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Unlocking the Treasures of Wolfgang’s Vault

Friday Mar 15, 2013

Looking for a unique piece of collectible artwork to spice up that boring white wall? Forget IKEA or the starving artist sale at your local Holiday Inn and stop pestering your local movie theatre for a crumpled "Les Misérables" poster. Instead, consider Wolfgang's Vault.

Wolfgang's Vault is the world's largest store for vintage and new music merchandise and memorabilia. The WV Store started with The Bill Graham/Fillmore collection and grew through acquisition to include more than 25,000,000 items, all of which have been preserved, databased and stored at WV's headquarters.

Originally born Wolfgang Grajonca in Berlin in 1931, Graham escaped Nazi Germany and was raised in a foster home in the Bronx, where he changed his name at the age of 18. With a love for music, he shaped what we now know as the modern rock concert - bringing artist and audience together at a small venue in San Francisco that he aptly named Wolfgang's.

Graham commissioned original works of art to promote his shows and his entrepreneurial spirit led him to overprint and preserve the various artwork and photography. For more than 30 years, his company accumulated and stored this material in newly minted condition. Until Wolfgang's Vault, if you were lucky enough to discover a Bill Graham Presents poster, it was most likely in poor condition because it was torn from walls or telephone poles as a concert souvenir.

The vast majority of material in Wolfgang's Vault comes from the exquisitely preserved, original archives of Bill Graham Presents. Beginning with the seminal concerts of the mid 1960s and continuing through today, the music historians and pop culturists have assembled a superb collection that is cared for in state-of-the-art facilities.

Higher priced collectibles, such as first edition Fillmore posters, and lower priced original poster reprints are featured in the WV store, totaling more than 14,200 performers and bands from the past 50 years.

Bill Sagan, CEO of Wolfgang's Vault, offers EDGE readers insight into the collection:

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EDGE: Have you noticed any trends or renewed interest from collectors in regard to any particular artists?

Sagan:There are always the classics that collectors are interested in - Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead etc. Unfortunately, the trends or renewed interests we see sometimes happen after a musician’s passing.

In the recent years, artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Levon Helm (of The Band) have become more collectible than they once were. And as we see more of Generation X starting to collect, we should see a new trend towards artists they grew up listening to.

EDGE: Do you find that most people purchase to actually display items in their home?

Sagan: The majority of our customers are buying pieces to display on the walls of their home. In a world that now consumes most of our music digitally, tangible memorabilia has become increasingly important.

Items like posters, photographs, and even vinyl, allow people to display their inner values. The merchandise is not only conversation starters, but external manifestations of the music lover.

EDGE: Are there any signature, one-of-a-kind pieces that feature some of our favorite gay icons?

Sagan: A lot of the items found at Wolfgang’s Vault are one-of-a-kind; but some of my favorites are photographs of Elton John and Freddie Mercury from the early 1970s that you can’t find anywhere else - Wolfgang’s Vault is the only place these photos are available because we purchased the photographer, Joe Sia’s, estate.

In addition, we have posters of a very young Whitney Houston, books on Tracy Chapman’s Amnesty International appearance, and even a great Liberace poster.

EDGE: As far as vintage concert posters - are there any poster artists that really made their mark on a particular era or for a particular artist?

Sagan: There are number of poster artists which have had major influences on concert poster design over the years. Wes Wilson was the first on the scene in 1966, creating psychedelic designs with his fluid lettering for the Fillmore Auditorium.

One of the first woman poster artists, Bonnie MacLean, started out designing the upcoming attractions chalkboard inside the Fillmore. Her posters have a certain elegance to them that stand the test of time, making them highly collectible.

Rick Griffin changed the poster scene in 1967 with his intricate lettering and eye-popping designs. His iconic poster designs for the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, were so well received, they ended up gracing album covers and promotional material. Many newer artists have received acclaim in the art world, but little have had the impact these early pioneers had on the art of the concert poster.

Interested in a collectible of your own?


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