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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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Rare Bruce Conner/Straight Theatre flyer 1967
Dec 01, 11:00 AM PST
Rare Bruce Conner/Straight Theatre flyer 1967
by PBA Galleries Auctions & Appraisers
Est: $200- $300
$1001 Bid
Two framed mid 20th century theatre posters for The Playhouse, Jersey
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
Two framed mid 20th century theatre posters for The Playhouse, Jersey
by Martel Maides
Est: £30- £40
£201 Bid
Posters - Theater & Dance
Nov 29, 12:00 PM EST
Posters - Theater & Dance
by Old Kinderhook Auction Company
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
Wettbewerbsprojekt für das Theater Maior Gheorghe Pastia in Focsani
Dec 02, 11:00 AM CET
Wettbewerbsprojekt für das Theater Maior Gheorghe Pastia in Focsani
by Grisebach
Est: €8,000- €12,000
€8,0000 Bids
Richard Todd, Margaret Lockwood, Anne Rogers and John Stone Signed Theatre Programme from New
Nov 30, 10:00 AM GMT
Richard Todd, Margaret Lockwood, Anne Rogers and John Stone Signed Theatre Programme from New
by Chaucer Auctions
Est: £10- £14
£100 Bids
OKLAHOMA THEATRE MUSIC PLAY
Nov 30, 6:00 PM EST
OKLAHOMA THEATRE MUSIC PLAY
by Auction by Daum
Est: $40- $50
$300 Bids
Anonimo
Nov 30, 10:00 AM CET
Anonimo
by Cambi Casa d'Aste
Est: €350- €450
€3500 Bids
A group of bouquet ribbons from around the world,
Dec 06, 9:30 AM GMT
A group of bouquet ribbons from around the world,
by Kerry Taylor Auctions
Est: £400- £600
£3200 Bids
"DOLL BAZAAR" RUSSIAN THEATRE POSTER
Jan 02, 11:00 AM EST
"DOLL BAZAAR" RUSSIAN THEATRE POSTER
by Austin York LLC
Est: $20- $40
$100 Bids
A framed Channel Islands theatre programme
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A framed Channel Islands theatre programme
by Martel Maides
Est: £40- £60
£300 Bids
A rare Victorian Channel Islands framed promotional theatre programme
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A rare Victorian Channel Islands framed promotional theatre programme
by Martel Maides
Est: £40- £60
£300 Bids
A framed Victorian promotional poster for the Theatre Royal Glasgow
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A framed Victorian promotional poster for the Theatre Royal Glasgow
by Martel Maides
Est: £30- £40
£200 Bids
A collection of framed mid-20th century theatre posters for the Opera House, Jersey
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A collection of framed mid-20th century theatre posters for the Opera House, Jersey
by Martel Maides
Est: £80- £100
£500 Bids
Channel Islands theatre interest - a framed promotional programme
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
Channel Islands theatre interest - a framed promotional programme
by Martel Maides
Est: £30- £40
£200 Bids
A framed Edwardian promotional programme for the Opera House Jersey
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A framed Edwardian promotional programme for the Opera House Jersey
by Martel Maides
Est: £40- £60
£300 Bids
Channel Islands theatre interest - a framed promotional programme
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
Channel Islands theatre interest - a framed promotional programme
by Martel Maides
Est: £30- £40
£200 Bids
A New Beginning for Irish Theatre Abbey Theatre  Printed Invitation Card from A.E.F. Horniman,
Dec 07, 10:15 AM GMT
A New Beginning for Irish Theatre Abbey Theatre  Printed Invitation Card from A.E.F. Horniman,
by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers
Est: €300- €500
€3000 Bids
Rare Hugh Lane Association Item Abbey Theatre A printed Linen Handkerchief, Sold by the Irish
Dec 07, 10:15 AM GMT
Rare Hugh Lane Association Item Abbey Theatre A printed Linen Handkerchief, Sold by the Irish
by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
200 Theaterprogramme, Zeitungen, Fotos - 200 theatre programs and newspapers
Dec 03, 9:30 AM CET
200 Theaterprogramme, Zeitungen, Fotos - 200 theatre programs and newspapers
by Berliner Auktionshaus GmbH & Co. KG
Est: €0- €0
€800 Bids
Les Miserable Original Broadway Cast Signed Theater Poster, N.Y.
Dec 12, 7:00 PM EST
Les Miserable Original Broadway Cast Signed Theater Poster, N.Y.
by Kensington Estate Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$900 Bids
UNUSUAL 'LEOPARD' VISOR
Dec 04, 10:00 AM PST
UNUSUAL 'LEOPARD' VISOR
by Scollard Auctions
Est: $150- $200
$700 Bids
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Vintage Brass Comedy Tragedy Wall Masks
Dec 11, 11:00 AM EST
Vintage Brass Comedy Tragedy Wall Masks
by Gallery 63
Est: $50- $150
$250 Bids
Les Miserables Signed Broadway Poster
Dec 03, 10:00 AM EST
Les Miserables Signed Broadway Poster
by Roland Auctions NY
Est: $50- $75
$200 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Theater Memorabilia


Martel Maides

Martel Maides

Kerry Taylor Auctions

Kerry Taylor Auctions

Plain City Auction

Plain City Auction

Bodnar's Auction Sales

Bodnar's Auction Sales