Response to Phil Cushway
In July of 2001 Mr. Phil Cushway, owner of Artrock, made a number of complaints about this guide as part of a brief essay posted on eBay along with eBay item 1446507650, a copy of FD-66-RP-2. In order to do justice to Mr. Cushway's criticisms I will quote them in their entirety exactly as they appeared:
"In general I hesitate getting at all involved in the designation of what is, or is not a first printing. In many cases it is possible to distinguish with relative certainty, that there were two printings and what contra-distinguishes them apart. In many cases, however, this is not possible. The primary text used for this purpose, Eric King's "collector's guide" changes over the years with some posters that are "only printed once" in one edition, now has different printings; posters thought to be second printings are now considered to be the reverse; posters with several printings before are now considered to be part of a single-edition; newly discovered. The recent (within the last year) discovery of "small dots" or "small lines" is now thought to separate "printings". I try to rest my reasoning on the following premises: 1) That I was not present at the printer at the actual time of printing and therefore can never say for certain without a lot of proof that these were in fact multiple printings and how to tell the difference. 2) That professional printers who would do things in the most reasonable and simplistic manner primarily printed these posters. 3) That in general, what was the most likeliest, and simplistic explanation is what probably happened. 4) We should not try to read something too complicated into what is a very straightforward process."
Mr. Cushway has raised a number of issues which merit a careful, well-reasoned response. The most important point that should be made is that most of the criticisms Mr. Cushway makes relate to changes between my earliest guide to this material, the first edition, which I wrote in 1978 and 1979, and the expanded, illustrated third edition which I wrote in 1995. In the earliest edition I disregarded the subtle differences between many of the printings of Family Dog posters from FD-43 to FD-86. In 1978 I felt that since the Family Dog had chosen to designate each of these printings as "-1" even though some had been printed weeks and even months after the concerts, I should accept the decision of the copyright holder to make such a designation. It is important to note that at that time these specific Family Dog posters sold for a maximum of $5.00 each, and, like almost everyone else, I never anticipated that they would have the values they currently do.
The main reason that I wrote the original guide is that reprints of early Bill Graham posters were being sold by people claiming they were originals. Here there was a genuine difference in value. And original BG-8 might have been worth $20 while a reprint was worth only $3.00, and there was every reason to believe early originals would continue to increase in value if collectors felt confident about what they were buying. No such problem existed with Family Dog posters from No. 1 to No. 41 because these were almost all clearly marked. In 1978 although I was aware of the problem with the undesignated reprinting of Family Dog posters from No. 43 to No. 86, I chose to ignore it. I have apologized for this poor scholarship repeatedly, and I do so again here. My earlier guide was inadequate in this regard, and I have regularly given buyers of that guide a substantial discount on the purchase of the newer ones, but it is important to repeat that quite a few of these distinctions were not only very subtle and difficult to describe, they were also on items which had what was essentially the same value, $5.00 in mint condition. The notion of devoting an additional several hundred hours to the writing of the 1978 guide in order to distinguish this material under these circumstances seemed excessive to say the least. Almost all the changes Mr. Cushway refers to fall into this specific area where the 1978 guide listed Family Dog posters from No. 43 to No. 86 as printed once when in fact there were multiple printings which I listed correctly in 1995.
Today this material is tens and often hundreds of times more valuable, collected by multitudes all around the world, recognized by major art historians as the most important graphic art in the 20th Century and bought mainly as decor. It is hard for people to understand that in the late 1970s this material was collected only by a few dozen serious collectors and at most a few hundred casual ones almost all of whom lived in the San Francisco Bay area. These were collectors seeking complete sets to put into albums. They were interested in what mainstream Americans in general and the San Francisco art establishment in particular viewed as "the drug crazed ravings of filthy, sex obsessed hippies." (This is a direct quote made to me in the early 1970's by a high ranking official of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art whom I shall not embarrass by naming.) By 1990 it became clear that a new edition of the guide was necessary, one which reflected the fact that there were clear distinctions between the various printings of most of the Family Dog posters between No. 43 and No. 86 as well as several Bill Graham posters not noted in my earlier guide. Unfortunately I was unable to work on this revision until 1995. By this time the enormous jump in values necessitated a very precise, thorough and professional guide which I believe I have made available since 1996.
