What is a handbill? Is it a poster or is it a flyer? The distinction is blurry. Handbills are smaller than a poster, but some are the same size as a small poster. See? This is where the confusion on their definition comes in, but most collectors will tell you that it is just semantics.
Handbills gained their name because they were designed to be "handed out" on the street by those promoting a show. Either that or left on the counter of box offices, coffee shops, record stores, or anywhere that promoters thought that music fans would be. Conversely, posters were meant to be “posted” to advertise an upcoming show.
However, posters can be handed out and handbills can be posted of course. Either way, vintage posters and handbills have both become increasingly popular to collect.
Handbills take us on a trip back in time and serve as mini time capsules. We have become increasingly interested in handbills through our journey as collectors and now as memorabilia dealers. We have found handbills from the 1960’s and 70’s to be of the most interest mainly because of the artistry of their designs and the musicians featured. They are also the most valuable to collectors, of course. Fillmore West/East and Avalon handbills harken back to the age of psychedelic rock and feature acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and also other artists that most don’t associate with the era, such as Bo Diddly and Booker T and the MGs, who were on many concert bills of the era.
The use of color in the handbills of the 1960’s and 70’s immediately tells you the decade they were produced in. A generous use of bright color takes your mind to tie dye and the bubble font also signals a trip back to the Age of Aquarius. These distinct qualities are what make the handbills of the 1960’s and 70’s so desirable to collect.
Handbills are not just pieces of paper, but tiny bits of history that you can hold in your hand. We often wonder who may have held a handbill we have found and gone to see iconic artists onstage at the Fillmore or Avalon. Today, handbills are still in use, but not to the extent they were used during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Social media is the new handbill. We don’t know about you, but we like ink on paper better. Framed tweets just don’t look all that good hanging on your wall!
Check out our current selection of handbills and posters here. We carry both vintage originals and also reprints, for slimmer budgets.