ENGLISH THEATRE MELODRAMA POSTER 1912
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
AN ENGLISH THEATRE MELODRAMA POSTER 1912
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$100 Bids
Collection of Theatre Signed Flyers Michael Maloney Hamlet by William Shakespeare flyer signed by
Oct 29, 10:00 AM BST
Collection of Theatre Signed Flyers Michael Maloney Hamlet by William Shakespeare flyer signed by
by Chaucer Covers & Auctions
Est: £8- £12
£80 Bids
Collection of Theatre Signed Flyers Wife Begins At 40 flyers signed by Amanda Redington, The Deep
Oct 29, 10:00 AM BST
Collection of Theatre Signed Flyers Wife Begins At 40 flyers signed by Amanda Redington, The Deep
by Chaucer Covers & Auctions
Est: £8- £12
£80 Bids
[CHICAGO]. IROQUOIS THEATRE SOUVENIR PROGRAMME. CHICAGO: PR...
Nov 20, 10:00 AM CST
[CHICAGO]. IROQUOIS THEATRE SOUVENIR PROGRAMME. CHICAGO: PR...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Angela Lansbury signed 10x8 black and white photograph
Nov 05, 6:00 PM GMT
Angela Lansbury signed 10x8 black and white photograph
by Chaucer Covers & Auctions
Est: £14- £18
£140 Bids
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Theatre Trophy [139270]
Oct 29, 8:00 AM PDT
Theatre Trophy [139270]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
Autograph Album.- Cinema & Theatre
Nov 09, 2:30 PM GMT
Autograph Album.- Cinema & Theatre
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £300- £400
£3000 Bids
Autograph Collection.- Theatre Interest
Nov 09, 2:30 PM GMT
Autograph Collection.- Theatre Interest
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £500- £700
£4400 Bids
Autograph Collection.- Theatre Programmes
Nov 09, 2:30 PM GMT
Autograph Collection.- Theatre Programmes
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £150- £200
£200 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Theater Memorabilia


Showplace

Showplace

Chaucer Covers & Auctions

Chaucer Covers & Auctions

Chiswick Auctions

Chiswick Auctions

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.