As for more specific criticisms I note the following: there are only two cases where posters designated originals and posters designated reprints have been reversed. One is the "Batman," BG-2, about which I have written a lengthy essay concerning what is almost certainly the worst scholarly mistake made not only by me but agreed upon by all the early collectors of this material. The other is FD-44 which was the result of an error by my typist which I failed to catch in the proofreading process to the expanded and illustrated 1996 edition which was the first edition entered into a computer. The failure to catch this reversal was entirely my fault, but it does not represent an error in scholarship. I knew all along which was the correct original. It was properly identified in my handwritten manuscript which I gave to my typist.
The case of the poster which previously had been listed with multiple printings which I changed to one printing in 2000 is FD-68. It seems unfair to me for Mr. Cushway to complain about this since he is the one who pointed out that the evidence of multiple printings was incorrect. He presented conclusive proof that the guide was incorrect, and I changed it to reflect the new data. I note that although there is not a lot of similar information which will alter the guide substantially that is likely to emerge following the decade from 1990 to 2000 during which a great deal of the research was done both by myself and by Jacaeber Kastor of Psychedelic Solution, this continues to be a fluid scholarship. Some new material or evidence is discovered almost monthly, and it would be irresponsible for me not to share this with those who use my guide. That is why I maintain my web site, so collectors can access the latest information as it becomes available. While it is not possible for me or anyone else to guarantee absolutely that this or that item will not change, the level of precision now has reached the point where it is extremely unlikely there will be many such changes. Perhaps the best demonstration of this is that there are only about half a dozen serious differences between my guide and Mr. Kastor's catalogue which is the result of research almost completely independent from my own. We share our results, but we work separately. If we have arrived at this many identical conclusions, it seems reasonable for the collecting public to rely on the notion that there are not many mistakes in our two works on this topic.
Another related topic which ought to be addressed is the claim by some parties that Mr. Kastor and I differ greatly on many items. This is just not so and is very possibly the work of people who wish to discredit both of us so they can sell reprints which they claim are originals. The main differences between Mr. Kastor's catalogue and my guide involve either style or areas of interest. The styles are very different because his is a catalogue of items or sale. He runs a business, and quite reasonably he wishes to sell his wares. Information he gives about printing variations is only one part of what he seeks to present to his customers. In my guide it is the main information that I wish to present to my readers. Carefully read these two documents rarely state anything mutually exclusive. As for different areas of interest, I seem to have a fascination with things like the fact that a number of early Bill Graham cards which were printed three cards vertically alongside one poster have differences among the three cards, top, middle and bottom (This is other than split fountain differences such as BG-53.). I have laboriously outlined these differences which really would have no utility in a catalogue of items for sale. Mr. Kastor chooses to lump them together. He is well aware of these differences, does not dispute them and even pointed one of them out to me. He seems to have an interest in subtle differences in paper stocks, especially in differences between stocks from the same printing which when viewed obliquely on the reverse under good lighting have either a random texture or a texture which he describes as "rows." My attitude is that since these are from the same printing, I would prefer to lump them together. I am fully aware of these distinctions and do not dispute their existence.
The last of Mr. Cushway's objections that I wish to address is based on his apparent belief that I use small dots or lines as proof of the existence of different printings because I use them as traits distinguishing printings. Actually in these cases I usually have already proved to my own satisfaction that there are different printings, and I am merely looking for the clearest and simplest distinctions between them which can be verbally described. These are often small dots or lines which appear on all copies of one printing and no copies of another. So that collectors can understand how this process works, the following is a description of the evidence on two different posters, BG- 205 and FD-49, and how they came to be described as having two printings when previously only one had been listed. I will also cite one case, FD-75, where as yet no such evidence exists but which I list as having two printings anyway, and I will say something about why I do so.
