Print Collectors: An Interview with Jay Shaw

by Denis on February 27, 2011

Jay Shaw (Denver, USA)

In Jay’s words, “Took a nice flattering shot for the ladies.” Not only is Jay a master in the art of seduction, he is also very passionate about prints and, as you’ll see, quite generous with his answers. So here is the first in the series of interviews with print collectors.


von Scaramouche: Do you remember what visual art work first caught your attention / imagination and what was it about the work that captivated you?
Jay Shaw: Absolutely. So when I was around 6 or 7 years old my mom took me and my sister to Boston for vacation. While we were there we visited this great old used bookshop. My mom had a policy about books. We were always allowed to bring one home if we were ever in a shop and no books were inappropriate no matter how young we were. Naturally I would always seek out the most adult looking book on the shelf. On this trip I found a murder mystery of some sort about a cat. What drew me to the book was the cover. The clean simple illustration of a cat walking down a rainy London street was the most visually appealing thing I’d ever seen. I had my mom purchase the book for me and I stared at the cover every chance I got during the trip. Unfortunately I left the book at my Uncle John’s house in Boston and never saw it again. I still don’t remember what that book was called but from that point on I had new eyes.

vS: Have you studied visual arts in college / university?
JS: I studied Illustration at The Corcoran in Washington, DC many many moons ago.

vS: How and when did you become aware the world of limited edition prints? What drew you in?
JS: Well I used to collect theatrical movie posters. Actually “collect” might not be accurate. Horde is more like. I’m a nut for movies and I’ve always had an affection for some of the gorgeous posters that are released with films. About two and a half years ago I was over at a friend’s house and he showed me a poster on his computer he thought I’d like. He knew John Carpenter’s The Thing was one of my all time favorite movies and a little website called Mondotees just happened to be selling a screen printed “Thing” poster from an artist named Tyler Stout. I told him I liked it but it was a little “cartoony” for my tastes and way too expensive (I think it was $30 or something at the time). Later that night (yes, that poster was available for like an entire week back then) I went home and checked it out again and decided to go ahead and purchase it. Figured it’d be something I could hang in my kid’s room. When the poster arrived and I got a look at it up close I fell in love and so it began.


vS: To what extent will you research an artist and his works before making a purchase? Will the ‘buzz / hype’ related to a release influence your decision to buy a print?
JS: I try really hard not to get wrapped up in hype when it comes to posters. It makes people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Most of my favorite artists have little to no popular following but put out some of the hottest work on paper. Whenever I need to remind myself that hype is just, well, hype, I take a look at whatever mess Mister Brainwash last pooped out and thank Christmas I have more brains than money. That is, to say, I don’t have much money.

vS: In a situation where you are seeking a print that matters to you and the print is only available on the secondary market, tell us about what you will typically do to locate and get the print?
JS: A good portion of my “white whales” are extremely hard to find posters from years and years ago so just seeing one pop up for sale is a bit of an event in itself. I try to avoid online auction sites as much as possible and stick with poster communities like Expressobeans. You tend to get a more realistic idea of what you can expect to pay if you stick to poster specific venues. Also if you hook folks up with posters they want you find yourself on the receiving end of that kindness more often than not. Bronze rule and all that.

vS: When seeking to purchase a print on the secondary market, what are the most important criterias on your list in determining the value of the print? When you find a potential seller, will you generally engage in a price negotiation?
JS: I won’t haggle. I have an amount that I’m willing to give up for a print. If the seller likes that number, we’re in business, if not nobody’s lost anything and it’s on to the next score. “Value” is crazy in this game. I bought three Olly Moss Star Wars posters for fifty bucks each. That same set recently sold for $2000 on eBay. I never felt like I had two grand in Star Wars posters in my hand but apparently I did according to the “market”. Conversely I just grabbed a variant copy of Tyler Stout’s Pelican gig poster for face. I would’ve paid ten times that. It’s one of my favorite posters.

vS: Do you sometimes buy a print strictly on the basis that you believe this particular print is a worthy investment? Do you generally give some thought to resale value when you consider purchasing a print or it is not an important consideration?
JS: Never. Never never never. Prints go up in value a lot of the time but I make it a point to never take that into consideration when I’m buying something. It’s a slippery slope and a damn ugly ravine at the bottom of that descent.

vS: Will you first seek to trade prints when looking to acquire a print? Do you like trading as a means to acquire prints?
JS: Trades are always my favorite way of dealing for posters. With trades you don’t feel like you’re buying stock or some other dirty thing. The poster was worth forty bucks last week and four hundred this week? I know that’s the nature of the beast but it honestly feels a lot better to trade one piece of doodle paper for another. Feels more fair for some reason.

