You know those yellow-topped, purse-sized magazines you get when you see a play or a musical that give you some insight into who the cast and creatives are? Those are Playbills. In my experience, there are two kinds of theatergoers when it comes to Playbills: those who read the Playbills just as something to do before the show, then just leave them on the floor when they leave, and those who are the exact opposite and cherish every Playbill they own, even going as far to a bit after the show to pick up dropped ones. The latter kind of person is most likely a Playbill collector. Today, we’re going to dive deep into the intricate art of Playbill collecting, trading, and selling – and why people are so addicted to it.
Something about the idea of having a free keepsake from a 2 hour theatre piece is what draws people in to Playbill collecting. Like most collections, it starts small, with just one Playbill. In my personal experience, I just saved every Playbill from the few shows I had seen from the start. Then the rest of my family who had brought their Playbills home pawned them off on me, and from there I made a choice to work on growing my collection. So, if you want to start a Playbill collection just by seeing shows, give it time! Remember that even the largest collections started somewhere.
If waiting isn’t your style, it’s time to do some research into the vast world of Playbill trading and selling. Want a Playbill for a certain show that features a specific cast? Chances are, you can get one by trading one of your Playbills with another Playbill seller. Through negotiation, you can work out which one of your Playbills is of “equal value” to what one you want, payment, and shipment. If you’re looking to trade, make sure you do it through a reputable platform, such as Tumblr, BroadwayWorld Forums, or the Broadway subreddit. On the other hand, if you’re looking to just get of a Playbill or snag a couple extra dollars, you can sell you playbills instead. Ebay is the most common place for this.
Despite all the fun, having a large Playbill collection comes with a literal price: storage. Most hardcore Playbill collectors have one or more official Playbill binders – which are priced from a range of $15-$40 based on Playbill capacity – to keep them safe if they plan on displaying, trading, or selling them. But if you don’t have a large collection or the funds to practically secure your Playbills in a maximum security fortress, fear not! One storage option I used when I first started out Playbill collecting is an item everyone might have laying around the house: a shoe box. It sounds odd, but a regular old shoe box is the perfect size for at least 20 or so Playbills. If you store the box in a dry, room temperature climate, it should work out just fine. Make sure to upgrade your storage once your collection gets bigger, or you decide to sell or trade. Keeping your Playbills in the best condition possible is crucial to making a successful trade.
Whether you’re brand new to Playbill collecting and trading or you’re a seasoned pro, the most important thing to remember is don’t be intimidated. You’ll learn as you go. Have fun and get collecting!
And that’s it! Those are basics when it comes to maintaining a Playbill collection, and trading and selling. Was there anything I missed? What’s your favorite Playbill in your collection? Let me know in the comments!