WHAT WAS THE FIRST ALL-ELVIS POSTER? I don’t mean posters, flyers, or handbills for his concerts but an actual poster of Elvis. Since the posters-on-everyone’s-wall phenomenon was years in the future, the most obvious place to look would be for posters made by his record company to promote his records in stores around the country.
I am not aware of there being a Sun Records poster for their Presley platters. Just as Sam Phillips was unable or unwilling to spend money to issue the Elvis 45s in eye-catching picture sleeves, it is doubtful that he would have covered the cost of manufacturing and shipping hundreds of posters to record stores in the South. (But you never know.)
This poster is a rare example of RCA Victor using Red Robertson’s iconic photo beyond the covers of the first Presley albums.
The earliest poster that I could find was one that used the same iconic photo of the young singer that Red Roberston took in 1955 that RCA Victor would use on the equally iconic cover of the first Presley albums in March 1956 (LPM-1254, EPB-1254, and EPA-747). The photo on this poster is not as heavily cropped as it was on those album covers.
The poster features a minimal amount of text: “ELVIS PRESLEY exclusively on RCA Victor Records” was printed in the lower right quarter of the poster. That’s it!
An all-Elvis poster
This poster was printed on strong paper rather than cardboard so it could be folded and sent through the US Mail. When opened, it measures 22 x 17 inches (56 x 43 centimeters). Here is how Graceland Auctions described it:
“One of the earliest issued by RCA of Elvis in 1956, this poster has the seminal image of Elvis that appears on his first RCA LP entitled simply Elvis Presley. The image was taken during Elvis’ performance on July 31, 1955, at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida.
The Colonel used this image on a multitude of promotional communications early in Elvis’ career, but this poster remains a rare example of its use by RCA beyond the album cover.
Regardless, this quintessential image of Elvis playing his new Martin D‑28 and belting a tune with mouth wide open is one of the most iconic images of a young Elvis early in his career and at the beginning of his rise to fame.”
I could not provide a link to the page with this text as it appears to have been deleted from the Graceland site.
The Avid Record Collector’s price guide
The only known copies of this poster to change hands publicly in recent memory were at auctions on the Heritage Auctions and Auctions at Graceland websites. On August 10, 2013, Heritage offered a framed copy graded in merely “good condition” and noted that the poster had “multiple fold lines (some of which have been color touched) and light stains.”
Nonetheless, it sold for $1,156.25
On October 29, 2016, Graceland offered a copy graded “Very Good condition overall” with the following caveats: “The poster’s white border area has several distresses including a tear in the center top, several tape-stained spots, and scuffs. All of these defects could be matted out with proper framing, leaving the center artwork visible, with its relatively unscathed condition.”
Despite the damage, it sold for $2,375.
Assigning a value to a near-mint copy of this poster—even guesstimating a value—is almost impossible. When items this rare become available, their condition is almost irrelevant.
Should someone find one of these posters that has been sitting untouched for the past seven decades, I would not be at all surprised to see several bids of five figures for it.The earliest all-Elvis poster that I could find was one that used the same iconic photo that RCA Victor used on the iconic cover of the first Presley albums in March 1956. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page and directly above this paragraph is a digitally restored version of the copy of this poster sold by Heritage Auctions in 2016. I cleaned it up and lightened it using the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP).
The photo of the young Elvis strumming his Martin D‑28 in Tampa in 1955 was long believed to have been the work of William “Popsie” Randolph. The majority of Elvis fans now believe that it was taken by William V. “Red” Robertson. Apparently, Robertson had been hired by Colonel Parker to take the photo, so it was Parker that had control of it.
WhParker used the photo for various commercial and promotional purposes throughout 1956. But its most important use was by RCA Victor on the first three Elvis albums released in March 1956: the long-playing album LPM-1254 and two extended-play albums, EPB-1254 and EPA-747, each titled ELVIS PRESLEY.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)