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Value of Photographs by Photos Made Perfect

For the love of Genealogy and Genealogist

One of my clients inherited some photographs of civil war generals which lead me to search the internet to try and answer his question, "What value did they have" and since I couldn't tell him the next question was, " how do I find out or do you know anyone who can tell me. I still don't know specifically but this is what I found out in general. Maybe in the future I will get more specific.

As far I can tell from searching the internet, the value of photographs is very complex. Depending on how much you want to know and how determined you are and what time limits you may have. The older you are, the less value is put on materials things in the can't take them with you. There are a number of sources of information regarding  photo collections.  They can be found in newsletters, you can purchase books in, there are photography conventions to attend, antique dealers to call and small individual private collectors if you can find one.  Also depending on how much you value the photos (money or sentiment) and how much you are willing to let them go for. You may practically have to become an expert yourself, in order to know what you have and what to expect to get for them.  You have to decide a number of things first before you begin. 

Know up front, that most personal photographs are usually not of any value but to the immediate family. Many end up in yard sales, used for decorations, book markers  or even worse, trashed. Unless among those photos are images of beautiful women, young children doing something adorable, animals, animals playing musical instruments,  images of industry of history purposes, unique  images and historic characters.  The more desired images may only be of interest to the collector that collects the particular type of image, you may have.  Finding that collector will be difficult if you don’t become involved in the “photo collecting community” but if and when you do, that will be the person that will give you the best price.   Antique dealers will be interested only to resell them, so they will only give you half of what they think they can get.  

Dealers usually want too much for what they have, thinking they are valuable just because they are old and because they didn’t do their homework and are stuck with them.  When they figure out that they have a very old daguerreotype let say of an unattractive old woman in bad condition, then they sell them on e-bay fairly inexpensive but I always  look for the practical give always just to show people who have never seen one. Daguerreotypes that are beautiful and in good condition are highly priced and only serious collectors  buy, sell and trade them.  

My personal interest is in photos as a casual collector, are photos with full names on them so that I can post them on my website and hopefully they will be found by their rightful descendents and I only ask $ 5 -7  for each.  It sounds insane but the world is getting smaller with the internet and people have contacted me, saying I had photos of their relative. I was sorry to let them go, but they warmed my heart to see them returned to the proper family. You can see them in the Vintage Scrapbooks, marked sold. They still serve the purpose of photo dating with the owners permission.

 If you haven’t’ already, you may want to read  the “ History of Photography” on this site as a starting point for identifying what type of photograph you have first. You be may learn new words and ideas to start your google research  on your specific collection. 

You may want to scan all your images in low resolution and watermark them, so that when you show them to people they won’t be able to steal the electronic image. After they are digitized you can print them out on one sheet to show people, instead of handling the originals, you can always produce the original upon request of you have an interested buyer. 

I hope this has been helpful, you can call me if you have any other questions.  Below are some links I found to start, can't say it was easy, if you find any and would like to share please e-mail me.


Book, How to Buy Photographs by Stuart Bennet

Book, Photograph Collector's Guide by Lee D. Witkin

Daguerreotype Society


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8/6/13 date this page published

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