Cycleback’s The Vintage Collector 4-17-2002


Q & A  

by David Rudd



QUESTION: Who was Barry Halper?  I've seen his name used in conjunction with two auctions.


ANSWER: Barry Halper was, and is, an American businessman, minority owner of the New York Yankees baseball team, and collector of baseball memorabilia.   He started collecting before memorabilia was worth anything, and ended up with an incredible collection.  It was often said that he had the best collection outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York.  He eventually donated a portion of his collection to the Hall of Fame, where there is now the Barry Halper Wing.  Another portion was auctioned off for $25 million or so in 1999 through Sotheby's.  You can still buy the Sotheby's catalog of this auction, in 3 Volumes, through amazon and those places.  I highly recommend it.


QUESTION: What do you think of the 'authorized' reprints of paintings that are signed and numbered by the artist?  I bid on one of these by Dick Perez..


ANSWER: These are autographed reprint posters.  If that's what you want to buy, I'm not going to stop you.


QUESTION:  David, sorry if you answered this before, which I think you did.  Is a black light good for identifying trimmed baseball cards?  Also, are there legitimate size variations with the T206 cards.  I have three that are shorter than the others but look perfectly legitimate.  They are in lower grade, so I doubt they would have been trimmed.


ANSWER:  While others may have had different experience, I have not found black light useful in judging trimming of trading cards. 


The T206 cards naturally range in size, meaning a card can be smaller than normal and not be trimmed.  Many collectors collect lower grade cards in part because deceptive trimming is unlikely and easier to identify.


QUESTION: At the Cycleback website there is link on 'Obscure Early Photographs.'  How hard is it to find those photographs with baseball or sports subjects, and what would their values be?


ANSWER: I don't closely follow the other sports photographs-wise, so I will stick to baseball.  I have seen two circa 1880s orotones (gold backed glass photograph) of common major leaguers players in uniform.  I can't remember who the players were.  While orotones can be extremely beautiful, these were of so-so quality, and sold about $800-900 a piece.  I have not seen other baseball orotones, though I'm sure they exist.  Other sport orotones will exist.


I've never seen a baseball ivorytype or opaltype, though they theoretically could exist.   Across the board, these are much rarer and more expensive than a comparative orotone.


QUESTION: If I have an old real photo postcard, what are the chances that it is unique?


ANSWER:  Depends.  In the early 1900s many real photos were used as family photos, a replacement for the cabinet card.  I have one of my grandfather in his sailor suit during World War I.  These types of non-commercial photographs were originally made in very limited numbers, and many examples are likely to be unique.


QUESTION: This question is about expensive original prints by famous artists.  Are the typical counterfeits sophisticated?  Like how hard are they do differentiate the counterfeit with the original?


ANSWER:  In the vast majority of cases, the counterfeit is not subtly but significantly different than the original.  Commonly, they are reproductions of the original, and this can be identified by closely examining the printing.  For example, if the original is an engraving made up of solid lines under magnifying glass, the reproduction may be a half-tone lithograph made of the typical dots


Also, most to all of a famous artist's prints are cataloged, with details such as how many were made, how and where they were numbered and signed and so on.  So if the official catalog (catalog raisonne) says that only 300 of a print were made and numbered, and you see one numbered out #500, it should be obvious that something is goofy.


In short, identifying the vast majority of counterfeits should not be a problem for the collector who does his or her homework.


QUESTION: I collect 1850s- woodcuts from newspapers, especially from Harper's Weekly.  I know that some of the Harper's Weeklies were reprinted.  I am hoping you can provide information on identifying the reprints.


ANSWER: As Harper's woodcuts are popularly collected this is a common concern. I hope to provide an article on that in the near future.


QUESTION: Can you provide information on how to use black light on glass and other non paper stuff.


ANSWER: I can't offer help on glass items, but will recommend the book, 'Black Light Book" published by Antique Collectors and Reproduction News.  Website


QUESTION:  Two questions.  How do you store panorama photographs, and what is more expensive an antique panorama that is a print or a real photograph?


