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Buy & Sell Original Vintage Photos

Babe's final bow at Yankees Stadium, Ali dominantly standing over a fallen Liston, Lou Gehrig delivering his farewell speech, for sports fans these are images that are burned into our mind. Brief moments in time that decades later still send chills down our spine, raise the goose bumps on our arms and bring a tear to our eye. Unlike the game used jersey or signed ball, photographs capture a single, exact moment that an audience can relate to directly. That pinpoint specificity makes it easy to transport yourself into an exact moment such the second that Joe Montana connected with John Taylor for the game winning touchdown of Super Bowl XXIII. With a simple glance one could imagine what it felt like to be in the stands that day, the roar of the crowd as Taylor crossed the goal line, and the enormous tension that preceded the explosion of cheers. Few objects can stoke memories in such a way and it's for that reason that the demand for vintage photography in all its many forms has risen so dramatically of late.

Black and White Photography

Before going further though it's best to outline the most commonly found types of images that have been created over the past 150+ years. First and foremost, there is the gelatin silver print, or black and white photograph. Easily the most identifiable and popular amongst the vintage collecting public today, gelatin silver prints dominated the first half of the 20th century and make up the overwhelming majority of the vintage material in circulation due to the fact that most 20th century photographs were monochromatic, and it wasn't until the 1960s that color photography became commonplace. They also have proven to be quite durable if properly maintained resulting in a long, beautifully preserved lifespan.

In recent years collectors have benefited from the sharp decline in newspaper sales as well established papers such as the San Francisco Examiner, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Detroit Free Press and others, in an attempt to create an alternative source of revenue in this new digital landscape, have sold the contents of their incredible photo archives. These massive collections which span 100+ years of history and number in the hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, have been made available to the public for the first time and the response, judging by prices, has been outstanding.

The Daguerreotype

Of course silver gelatins had to evolve from an earlier form of photograph which was known as the daguerreotype. Invented by Louis-Jaques-Mande Daguerre and introduced worldwide in 1839, the delicate process involved polishing a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treating the surface with light-sensitive gases, and then exposing the plate in a camera for as long as was judged to be necessary. The resulting latent image on it would be made visible by fuming it with mercury vapor. Such a labor intensive method, as you would assume, produced much better results inside controlled environment which is why so many of the daguerreotypes found today are studio portraits, where the subject could be posed for extended periods of time with set lighting. That's not to say there aren't a number of street scenes and outdoor shots available but the are far fewer in number and because of their scarcity, demand a higher price. In the mid-1850s, ambrotypes, a negative mounted to glass and set against a black background to create the appearance a photo positive, replaced the daguerreotype. Though an improvement on the original their fragile nature made the trend one that was short lived and soon after in 1856, a more durable alternative, the tintype, was patented. Both of these types of photography remained popular until the advent of the silver gelatin in the 1890's, and during their reign caught countless historically significant moments and figures. In fact, many of the best known images from the American Civil War live on today thanks to these tiny pieces of glass and tin.

The Carte de Visite (CDVs)

From collectors point of view there is one other notable form of photography that originated during this same era known as the carte de visite, which had been created in France and introduced to the U.S. in 1859. The CDV was a photographic print made of paper that measured 2.5 inches by 4 inches. It's relative affordability made it accessible to the masses and perfect for larger scale production. In fact, many semi pro baseball clubs of the time would distribute CDVs featuring a team photo to their opponents and visiting fans while they were on the road.

Those that have managed to survive have today become some of the most highly sought after pieces of early baseball memorabilia on the market. Just recently, a CDV featuring the Brooklyn Atlantics Baseball Club, sold for $92,000! Keith Olbermann explains how this piece of memorabilia is actually a photo, and not a card like others are reporting: "Why The $92,000 Baseball Card Isn't Really A Baseball Card"

Determining The Value Of A Vintage Photo

With the basic types of images now in mind, let's move on to some of the finer details to look for searching for your next acquisition. Like traditional memorabilia, there are a number of factors that go into determining the value of a vintage photo:

  • Edition Size- Photos reproduced in smaller numbers hold a greater value as they are more difficult to find and obtain.
  • Condition- Like other memorabilia, photos are graded and valued based on their physical appearance. Creases, folds, and editing marks are the most common flaws found on vintage photos.
  • Print Date- When dealing with vintage photography it's best to seek out specimens printed at the time the negative was originally created, or as close to that date as possible.
  • Artist background- Resume, publication history, gallery sales are all things to be considered as the work of known photographers is considered solid investments.
  • Size- Large photos pack a powerful punch and collectors place a premium on that kind of impact. If the option to purchase a larger sized print is available, go BIG!
  • Signature- The photographers signature adds value and authenticity to their work. If the piece isn't signed, any documentation that can attest to it's origins, edition size and original print date should be sought.

Famous Artists

While on the subject of artists, of which there are literally thousands, there are a few in particular to keep in mind when shopping for the next addition to your collection. These names are just the tip (of the tip) of the iceberg but their work is a mix of sport, entertainment, and high art. Research into any of the names below will undoubtedly lead you further into their particular field and the work of their peers, thus this is a solid foundation on which to begin to build upon:

  • Charles Conlon- a fantastic photographer of the early great baseball players. He recorded the faces of many top baseball players of the time and his portraits have become some of the most sought after in the hobby.
  • Neil Leifer-undoubtedly one of the most famous photographers of all time, his incredible collection of work spans decades and contains countless images that are instantly recognizable such as the previously mentioned shot of Ali over Liston. Since the late 1970's he has worked chiefly for Time magazine, producing over 40 cover images for them during that span.
  • Nat Fein- was a photographer for the New York Herald Tribune for thirty-three years. Fein is known for photographing Babe Ruth at the end of his life, winning the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for his photograph "The Babe Bows Out."
  • Ansel Adams-highly influential master of the monochrome landscape. Particularly famous for his images celebrating the beauty and majesty of Yosemite National Park.
  • Diane Arbus-American documentary photographer whose work centered around those members of our society on the "fringe". Her striking portraits of giants, transexuals, circus performers, and the like are both haunting and inspiring.
  • Eve Arnold-best known for her photographs of Marilyn Monroe, photojournalist Eve Arnold was similarly adept at documenting the lives of the poor and dispossessed around the world.
  • Richard Avedon-American photographer, widely acclaimed for his innovative fashion photography for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and for his penetrating black and white portraits.

All the facts, famous shutterbugs, and details aside though, when it comes to buying photos old or new, just remember these four words: BUY WHAT YOU LOVE, because an image that moves you can never truly depreciate no matter what the market dictates. It's a buying philosophy that has never steered us wrong and it's the reason we're in the midst of our current photo buying frenzy!

Contact the experts at Just Collect, Inc.

Just Collect is just overflowing with love for photos right now. We're paying top dollar for vintage photos of every type, shape, size, and subject matter. We're buying single photos and small collections, as well as larger privately held collections and entire newspaper archives. If you are a collector, professional photographer, or major publisher looking to monetize your enormous inventory, call us today to discuss the many options we offer. Our expert staff has been involved in the successful sale of two of the nation's oldest daily publications, and we look forward to assisting you with all of your vintage photo-related needs.

Appointments are available at any of our offices, and we have representatives that are ready to travel to view collections of extraordinary size or value. Contact us today!