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Cycleback * jan 30 2003




QUESTION:  Hi David.  I collect stamps and also old letterheads and envelopes with designs I like.  I recently bought a small box of documents, many with the original envelopes.  Some are on paper with fancy letterheads, mostly from an old local bank and some farming groups.  There are also twelve telegrams.  All of these items date from the 1890s to 1920s.  Nothing is expensive or really noteworthy.  I was just wondering about what are the chances any of these types of items are modern fakes or reprints or something like that?  Is there something I should be looking for?  Also, when I bought them, the man who sold them to me said that the letterheads for the Bank were engravings and etchings.  How can I tell which ones are engravings and which ones are etchings?


ANSWER:  If you are an avid collector of this type of ephemera, I doubt you would be fooled.  A rule of thumb for old documents like this is that they look old.  They simply don’t look like a Xerox or something from somebody’s computer printer.  With old documents, the paper is usually toned to tan or brown and brittle.  The printing and font is old fashioned, perhaps with rust marks from paperclips, and any handwriting is usually in distinctly old fashioned ink.   If the document is potentially expensive— such as if it has significant content or contains a famous autograph--, you will likely take your time examining and may choose to get a second opinion.  But for inexpensive documents like yours, modern reprints or fakes will usually stand out like a sore thumb.


An engraving has strong, stoic and often flowing lines.  An etching has spontaneous lines like a pen and ink sketch.  To see what the lines of engraving look like, look at the image of a President on a dollar bill.


QUESTION: I have a small collection of non-sport wirephotos.  Most are from Associated Press and ACME, but some have either paper tags or stamps from local newspapers.  Most of these are from the Chicago Tribune.  Is a local stamp or tag more or less desirable?  Some have the newspaper name embossed into the photograph.  Is there any significance to that?


ANSWER: Especially when the photograph depicts a local subject, local newspaper marking will often give a premium in price.  Regional marking is scarcer than marking from the national news services like AP, ACME and UP.   Also, a Chicago Tribune photo of Al Capone or Detroit News Photo of Ty Cobb is considered cool.


Inkless embossed stamps probably don’t add to the value of the photo, but they are scarce.  While private studios used them with some frequency, they were rarely used by news organizations. 


QUESTION:  What percentage of what you sell or auction is on consignment?


ANSWER:  Zero.  I own everything I sell, and if no one buys it I still own it.  Personally, selling other peoples stuff for them has the appeal of baby sitting their kids while they’re on vacation.


QUESTION: Who is your favorite baseball photographer of all time?


ANSWER: I don’t have a favorite, but, to give a different answer, think George Burke offers the collector the most bang for the buck.  Burke was a famous Chicago photographer who I think died in 1951.  He was the official photographer for the Cubs, White Sox and the NFL’s Bears.  Many to most of the player images for the 1933-4 Goudey baseball cards were based on his photographs.  Burke’s original photographs have a definite Goudey-style.  They almost always have crystal clear images with beautiful tones and are on higher quality paper than most of his contemporaries.  Quality control obviously was a priority.  If the back of the photo has a ‘Geo. Burke/ 807 Belmont/ Chicago’ stamp, it’s an original/vintage George Burke.  When he died, his archives were well taken care of by his business partner and fellow photographer, George Brace.  The result is that Burke’s original photographs are relatively plentiful compared to contemporaries like Charles Conlon, Paul Thompson and George Bain, and resultingly inexpensive.


QUESTION: (Question concerns the 1910s Susini Tris Speaker Cuban baseball card mentioned in a previous newsletter.  The card is not listed in any of the price guides):  How do you know enough about a card like this to catalog it?  Is there some kind of source besides the Standard Catalog ?


ANSWER: It’s an obscure but known card and set.  There are a number of Cuban and other obscure baseball cards that are known in the hobby but not yet cataloged in one of the price guides.  Foreign cards don't get priority with the price guides.  There are also a number of 19th century American trade cards that are are well known, but not included in the price guides.  This often simply means that eventually they will be included but haven't yet.  Luckily, there are a number of avid Cuban and Negro League baseball collectors knowledgeable about the early Cuban issues.  Black Americans often played in Cuba and Mexico.  So,  most of the information about obscure and uncataloged cards comes from advanced and specialized collectors and dealers.





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