ANSWER:  I don't buy panoramas, because I don't want to have to deal with the handling, storage, shipping issues.  I'm lazy and like things to fit into a priority mail box or smaller (God love trading cards).  All other qualities even, the real photo panorama will be more valuable.


QUESTION:  I have two 1800s cabinet card photographs and I'm not sure how old they are.  One has a dark gray mount with an oval picture and a fancy design around the picture.  The second also has gray mount that is perfectly square and a square picture with a design around it.  Do these even count as cabinet cards?


ANSWER:  From the scans you sent me, they are from the early 1900s.  Whenever you have a cabinet card with very wide borders and has embossment around the picture, it's probably from the 1900s.  A dark grey mount is common from this time.  In the 1900s, the pictures were often circular or oval.  You can call them cabinet cards if you wish.  Before about 1907, cabinet card was an industry standard, kind of like Double A Battery or Size 10 Shoe, with a pre-described size and shape.  After this time, the standard was set aside and things became more informal.  This means that your two photographs, even though the second one is a slightly abnormal shape, can reasonably be and commonly called a cabinet card.


QUESTION: I've heard that if the Lou Gehrig Ken-Wel Advertising Sign has a metal eyelet on the top it's a reprint.  Have you heard this?  I think I may have heard it from you.


ANSWER:  I can't promise that it's true, but I've heard the same.  I owned a reprint a few years back and, if I recall correctly, it had an eyelet.  Most of the reprints I've seen for sale are beat up-heavily creased, soiled.


QUESTION: What kind of printing is used on old postcards?


ANSWERS: Postcards are a wild bunch and have used near all types of prints from woodcuts to engravings, hand drawn to hand painted.  The printers often mixed and matched printing types on a card, which makes it even more complicated.   However if you pick a random early one from, say 1920s, it's probably a photoengraving.  This is the same type of printing used to make newspaper, magazines and books.  It can be black and white or in color, and these postcards are usually glossy, because to make quality images with photoengraving one needed a really smooth surface.


A lot of postcards are lithographs.  From normal view, these usually look like a photoengraving.  Usually one needs a microscope to tell the difference, unless on the back it says 'photoengraved by' or 'Such and Such lithograph company.'


A lot of postcards with photographically realistic images are collotypes, which I talked about a few weeks earlier.  These usually have a matte surface and often were made by the Albertype Co.


There are a lot of real photo postcards (postcards with actual photographs on the front).  Nearly all are gelatin-silver prints, usually with black and white or sepia tinged images.  Ones with bright blue images are cyanotypes.


QUESTION:  Are vintage hand colored postcards worth more or less that non hand colored postcards?


ANSWER: All other things even and assuming the hand coloring was well done, the hand colored will usually be of higher value.


QUESTION: In old 1800s tobacco cards, why are some images so much lighter than others?


ANSWER: A variety of reasons, including poor exposure at the time and bad aging.  Perhaps the photographer was having a bad day.  For albumen print photographs, the images tend to lighten and yellow with age, and some will age worse than others.


Also, it can be related to the way they were made.  Some 1880s tobacco cards were made from the original photographic glass negative.  Many, however, are reprints- or a photograph of an already existing photograph.  All Old Judges, for example, are based on original cabinet cards that were made by regional photographic studios.  For example, a Philadelphia photographer would take photos of the Philadelphia players and send the resulting cabinet photographs to the tobacco company.  Newsletter reader, Trevor Howking, showed me one of the original regional cabinet cards used by Old Judge.  The cardboard mount had the advertising for the regional studio, and across the photograph was embossed the copyright Goodwin & Co (the maker of Old Judge cigarettes).


Sometimes an image was re-photographed again for different trading card issues.  I'm sure many collectors have seen how images are shared between issues.  All this photographing of photographs often resulted in light or otherwise poor images.


As shown in last newsletter's gallery on composite photographs, photographing already existing photographs was common practice.  This practice can make it both practically and philosophically difficult to determine if a photograph is or is not truly original.