I love old things. Looking back, it seems like I always have. My mother loved antiques, and spent a good part of her life buying and selling them for a living; she was a picker, in her words, and didn’t discriminate. She knew you were just as likely to discover that precious item at a yard sale or church flea market as you were at an uptown estate sale. She had an unerring eye, and over the years she gave me the most beautiful items that I own.

But the most important thing my mother left me with was a simple recognition: the old things are the best things.

For a long while, mom worked at the RC Gorman Gallery on Front Street in Lahaina, Maui. As it happens, just a few steps down the block and a couple of decades later, Andy England also learned his trade as a gallerist, selling vintage European posters to the tourist crowds. In 2016, England opened his first shop, Real Old Paper Gallery, in San Francisco.

Now, regular readers of the blog already know I’ve been writing about Real Old Paper since they first opened their doors. It was more or less predestined: the gallery’s original location was less than a block from my apartment in North Beach, and my affinity for antiques (including vintage posters) all but guaranteed Andy and I would connect.

ROPG relocated in Fisherman’s Wharf last year, to a postcard-perfect location overlooking Aquatic Park. And since then, my involvement with Andy and Real Old Paper has only picked up. It’s kind of a long story, but these days I’m managing the gallery; Andy’s a good friend, so suffice to say learning the other side of the business has been a blast. It has also spawned what will now be a quarterly feature on the blog: Joe’s Pics @ Real Old Paper.

So let’s get started, shall we?


Radio Point Bleu
46″ x 30″
Condition: Very fine
Like many of the most enduring examples of poster art, this vivid piece is simple and evocative. The bright colors work perfectly together, and the incorporation of the G-clef as the young woman’s headphones is an inspired choice.
vintage posters in San Francisco

With its color, simple composition and high energy, this poster scores on all levels. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Le Revel Quinquina
Circa 1900
36″ x 36″
Condition: Very Fine
With its unique diamond orientation, this is one of the most distinctive pieces in the gallery right now. It’s also in an elegant gold frame, so it’s definitely headed for the wall of a discerning local. The poster advertises a French wine made with truffles and chinchona, a Peruvian bark that contains quinine. Sounds delicious (ahem).

real old paper vintage posters

A fine example of the belle epoque, this would make a unique centerpiece on anyone’s wall. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Pan Am Latin America
Circa 1975
42″x 28″
Condition: Very Fine

New in the gallery, this classic travel poster has a warmth and depth of color that seems to suit the destination precisely. Part of the Pan Am’s World series.

The Real Old Paper collection currently has dozens of classic travel posters like this one. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Soviet-Era Silent Film (Title Unknown)
42″ x 28″
Condition: Fine
This silent film from the early years of the Soviet Union is a bit of a mystery. It may or may not have been a propaganda film, but one thing is for sure, it’s nowhere to be found online. (Bonus: if you can identify the film and provide documentation, you’ll receive a special Detective Discount ).
vintage film poster San Francisco

Now on display at Real Old Paper Gallery, this Soviet-era silent film poster is as striking as it is mysterious. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

LAI (Italian Air Lines) “Takeoff”
27.5″ x 19.5″
Condition: Very Fine

Easily one of my favorite posters, this piece is notable for its subtle use of color and unique composition, which foregrounds the aircraft in a way rarely seen in travel posters. The way the artist conveys the sense of rising above the horizon line at takeoff is no less than masterful.

One of the finest travel posters in the gallery, this piece promotes Italian Air Lines (LAI), now defunct. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

I Want You For The Navy
32.5″ x 22.5″
Condition: Fine

This saucy take on the “I Want You” recruitment series hung all over the country fully one hundred and five years ago. You’ll notice that this version is stamped with the Market Street address of the local recruiting office–a building that once stood less than two miles from where Real Old Paper Gallery operates today.

This piece was created by Howard Chandler Christy, one of the most prolific propaganda artists of WWI. | Photo: Joe Bonadio


Real Old Paper Gallery
777 Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 527-8333