When Arnold Skolnick designed the original poster promoting the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, he probably didn’t realize the popularity it would have decades later. As of 2010, an original Woodstock poster was worth $500 or more, depending on its condition. Not many examples exist today because the posters served as advertising for the festival and were often lost or destroyed. An authentic Woodstock poster is a specific size and may have some condition issues relating to how it was hung or stored.
Measure the size of the poster and compare that to the specifics of the original. The original Woodstock poster measured 24-by-36.75-inches, though it may be slightly smaller if a previous owner trimmed the edges for showcasing it in a poster frame. Reproductions are usually much smaller, with 18-by-24-inches a popular size.
Look for a signature or number on the back or bottom edge of the poster. Artist Arnold Skolnick signed and numbered the posters he sold from his personal collection, and those sold at auction usually have this mark as well. He may have signed the poster without numbering it, upon the request of the owner.
Examine the coloring of the poster. The poster itself has a red background, with a blue and green guitar on the front. As the posters were originally displayed in the sunlight, even the best surviving examples have a slightly muted coloring, as the sun washed out the poster. Modern-day replicas are much brighter in color.
Feel the poster with your hands, if you have personal access to it. An original poster from the 1960s has a slightly gritty feel to the surface of the paper, caused by damage from time, age and the elements. Reproduction posters feel brand-new and usually have a slick feeling or coating on the surface.
Check the poster for any signs that it was displayed in either a home, commercial business or even placed outside to promote the festival. The poster may have small holes on the top from staples, nails or pushpins holding it in place or it may have creasing from being folded before stored. Modern-day reproductions are free from damage.
Take into account the reputation of the seller. If you’re buying from a website that specializes in reproductions or general posters, then it’s probably a replica. If you’re buying from a well-known auction house, then it probably had an expert authenticate the poster before offering it for sale.
Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
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