For a number of years beginning in the mid-1980s I had suspected there might be two printings of BG-205. The reason for this was that I had noticed there were two variants which were reliably separable by color. Although the differences were subtle, they were consistent, and I saw no transitional copies, copies partway between the two in color which would indicate one run during which the ink was changed, a common occurrence with early Bill Graham posters. Furthermore the cards seemed to match one variant of the poster, but the cards were not printed on the same sheets at this stage of psychedelic history. While interesting, this was not adequate evidence to warrant my changing the guide to indicate two printings, especially since it was not one of the six unmarked 1975 reprints and no copies of BG-205 bore the script "W" which at the time was thought to mark all post 1975 Bill Graham reprints (I note in passing that after BGP reprinted the six posters Nos. 170, 188, 210, 211, 214 and 216 in 1975, I wrote a letter to Bill Graham very politely suggesting his attorneys check California law regarding reprinting of posters. I mentioned that the law prohibited selling reprinted posters without designating them as reprints. I never received a response, but afterwards the reprints bore this script "W."). I simply waited to see if further evidence would appear.
In 2000 Michael Bradford, a part-time poster dealer in North Carolina who knew I was interested in this image e-mailed me that he had acquired a very interesting item, a proof sheet of two posters, a BG-205 with no script "W" and a BG-140 with a script "W." It was on glossy, coated stock similar to that used for Bill Graham originals from No. 150 to No. 286. This was clear evidence of a BG-205 reprint, and I asked him to send it to me so I could study it. When it arrived, I pulled out six copies of BG-205 I had saved, three from one group, three from the other. The proof sheet clearly matched one group, so that group was definitely the reprint, but although the colors of the two groups were different, the differences were very subtle, and it was not possible to describe these differences verbally. Furthermore since few collectors nowadays were likely to have copies of both variants, it would not have been possible (as it was in the 1970s when there were few collectors most of whom had most known variants) to say "hold your two copies side-by-side and look for the one with the darker magenta..." I had to find some mark that appeared on all of one edition and none of the other.
I noticed that on three copies there was a small black line on the right edge of the poster midway between the top and bottom. Having seen this sort of mark on posters on several previous occasions, I recognized this as a remnant of a printer's bull's-eye which had been placed too close to the image and could not have been completely removed in trimming without creating an unattractively narrow border (A printer's bull's-eye is a circle with two crosshairs through it, one vertical, one horizontal. Usually there are four on an uncut sheet, usually center top and bottom and center left and right sides. They are used to realign the press exactly between the different runs with the various plates so that colors are printed in exactly correct registration. These are usually trimmed off after the printing process is complete.).
I saw that the BG-205 on the reprint sheet was on the viewer's left so the right border of the BG-205 was in the middle of the sheet between the two images. That meant there could he no copies of the reprints with the black line in the right margin because there could not be a printer's bull's-eye at the center of the sheet. There would have been no room for it. It could only be there on the original, and it was extremely unlikely any originals existed which had been trimmed so far in as to eliminate this black line entirely because this would have created a drastically unbalanced poster.
I then changed the guide to include this new information. I note that the small line was not used as "proof" of two printings, only as the distinguishing characteristic, and that there was substantial and convincing evidence beyond the existence of the small line that there were two printings. I did not describe the evidence because if I attempted to give the reader all the evidence on every image, the guide with the four or five times its current size.
The case of FD-49 is similar but not identical. With Family Dog items the printing records for the numbers from 43 to 86 exist in the form of the carbon copies of the billing from California Litho Plate to the Family Dog. In general these do not show by number which items were reprinted. They simply read "reprints 5M," but there are enough such receipts from week to week that it is obvious almost all of these numbers were reprinted. Furthermore proof sheets of both originals and reprints exist in most cases. Original proof sheets are readily distinguished from reprints by the presence of cards. An employee of California Litho Plate has confirmed the long held belief that cards were never reprinted with Family Dog posters. As with BG- 205 it was clear that there were two groups of posters, one a range of darker blues which match the cards and one a lighter blue which did not. Again I set aside several copies from each group and awaited further evidence. It was suspected that the darker was the original and the lighter the reprint, but this was not certain.
