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What Are Travel Posters?

One of the great things about living in Hawaii is the accessibility to great scenery, landmarks, and points of interest. When I opened our KoaWood Ranch gift store I knew I wanted to provide the tourist with a visual memento of these great sites. Hawaii's travel posters were the obvious choice. But what are travel posters?

Travel posters were originally made for advertising purposes. They were used by hotels, airlines, and the tourism industry as a means to represent themselves to the public during the time when travel was booming.

Travel posters have since evolved and have become collectibles, souvenirs, and vacation remembrances.

In the process of researching for this article, I was surprised to learn that travel poster collecting is one of the most popular areas of poster collecting. The world of travel posters is full of history and cultural relevance. Travel posters are considered works of art.

Where did it all start?

Vintage Hawaii Posters

Between 1900 to about the 1950s, television didn’t exist. Posters served as a primary way of advertising. Magnificent colors and beautiful artistry brought to life the joy and feel of travel.

Posters that featured technologic marvels of the early 20th century, like railways, airlines, and boats, were capable of capturing a sense of adventure and exploration. They inspired luxury travel and a feeling of freedom that would entice people to book trips.

How did travel poster collecting begin?

Art collectors often collected for the artist, so when famous artists began working on travel posters, collectors included these works in their assemble. That, added with beautiful graphics, charming scenery, and exotic locations that would come to symbolize an important travel experience in someone’s life (e.g. vacation, honeymoon, etc.), inspired many people to acquire, collect, and deem these posters as works of art.

What are the types of posters?

Generally speaking, there are 3 types of travel posters, original vintage posters, reproductions, and contemporary production pieces.

Original vintage travel posters are exactly what the title implies, these are the actual works from the early days of travel poster making. Needless to say, these are some of the most expensive works for many reasons. They are delicate and originally intended to be ephemeral collateral, therefore they are rare and highly collectible. Prices range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to many thousands.

Unlike an original vintage travel poster, which is typically a lithograph, reproduction is usually a photocopy of the original poster. Many older poster designs are now in the public domain, hence there is a market for those seeking illustrations of the early day of travel posters. However, there is little to no collector value in reproductions. That said, they are an alternative to paying a lot of money to decorate your walls with original artwork.

Contemporary artist travel posters are typically original works of art by local artists.Kailua Kona Poster The printing technique can vary from lithograph and offset lithography to giclee and digital printing. Although the printing technique varies, what’s most interesting and compelling is the emotional relevance these travel posters hold. Depending on demand, artist, and the potential of limited distribution (e.g. limited edition), they do hold the possibility of an increased price. But people mostly collect these because of their nostalgic value. The picture on the right is a 12 x 18 travel poster image of the quaint town of Kailua-Kona in Hawaii.

When I designed our Hawaii travel posters for KoaWood Ranch, I was most interested in capturing island sites that I knew would have sentimental value with visitors and Hawaii aficionados. They make great souvenirs and gifts. The ones I designed for the KoaWood Ranch store happened to be some of my favorite places in Hawaii, including Kailua-Kona, the Volcano, and the town of Hilo.

What is the most common travel poster size?

Original travel posters are typically in the range of 25 to 28 inches wide and 35 to 40 inches high, with some exceptions. This is on the large size and makes sense for what they were originally intended for; advertisements in public places like kiosks and railways.

Reproductions range in sizes and are made to suit personal preferences.

Contemporary travel posters also have a range of sizes but I typically find that they are on the smaller side, like 11” x 17” or 12” x 18”. Personally, I find that the smaller sizes are more suitable for where and how they will be used. Our Hawaii travel posters typically end up in homes and offices, and people often buy more than one to create a series. These smaller sizes allow for a small collection to be displayed on a wall without crowding out space even when the posters have been framed. How to frame a poster?

Travel Posters Today

Hawaii Poster

Travel posters have evolved over the years. They are rarely printed for advertising purposes and now exist primarily for collecting and aspirational purposes. They serve to decorate walls. Unlike other categories of poster collecting, travel posters inspire desires for adventure and travel. This is perhaps why travel posters are one of the more popular areas of poster collecting.

Not having any knowledge of what travel posters were or conscious awareness of their significance at the time, I remember buying my first travel poster in Spain. It was of a famous bullfighter. I bought the poster not because of the bullfighter but as a symbol of my experience in Spain and the emotions of being at the bullfight. It was my first international traveling experience.

With the intent of re-creating the opportunity to capture Hawaii island experiences, KoaWood Ranch posters aim to invoke the memories, and emotions that the Hawaii island culture inspires.

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