The story of the Milton Glaser psychedelic Bob Dylan poster

3 Aug

Milton Glaser’s psychedelic Bob Dylan poster from the Greatest Hits album

One of the most collectible Bob Dylan posters is the iconic psychedelic image designed by Milton Glaser. It shows a silhouette of Dylan with multicolored hair. The word ‘Elvis’ is also spelled out in Dylan’s hair. (Dylan was a big fan of Elvis as a child, and it’s possible that Milton Glaser was aware of this, or saw an artistic parallel between the two music stars).

These sell for between £50 and £200 depending on the condition of the poster, age and the place where it is sold. They also one of the most copied and reproduced of all Dylan images and posters.
Now, despite all of that… there’s very little information online about the history of the poster. Or it’s scattered around on different sites. In fact, there are a lot of conflicting dates and misinformation kicking around.
So here I’m gonna try and set out a few facts about the poster.
  • Milton Glaser’s poster first appeared to the public inside the sleeve of the Greatest Hits vinyl album in 1967 released by Columbia
  • The catalogue numbers for the original 1967 vinyl are KCS 9463 for the Stereo version, and KCL 2663 for the Mono version

Now, some history of the poster….

  • The poster was created by Push Pin Studios for Columbia in 1966 (hence why the poster is often given both 1966 and 1967 dates). Milton Glaser was designer and one of the founding members of Push Pin Studios
  • Milton Glaser had met Dylan briefly and only in passing in the early Greenwich Village days of New York
  • The poster was actually originally designed several years before in black and white for the cover of a Dylan book, but this image was rejected by Dylan.
  • The inspiration for the poster came from  1957 self-portrait by Marcel Duchamp
  • The poster was later commissioned by John Berg, art director at Columbia records and published as the poster to be included in Greatest Hits. With Berg being art director at Columbia he would have been in regular contact socially and professionally with designers in New York, and it’s likely that he was shown Glaser’s earlier poster, or already knew about it. When releasing Greatest Hits he decided to include this and contacted Milton Glaser
  • The new design that Milton Glaser came back with included a harmonica in rack but this was removed at the suggestion of the art director
  • Milton Glaser re-released the poster in 2008 and it’s available from their website for $100

Now, here’s where things get interesting, as this can make a big difference to the value and price of individual posters… 

The poster was included inside every release of the vinyl album right up until the 1980s. That means that if you bought the record in 1967 and again in 1980, there will have been an identical poster inside.

They look IDENTICAL and there are no date stamps, or other printing dates included on the poster. But there could be almost two decades in age between them.

An original 1967 Mono release of the Greatest Hits vinyl that first contained the Milton Glaser poster

So how to tell the difference between an original poster and one that came in a later release? And does it even make any difference?

Well, it’s not easy. And it’s made harder by people selling the posters who always claim it is an ‘original 1967 poster’ despite having no proof whatsoever.

Plus, telling the age of the poster from the condition of the paper is not easy either as some may have been kept in perfect mint condition, while others may have been  ripped, torn or faded over the years, giving a false appearance of age.

It may even be possible that Columbia did an ENORMOUS print run of posters, and kept them all in storage, and included them in future releases until the posters ran out – which would mean that all the posters were printed in 1967. Or they may have done several print runs. There has never been any clarification from Columbia on this issue.

So what so look for and how to find a genuine 1967 Bob Dylan Milton Glaser poster?

1. Condition – always start by narrowing down the search for a poster that is in as close to mint condition as possible

2. Buy one that comes with the original vinyl. As mentioned above, you’re looking for Columbia U.S. releases KCS 9463 or KCL 2663

3. It’s easy for someone to take a poster and match it up with an early vinyl… so look for copies of the 1967 vinyl that are still shrink wrapped. These are harder to find, but are worth more

4. Make sure the shrink wrap still has the sticker on the front that says ‘Giant Full-Colour Dylan Wall Poster Included’. The stereo releases have purple bumper stickers and the Mono releases have a black sticker.

Bonus points!

Also included in the album was an offer for new orders of the poster. These are larger versions that were made available after the 1969 in various LPs. These are much rarer to find. What’s more, these posters were mailed out rolled in tubes without being folded, so they did not have the creases like those that had been put inside the record sleeve. Very few people have these, and even fewer in mint condition. Why? When was the last time you ordered one of the posters from the ads inside a CD? Exactly. The number of people who took up the promotion (sales conversion rate if you were in music industry marketing) was probably around 1% – 2%. The number of those that kept the poster over the years is even less. More information about the poster offers is here.






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