Jacaeber Kastor then did the same thing, stored away a few copies of each, and one night when he had some time to spare he spread out on the floor a selection of both groups and spent several hours looking at them. Eventually he noticed that on all the light blue copies there was a small, faint horizontal line in the lower margin. This was clearly a mark which was on the printing plate, not a mark made, for example, by piece of dirt which had gotten on the plate during the printing process, had moved around and eventually had been removed by the printer during the course of the printing. While this did not seal the case, it certainly gave credence to the idea that two different plates printed these two groups of posters. Since it was extremely unlikely two plates were made to print the original and there were no light blue cards, he decided this meant there were two printings and listed them as such in his catalog. As a dealer he had access to a substantial number of additional copies which to check, and he also contacted other collectors and dealers to check their copies. All confirmed his thesis. I agreed with the results of his research and changed the guide accordingly. That would have been an adequate end of the story, but several months later two other things surfaced. One was the original artwork which did not have the small line, and the other was a printer's proof sheet of the reprint of FD-49 printed alongside FD-59. On this sheet FD-49 clearly had the small line. As an astute reader can see, the existence of this small line is far from the only proof that there are two printings. It is only one part of a carefully reasoned argument in favor of there being two printings. It is the only one mentioned in my guide and in Mr. Kastor's catalog because it is the easiest means of distinguishing between the two printings, not because it is the sole proof there are two printings which it obviously is not.
The case for two printings of FD-75 tends to rest on the evidence of other images as much is on evidence of FD-75 itself. Here there are two distinct groups separable by color. Unlike FD-49 where the two groups were not noticed until after the close of the Avalon Ballroom, the second variation was recognized when it appeared in posters shops while the concert series was still running. The lighter blue was very noticeable in contrast to the blue of the original. Therefore it was possible for me to inquire among the early collectors to see if anyone had seen a lighter copy
around the time of the FD-75 concert. No one had. Since there were no cards which matched the lighter blue version, it was, like FD-65, one of the images which very early on led to the suspicion that the Family Dog was reprinting posters which it did not designate as such (By the time I became aware of the California law on this topic, the Family Dog was long out of business.). Since I was not certain about the reprinting of postcards in 1978, in my 1979 guide I only mentioned that there were two variants, and although I had an opinion about which was the first, and that opinion was widely shared, I did not designate the darker blue as the original. By 1995 I knew enough about the printing history of other Family Dog posters from No. 43 to No. 86 to be able to say confidently that since there were very distinct color groups which did not overlap and that one and only one matched the cards, the one which matched the cards was an original and the one which did not was a reprint.
In the case of Family Dogs Nos. 70, 73, 76, 80 and 83 no separate groupings are now known to exist, and I tend to think that most of these will continue to be designated as printed only once, but future evidence is unpredictable. For the rest of the Family Dog items from No. 43 to No. 86, I believe that evidence exists for reprinting of each item except for No. 68 where both posters and postcards vary substantially indicating one printing with several ink changes and No. 55 where there are almost certainly two printings (A proof sheet of FD-55 and FD-57 exists.), but I am unable to separate them consistently to my own satisfaction. Mr. Kastor believes he can, and although I recommend that collectors who want to be certain of having an original buy one of each from him, I am strongly inclined to believe his designations are correct. We both have spent hours and hours looking for a consistent scratch or dot to separate them but thus far we have been unsuccessful.
I hope the preceding will convince the reader that the scholarship of my guide which Mr. Cushway has sought to call into question is, in fact, accurate and trustworthy.
Comments on FD-65:
In 2001 Mr. Phil Cushway, owner of Artrock, raised the issue of whether or not the distinction made in my guide between FD-65-OP-1 and FD-65-RP-65 was correct. His assertion that it might not be appeared in three sentences which were part of the description of Ebay item 1446507693, a copy of FD-65-RP-2. His words addressing this topic are as follows, " The white border is generally considered to be the first printing, while the yellow border is supposed to be the second printing. While this may be true, ( I was not there to be sure) I do have an uncut proofsheet of white cards and a yellow border poster. Thus, although this is considered to be a second printing poster, there is proof to the contrary with the proofsheet."
Beginning with FD-43 and extending to FD- 86 almost every Family Dog poster was reprinted at least once. The only exceptions appear to be FD-70, FD- 73, and FD-80. FD-82 was probably printed twice, but both printings predate in the show. It was generally Family Dog policy to reprint an item when stock ran low. The three which were not reprinted were among the slowest selling Family Dog posters from the era, and there was an ample supply of them in stock as demonstrated by the fact that there were substantial numbers of them in the inventory when it was inquired by Ben Friedman, owner of the Postermat, who bought the Family Dog poster and postcard inventory not long after the Family Dog went out of business.
