Will Seippel | May 11, 2023

We’re familiar with how propaganda typically comes in the 21st century: as commercials, news articles, and social media. However, in the 20th century, politicians, the armed forces, and other groups often persuaded people with eye-catching posters. Because they were publicly displayed, propaganda posters easily reached large audiences to influence their thoughts and actions. These posters often featured more illustrations than text to evoke strong emotional responses, such as compassion or guilt.

The American propaganda posters in my collection clearly show the power of this type of wartime messaging.

Common Types of Propaganda

Although it is polite to avoid taking sides in a political discussion, propaganda is more direct in convincing someone of a particular opinion or action. Propaganda authors must succinctly convey a message and even persuade those who disagree with it. If successful, the propaganda promotes thinking while assuring the presented stance has no alternatives.

Propaganda was particularly effective during wartime in the United States. The examples in this video show that the American government sought to sway public opinion by emphasizing community and citizen involvement. Many of the boldest and most vibrant propaganda posters were produced during World War I and II.

US Army Air Forces propaganda poster
This slogan emphasizes patriotism and encourages young American men to do their part and volunteer in the US Army Air Forces.
Image Source: WorthPoint

Examples expressing heroism, like the one above, are common. However, not all posters used positive sentiments in their calls to action. Other tactics were garnering pity or empathy to prompt volunteering or contributing from home. For example, posters could tug on heartstrings by depicting family or people needing help. Word choice, imagery, typography, and color were vital in getting the intended reaction from the viewer.

What Are Propaganda Posters Worth?

Propaganda is a driving force that galvanizes people toward achieving a common goal. Collecting posters like these honors the past and memorializes the historic American propaganda industry.

Using the WorthPoint® Price Guide, we see propaganda posters selling anywhere from $1 to more than $18,000, depending on their quality and rarity. However, collectors can often have posters inexpensively repaired if needed. The militaria posters from World Wars featuring impressive illustrations and colors are often worth more. For example, this example with art by illustrator August William Hutaf sold for $6,700 on eBay.

Are you interested in learning more about what propaganda posters are worth? Be sure to check out Part 2 of my discussion on propaganda posters.

Want to see more exciting finds? Then, subscribe to my YouTube channel to receive updates on upcoming videos.

Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. An Inc. 500 Company, WorthPoint is used by individuals and organizations seeking credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.