Can a computer print be considered an original?
Yes, if the design did not exist before (not a reproduction or
copy). Assuming there isn't
significant graphic embellishment, if someone scans and computer prints
out the cover of Reader's Digest, that's not original. However, if my young daughter draws a
unique picture of her kitty cat on a computer drawing program and prints
it out for the refrigerator door, that's as original as a Rembrandt in a
pitfall in defining what is original is assigning false qualities to
definition. Common phrases one
will hear include: "It's by Picasso and sold for $1 million. It's got to be original" ...
"A cheesy baseball card sold in packs of gum can't be as original as
a painting" ... "An original can't be in a kid's fingerpaints.
It's got to be something like oils" ... "I paid $1,000
for it, so I consider it an original" ...
financial value, artist's celebrity, beauty and prevailing taste are fine
and dandy qualities, they have nothing to do with originality. The originality of my daughter's
computer sketch isn't defined by its sell price on eBay.
Can a CDV be considered a trading card?
Some, but not all can be called trading cards.
two necessary components to a trading card. First, it has to be a card. Personal definitions of cards vary, but
most consider the classic example of a card to be a business card or a
standard sized Topps baseball card.
component for a trading card is it has to have been distributed, or
intended to be distributed, in a commercial way. A trading card has to have been
distributed, intended to be distributed, or at least available, to the
general public, and it has to have been for an
advertising, promotion or other commercial purpose. 1870s trade cards were given away for
free to the public and usually had advertising for a store or whatever on
the front or back. 1909-11 T206
baseball cards have tobacco ads on the back and were distributed as
prizes in tobacco packs. 1960s Topps cards were sold directly to the public with
bubble gum. Today, trading cards
are popular enough that they are sold by alone. Though distributed differently, these
all fit the definition of trading cards.
important component (Yeah, I know I said there were only two components, but
I'm adding another. Get off my
back) is that trading cards were intentionally made so that they would be
collected by the public. Even in
the 19th century, companies realized that it was good to create an
advertising item that someone would collect. Having a kid paste in his hobby your
company's trade card because he likes the cartoon picture on it is a lot
better than him throwing away a plain flyer.
The Cartes de Visite (aka CDV) photographs definitely are cards in the
physical sense. In fact, the name
is French for 'visiting card.' If
you hold one in your hand, you will see that it's a card with a smaller
paper photograph pasted on the front.
Most CDVs are not trading cards, because of the commercial
part. Most were simply family
portraits or such made and kept by a family. The same as the Kodak snapshots of your
camping trip in your photo album, or the Wedding photo on your dresser.
Some CDVs are trading cards. In the 1860s-70s, CDVs
of popular subjects, like Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria and popular
actresses were sold to the public in stores. Many of the famed baseball 1860s-70s
Peck & Snyder baseball cards are CDVs, with
Peck & Snyder advertising stamped on the back (Peck & Snyder was
a prominent sports equipment manufacturer). Some non-sport CDVs
were sold with products, like tobacco, and have advertising printed on
front or back.
that arises for the trading card collector (who tend to be a picky
bunch), is that it is not easy, and sometimes impossible to tell how a
CDV was distributed. The CDVs sold in stores usually don't have an appearance
different than one that was not.
If there are enough examples of a particular U.S. Grant CDV, it be assumed that they were commercially issued. Most CDVs of
Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria are likely trading cards. But, in many cases, it's impossible to
know. Many trading card collectors
don't like 'there is no answer' as and answer, but that doesn't change
interesting test case for you to ponder is the 1863 Hoboken Match Harry
Wright CDV which is owned by CNN Newscaster and well baseball card
collector Keith Olbermann. If this CDV is defined trading card it
is the earliest known baseball card- which makes it a significant piece
of memorabilia, at least in the baseball world. The problem is that not everyone agrees
that it is a trading card.
Wright was a pioneer in baseball, often referred to as the "father
of professional baseball." Olbermann's little photographic card pictures Wright
on front and was used as a pass for series baseball and cricket matches
in Hoboken New Jersey.
The back has printed info concerning the game. It was more than likely that this pass
was given to, or at least intended for, a VIP, and almost certainly
wasn't intended for the general public.
As you can
see, the pass' method of distribution doesn't align with the criteria I
earlier mentioned. There
definitely was a commercial component (pass for games), but was not distrubuted or available to the general public like
tobacco cards or bubblegum cards.
Many respectable and knowledgeable people consider Olbermann's card to be the earliest known baseball
card. Others do not, as it was
never intended for the consumption of the general public. As one collector said to me, "It's
not a trading card. It's a
I will let
you decide for yourself whether or not Keith Olbermann's
card is a true baseball card.