During the time when these posters were being published, early collectors were not taking careful notice of the reprints of Family Dog posters between numbers 43 and 86. There was an awareness of earlier, pre-43 reprints because these were, for the most part, properly labeled, but in general the fact that the Family Dog chose to mislabel reprints "-1" seemed to preclude discussion in the '60s. Distinctions like the differences in color tone on many of the posters which are obvious to us now were initially ignored. The exception to this was FD-65. The white versus yellow distinction was so drastic it was impossible to ignore.
I generally have avoided citing my own experiences as sources of information, but in this case I will make an exception.
Mr. Cushway repeatedly has stated, "I wasn't there so I don't really know for sure." This once I choose to say, "I was there. I do know." By the time of the FD-65 concert I knew at least a dozen other collectors, most of whom I had met either from ads I had run in underground newspapers or from encounters on Telegraph Avenue while trading postcards carried in cigar boxes. There was quite a bit of comradery as well as trading, and we exchanged information freely. When the yellow bordered FD- 65 appeared, it was long after the show. I was very curious about it, and I remember asking everyone I knew who was collecting the posters if they had seen a yellow bordered one at the time of the show. They all said they had not seen it until it began being sold in poster shops months after the show. Everyone remarked that the only ones they had seen at the time of the concert were the white bordered ones, and only white bordered ones appeared in runs of originals collected from the people who had gotten their posters attending the concerts. It was the recognizably different yellow bordered FD- 65 that eventually led collectors to speculate that the Family Dog might be reprinting posters after number 43 without properly designating them as they had before number 43. In fact, this was what was happening.
This brings us to the prooofsheet mentioned by Mr. Cushway. I have seen this proofsheet, and there is no doubt it is as he describes it, six white bordered cards alongside a yellow bordered poster. Although it is well established that no yellow bordered posters were distributed before the show, merely relying on this avoids the issue of the existence of Mr. Cushway's proofsheet which almost certainly was printed prior to the show because it includes cards. As I have written in several places, cards apparently were not reprinted by the Family Dog, but the answer here is simple and is confirmed by a variety of other proofsheets, some of them owned by Mr. Cushway. The artists who created these posters liked to experiment, and they did so often. The artists themselves state this. Large numbers of one of a kind printings of these posters exist, experiments with colors which the artists decided they did not want to use or they were told they could not use because of some additional expense. Rick Griffin apparently liked the idea of this poster with the yellow background and border. One was printed before the show as an experiment, but it was not chosen as the final original format. Later when it came time reprint this poster, Rick's preference for a yellow border was accepted. This is the most logical explanation considering that no yellow bordered posters were distributed before the show and none appeared until months after the show. Rather simply put, if the Family Dog had printed substantial quantities of yellow bordered posters prior to the show, they would have distributed them. This is also suggested by the fact that Rick's posters were very popular and that all his other Family Dog numbered images were reprinted. This image was quite popular, and it was from the time when the posters before and after it were reprinted so it would be highly unlikely it was not reprinted. The above evidence points very strongly to two printings of FD-65, a white bordered original and a yellow bordered reprint.
One additional confirmation of this which testifies to the level of alertness of the late 1960s collectors is that when Family Dog Number 121 appeared in two substantially different color variants, both before the show, I remember that collectors were aware of both variants within a week or two after the concert. The same would have been the case if substantially different color variants of FD-65 had been distributed before the show. Everyone involved would have wanted copies of both versions in the same way they wanted both versions of FD-121.
Comments on FD-66:
In 2001 Phil Cushway, the owner of Artrock, wrote a one page essay claiming that the distinguishing feature used in my Guide to tell the difference between FD-66-OP-1 and FD-66-OP-2 was incorrect. He published this essay on Ebay along with the description of Ebay item No. 1446507650 which was a copy of Family Dog No. 66, the "Strongman." While Mr. Cushway expressed a number of general reservations about my Guide which are discussed in a new part of the introduction to my Guide (see table of contents: Response to Concerns Expressed by Phil Cushway), I will address here only the reasons why I believe he is incorrect in his contention that either there is only one printing of this poster or there is more than one printing but they are indistinguishable.
