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Friday, October 25, 2013
A hot collectible that is found in almost every household
People often ask
me ‘What’s hot?’ in terms of antiques and collectibles. It’s a question that
usually follows my grim speech about the largely declining resale marketplace.
One of the first
things that comes to mind is photos. And I’m referring to everyday snapshots, the
kind that are often found in shoeboxes in closets. Many times people are
shocked by this ‘You mean collectors are interested in photos of people they
don’t know?” they ask. And the answer is Indeed they do, it’s called vernacular
photography; photos taken by unknown or
anonymous photographers for themselves, family photos essentially. And it’s a
burgeoning collecting field.
invented in the 1820s so by 1900 almost every household had a camera. Flash
forward 5-6 generations and what we got are literally thousands of snap shots
of ancestors we didn’t know. These often have little interest to families and
therefore end up being given away, sold or (god forbid) thrown out and are currently
flooding flea markets, auctions and antique store shelves.
Now one of the
big appeals to photography is the human element. Nothing is much more personal
than a photo, it allows us to look into a person’s face, examine their
clothing, analyze the people they are with or the situation they are in, and
imagine what was going on or why the photo was taken, by whom and so on. It
allows us to fill in our own narrative.
the potential variations within the field are limitless. For example, I have a
client who collects photos of wedding cakes, some people collect images with
dogs or cats in them, while others may be interested in photos that depict a
certain geographic area like their city or cottage area. So you can see there
are literally thousands of categories appealing to a huge range of collectors.
for every budget. Lastly, because you can go down to your local flea market or
antique show and buy a photo starting at a few dollars or less, it means the
bar to entry to starting a collection is very low and virtually anyone can
begin. It makes them very accessible to a lot of people. The reverse is also true, some photos and
photo albums regularly sell in the hundreds and thousands of dollars locally
and on eBay. An early photo of Billy the Kid sold for 2.3 million dollars in
So there you
have it, supply, demand, diversity and affordability all colliding to create a
very robust and growing field of collecting.
and white is a good cut-off point. Anything later is generally of less