what was the first all-elvis poster?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 minutes.

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!

 

All-Elvis poster: damaged copy of the RCA Victor poster of Elvis Presley from early 1956.
This is the dam­aged copy of the RCA Victor poster of Elvis Presley from early 1956 sold by Her­itage Auc­tions in 2016.

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.

 

All-Elvis poster: framed copy of the RCA Victor poster of Elvis Presley from early 1956.
This is the framed copy of the RCA Victor poster of Elvis Presley from early 1956 sold by Her­itage Auc­tions in 2013.

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.

Guesstimation

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

All-Elvis poster: digitally restored image of the RCA Victor poster of Elvis Presley from early 1956.

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).

Elvis GoldSuit 1959Postscriptually

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.

 


 

Leave a Comment