Since I seek to be fair in a scholarly refutation of Mr. Cushway's thesis, I will quote in full his paragraph from Ebay on FD-66. It appeared exactly as follows:
"I have a great deal of issue's of the now "current" (this year's) model. [The reference is to the latest edition of my Guide.] That in 1999 it was discovered that these were in fact 2 printings of this poster and that they can be distinguished by the presence of small, faint green lines that extend for the image to the top of the poster along the left hand side. While it may be true that there were 2 printings of this poster, (having not been there, I cannot say for certain anyway). This is simply not a satisfactory explanation of these lines or their origins or differences in a "printing". The more likely explanation is this - When these posters were being printed, sometimes the image would be "offset" and in fact, this is what probably happened here. The lines simply "ghosted" here; the printer, to fix this recurring and normal happening simply wipe down the plate so that, presto, the "ghosted" lines simply disappear. Furthermore, this argument is what happened when I examined a bunch of these posters from the same pack - low and behold, when found, the posters exhibited varying ghosting and posters with the absence of ghosting all within the same bundle. Because of these reasons, I am not going to separate these out. If you win the bid for one of these it might or might not have the "ghosted lines". If you insist that only the poster with out these offending lines is the first, don't bid on this one first, where you might or might not get it. Buy instead from someone else (who by the way most likely got it form me anyway). Phil"
Mr. Cushway's error in quoting my Guide and describing the signifier as "green lines" rather than red ones can be overlooked, but his failure to address the real difference between the two printings, the substantial differences in all the colors, indicates he has not seriously contested the validity of my assertion that there are two printings of FD-66. Since differences in color are not useful distinctions when a person using my Guide has only one item available, because verbal descriptions of such color distinctions are not possible, it is necessary to look for specific markings; plate scratches, ghosting etc. which appear on one printing and not another. These marks are not evidence of more than one printing, and Mr. Cushway's challenge to their use as signifiers is a challenge to a strawman, apparently successful but proving nothing. What makes it clear that there were two printings of this poster is that there are clear and distinct groupings of these posters which can be separated consistently and reliably by colors. Not only can they be separated by colors, there are no gradations of color running between the two as there are, for example, on FD-68 in which case it was necessary to designate all copies as originals. Further clarifying the distinction between the two printings is the fact that all known postcards including mailers sent out by the Family Dog before the FD-66 concert match one of the color groupings, and no known postcards match the other. Although it is very difficult to prove the negative "The Family Dog never reprinted postcards," the printing records which are widely distributed among the scholars of this material make no reference to the reprinting of postcards, and all known reprint plates are of posters printed two side-by-side without postcards.
Furthermore Mr. Cushway's assertion that he has packages of these posters which include copies with no ghosting next to ones with ghosting (with the faint red lines), does not prove his contention that my Guide is incorrect. His original source of supply was the vast inventory of Ben Friedman's Postermat. Friedman was notorious for mixing piles of posters. When he, Friedman, bought the Family Dog inventory in the late 1960s, this inventory included large numbers of both originals and reprints which were already intermingled. Friedman further added to this chaos by putting all posters of a given number on the same rack in his warehouse which I toured on a number of occasions as early as the early 1970s.
Put simply, there are no known copies of the darker red version of FD-66 which have the red lines. If there are versions of the lighter red without them, it will not make them originals or make the printings indistinguishable. It would just mean I will have to use a different signifier to tell the printings apart. Those who are unsure about the use of the red lines can always refer to color tones on copies of postcards, something I already suggested as a backup in the last edition of my Guide, or they can employ the small dot in the left margin two inches down from where the chair touches the left border, the signifier used by Jacaeber Kastor of Psychedelic Solution who agrees with me that there are two readily distinguishable printings of FD-66, one known to be an original, one known to be a reprint.
This all being the case, I believe I have demonstrated to the satisfaction of a reasonable person that there are two printings of FD-66, that the ones without the ghosting, the faint vertical red lines described in my Guide, are the originals and that the ones with the ghosting are the reprints.