Vintage Broadway Playbills - Buying Guide

Here’s another popular collectible item that surprises some people, collecting Vintage Broadway Playbills. What makes these pieces of paper extraordinary? Why do people collect playbills? What should you look for in a Broadway Playbill that might make it collectible? We’ll see if we can find some answers in this buyer’s guide.

Guide Continued Below…

First, let’s narrow things down and look at exactly what you might consider a Vintage Broadway Playbill. In collecting, the term vintage typically refers to an item that’s 20 or more years old but less than 100 years old. Broadway, of course, refers to the 39 large professional theatres in the New York City Theatre District. Playbill can actually refer to two different things that get used interchangeably to some degree. Commonly, the term refers to copies of the monthly Playbill Magazine that are handed out to theatre goers with an insert for a particular show with a generic wraparound section. However, sometimes it can be used to simply refer to a program for a show. When you’re considering a purchase it’s important to know which one you’re looking at.

Why do people collect Vintage Broadway Playbills or why might they make an interesting gift selection? First of all, many people love to New York City collectible items and only a few other things say “New York” like a Broadway Show Playbill. Others may like a particular play, for example, Hair or A Chorus Line and collect memorabilia for this play. Having a Broadway Program or an opening night Playbill magazine for it can be the capstone of a collection. Another reason, and how I found out a bit about these collectibles, is as restaurant decorations, particularly for a NYC style deli. One local deli owner I know puts framed Broadway Playbills and programs on his wall and sells them for a tidy profit.

What makes one Vintage Broadway Playbill a better collectible than others. Here are a few things to consider in your buying decision. Like any other collectible paper product, it comes down to condition, how much wear and tear and aging the Playbill has received. Things like water and food stains, excessive folding and wear from handling can greatly decrease the value of paper collectibles. For a gift or resell as an art item or even for a collection you can be proud of, you want very good to excellent condition. Another consideration is the age, the older the better, as you might expect. Also, there is the popularity of the play, the more popular the better, although some bombs have a following too. Opening night Playbills, which have a seal on the cover, are highly sought after by some. Lastly, cast autographed Playbills or programs can bring in even more but authenticating autographs is a whole topic in itself.

Speaking of authentication, it is always good to check the reputation of the seller of the Vintage Broadway Playbill. While fakes in this area aren’t too common you will find hucksters trying to sell replicas or just replica covers as the real deal. If you have any questions about the authenticity of a Playbill or trustworthiness of an online seller either ask them questions until you’re satisfied one way or the other or simply move on to another seller that you feel more comfortable in dealing with when it comes to buying Vintage Broadway Playbills.


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2008-08-10 21:00:24

Your local deli owner has a great idea there with selling vintage playbills framed right from his deli. Gets me thinking about setting up consignment sales of vintage playbills, since I don’t own a deli, at a local restaurant.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-13 07:35:00

Hi Discount Books,

Dressing up vintage collectibles and selling them on consignment can be a profitable side business.

Comment by JR
2008-08-12 00:53:42

I know two people who collect these, and they cherish them dearly.

Comment by Barbara
2009-09-30 19:14:49

Hello - please let me know if you are interested in Vintage Playbills, they are authentic, having been saved after this person saw the show.
Thank you.

2008-08-13 13:12:45

I think I will call my aunt who lives in New York and offer to put her collectibles up for sale on eBay. I am sure she has some Broadway playbills up in her attic. Thanks for the idea.

2008-09-07 07:58:40

Could you tell me a few of the features of framing Broadway Show Playbills? How does one frame Broadway Playbills for display over a counter? How do you address the problem of keeping Vintage Broadway Playbills near heat and greasy air at all times? I’ve had problems with Vintage Broadway Playbills deteriorating. I’m just trying to learn all I can about Vintage Broadway Playbills.

Comment by suzanne petruzel
2009-10-20 14:53:31

I am executor of an estate that has thousands of vintage Playbills from the 1950’s through the 1980’s . Would anyone in Phila/NYC area be interested in seeing and making bid. Not interested in high profit…just a good new home. Mint condition… Very few duplicates.

Comment by ed
2009-12-15 00:00:24

just came across playbills from circa 1948 ie annie get your gun, kiss me kate,carousel,south pacific several others..good celebrity cigarette ads etc any thoughts on value?

Comment by jfc
2009-12-15 20:02:22

Hi Ed,

The first place to check is, of course, eBay to see what the average price of items in similar condition and age are selling for. Make sure you search completed auctions as well.

After that, you might want to inquire with local auction companies to see if there’s a local or regional market for them.

In general, I’ve gotten the best prices by selling to eBay’s larger marketplace but it is a bigger pain. Some items I’ve made good money on by selling them at local antique auctions or in display cases at local antique malls.

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