vS: As a means to build your collection, how important is it for you to build relationships with other collectors? What about galleries? Or a direct relationship with the artists? How do you generally go about building those relationships and what channels have proved to be rewarding for you in that respect?
JS: Building relationships is the foundation of any community and what we’ve got here certainly can be called that. We’re poster junkies and we’ve got a nice little village we’ve built for ourselves. The social aspect of this hobby is one of the most appealing to me. Expressobeans tends to be my main hangout but I’ve poked my head in to other poster forms. None quite feel like home the way dirty old EB does. I love those fools. As far as building relationships with artists I do that quite often but it has nothing to do with acquiring posters. I genuinely like a lot of the people that draw the posters I buy and it’s fun to get to know them. As much as you can get to know anyone who lives far away that is.

vS: In building your collection, approximately what percentage of your purchases are done on the secondary market vs primary market?
JS: I’d say it’s a pretty even split. When I started out I stayed far away from the secondary market as I knew I’d get taken if I opened up my wallet ignorantly. Now-a-days I’m pretty comfortable out there so I like finding bits and pieces people are willing to let go for a decent price.

vS: In the cases where there is a lot of anticipated demand for a print release, what is in your opinion the better way for the seller to proceed in selling his prints to the buyers? First come, first serve? Draws? Other?
JS: I like first come first served. It’s fair. I think Mondotees has got it pretty much down pat. Some would argue that but those are often folks with strange senses of entitlement that think they could run the world perfectly from their parent’s basement. Lotteries are ok but nowhere near as fun as F5-fests.

vS: When considering the purchase of a print, does the printing technique matter to you? If so, can you explain?
JS: Screenprints are by far my favorite technique. There’s an art to the printing process itself that’s just as important as what’s being printed. There’s also something incredibly sexy about conveying ideas through images but being limited by the amount of colors you can utilize. It’s problem solving in it’s purest form and each unique solution tends to make the art that much more appealing.

vS: Do you have tips to share for when one buys prints from someone he doesn’t know or has not been recommended to him/her?
JS: Just like when you have sex with strangers you gotta protect your jewels! Paypal’s a goofy assed company but when a kid in Tulsa decides to send you a photocopy of a Malleus Sonic Youth they will make sure you get your dollars back.

vS: Once you have determined to sell a specific print, please tell us what you typically do to try to sell it.
JS: I’m an idiot and tend to sell my prints for cost half the time so my recommendation would be to look at what I do and then do the opposite if you wanna be successful in this thing financially.

vS: Do you generally agree with the statement “if a print is not going to find itself on a wall, then it’s not worth keeping”?
JS: I would disagree with that notion. I’ve got a flat file full of posters that may never see a frame. I still like to know I have them though. It’s a junkie thing I suppose.


vS: Tell us about a few prints that you are proud to have in your collection?
JS: I mentioned earlier my Tyler Stout Pelican poster. I just feel like Tyler did a bunch of speed and stayed of for a couple of days on that one. It’s frantic and beautiful and inspired.

I’ve got this Rich Kelly Devo poster I can’t get enough of. It’s a monkey sitting on a box and it’s beautiful.

My favorite poster in my collection is Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Heads of State. It’s so simple but so damn creepy. The colors and composition are perfect and it makes me want to watch the movie every time I look at it.

vS: What print is currently at the top of your most wanted list? Why?
JS: Jay Ryan’s Fugazi 1998. I would do nasty things to own that poster. Fugazi is easily my favorite band and there’s something about that damn poster that works for me. It’s nearly incoherent (what the hell do little dogs have to do with Fugazi?) but that’s what I love about it. I’ve said I’ll trade almost anything I own for that one and sworn to quit collecting if I ever score the damn thing. I meant the first part of that sentence.

vS: Is there an artist(s) that is featured prominently in your collection?
JS: Right now I’ve got a veritable shrine to Rich Kelly going on inside my flat file. The dude has this unmistakable style to his illustration but somehow each print he puts out perfectly exemplifies the subject matter. How does someone do that? I have no idea but I’m gonna keep buying the dude’s art that’s for sure.


vS: What in your opinion would make collecting prints easier and / or even more enjoyable than it is now?
JS: Honestly I love this game just how it is. I love the old ways and I love the new ways. I love the easy drops and I love the impossible drops. No need for improvement, just steady movement.

vS: What art gallery do you most admire and tell us why?
JS: I think Gallery1988 is fun right now. They’re very goofy but they put on more shows than I can keep up with and they do so without an air of pretension. I’ve been to many galleries who seem to regard street art and poster art as some sort of juvenile past time for slackers but they jump at the opportunity to take our hard earned. I’ve heard this Von Scaramouche gallery is quite wonderful but I don’t make my way into occupied Canada as much as I’d like these days 😉

vS: What are the most valuable online / offline ressources that you use to keep up with art & print related news / happenings?
JS: Expressobeans and OMGposters every morning before coffee should keep you poor and happy.

Thank you Jay!


by Denis on February 27, 2011

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: