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Re: [genphoto] Value of Old Photographs

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  • Steve Knoblock
    Thanks, Jim, for the pricing info. You bring up an issue that occurred to me when I first started researching my family photographs. I photographed and
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 13, 2000
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      Thanks, Jim, for the pricing info.

      You bring up an issue that occurred to me when I first started researching
      my family photographs. I photographed and recorded the writing on our
      cartes de visite as if I were an archaeologist, in as formal manner as I
      could. I was even reluctant to purchase any antique photographs as examples
      for comparison as I tried to estimate dates for them. I did not want there
      to be any suspicion that I made up my family history associated with the
      photographs. That may sound paranoid, but there are many family societies
      that become locked in endless battles over who has the true family history.
      I didn't want that to happen.

      When I started City Gallery, I had by that time learned that there are
      people who make it their business to buy and sell family photographs. That
      is, photographs with names of individuals, dates and other identifying
      marks. When I started attending antique photo shows looking for photographs
      made by my ancestors, I also noticed that any family names or writing made
      a $3 cabinet card into a $30 cabinet card.

      It became immediately obvious that unscrupulous people might start writing
      on cabinet cards in order to create false family records. That they might
      go so far as to study certain records to make these writings more appealing
      (I don't want to go into the methods, so as not to encourage the practice).

      I did not have any evidence this actually was happening. As a lover of
      history, I think this is a terrible thing to come about, something I feared
      might become more prevalent as, ironically, people came to value their
      family photographs more.

      Often, the writing on 19th century photographs is in pencil. So it would be
      difficult to tell a fake by anything but the style of handwriting.
      Fortunately, each era tends to have its own style of handwriting dictated
      by the penmanship books (do they still have those in school?) used in the
      classrooms. That is often very identifiable and may change in as little as
      ten years. I'm not an expert in this (I can tell the handwriting is old on
      our photographs, that it is similar to my own, but different in some ways.
      Certainly, it is recognizable from the handwriting style current among
      young people now).

      Several of our CdV have writing in ink, which has turned brown and is
      obviously very old.

      I was able to confirm that some of the ink that I already knew to be
      modern, from my grandmother and other modern family members, because it was
      made with a ball point pen. That leaves a distinctive pattern of ink that
      sits up on the surface of the card.

      So I was able to classify the handwriting into

      - pencil, with handwriting style contemporary to the image
      - ink, discolored with age, with style consistent with type of ink pens
      used before modern writing instruments
      - ballpoint, ink sitting up on surface of card
      - felt or rolling ink pen, with think ink that sinks into card surface, but
      has fuzzy edges compared to old ink


      >I have purchased many entire albums, over 500 individual
      >surnames where I was reasonably assurred that the writing
      >was not done by an unscrupulous dealer or seller.

      Steve Knoblock popular history
      editor@... of photography
      www.city-gallery.com and genealogy
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