1929 Charles Mather Work Incentive Posters

Value (2008) | $13,000 Auction$19,500 Auction

GUEST:
I traveled to an auction, and, uh, they were rolled up underneath the table. I think there were 12 or 13 of them altogether. And I purchased all as a group about two years or so ago.

APPRAISER:
Do you know what they are?

GUEST:
Well, I did a little research on them, and I guess they hung them in factories, kind of like motivational posters, back in the '20s.

APPRAISER:
That's exactly right. They were printed by a company called Charles Mather, based out of Chicago, and from 1923 to 1929, Charles Mather created over 300 of these images. He call them work incentive posters. And exactly right. They were meant to hang in factories. They were meant to hang in banks. They were meant to hang in offices. And the idea was to encourage workers to work better. It was an incredible combination of words and images.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
The images are very bold.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
In some cases, by the way, the words don't make as much sense as we'd like.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
But Mather used a lot of different subjects to impart these work incentive messages. He used animals, and right next to you, we see the great tiger. And what's so amazing about that is the sort of fuchsia background. The tiger really jumps out of the image because of the strong colors. He also used sporting images, so we also have these sailboats. "The Perfect Finish. "No jobs done till it's ALL done. Only full days make full records." So the sporting images were also very popular. "There's A Better Way." These messages work fabulously well in almost any setting. And that's why they're so popular with collectors today.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Because people still buy them for their offices. People still buy them for their homes. The poster behind me... If you've ever watched the show Curb Your Enthusiasm...

GUEST:
Don't think I've seen that.

APPRAISER:
This poster hangs on the wall in Larry David's office. Now, Larry David is a comedian, so it makes sense that he would have a poster of a clown.

GUEST:
Sure.

APPRAISER:
When you bought these at auction, how much did you pay for them?

GUEST:
I paid somewhere around $1,700 to $2,000 for them.

APPRAISER:
Starting with the tiger-- the auction estimate would be $4,000 to $6,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Carrying on to the sailboats. A similar auction estimate-- $4,000 to $6,000. The clown-- $2,000 to $3,000. The porcupine-- also, just a great sentiment: "Don't touch me! Bristle at helpful suggestions and you'll get few to bristle about. Advice advances you." $2,000 to $3,000. And "There's A Better Way," at auction-- between $1,000 and $1,500.

GUEST:
That's, uh, way, way, way more than I expected. I got some of them restored. Should I get them all restored, or should I leave them as is? I mean, what do people like...

APPRAISER:
They're much more presentable and they're much more saleable if they're restored. So if it costs you a few hundred dollars to do that, it's money well spent, because you'll see it on the other end when you try and sell them.

GUEST:
Right. Okay. Great.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Swann Auction Galleries
New York, New York
Appraised value (2008)
$13,000 Auction$19,500 Auction
Event
Grand Rapids, MI (August 09, 2008)
Period
20th Century
Form
Poster
Material
Paper

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