Pack Secrets

© Cycleback, 2003, all rights reserved

Q & A



QUESTION: In vintage photos, are there premiums given to certain teams?  I’m assuming there is for the Yankees, but was wondering if there were other teams too.


ANSWER: In baseball, the Yankees are number one, with the Brooklyn Dodgers second.  In Pre-1970 football, the Green Bay Packers are by far the most popular, with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears second and third.  Presumably, the Boston Celtics are top in Basketball, but that’s a guess as I don’t sell much NBA stuff.


In football, many college teams are popular.  A nice Notre Dame, University of Michigan  or Nebraska photo, for examples, can attract more attention and higher price that many NFL team photos.  Of course, most NFL stars also played in college— meaning a nice photo of Bronco Nagurski can picture him in his University of Minnesota or Chicago Bears uniform.



QUESTION: Don’t you think that in the future they will develop printing so good that they can make T206 Honus Wagner reprints that are impossible to tell from the originals?


ANSWER: No.  That’s like asking if they will ever develop a car so modern that it will be unmistakable for a horse and buggy.


Modern printing techniques are nothing like the printing used to make the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner.  Laser printers, for example, doesn’t use ink.  Inkjet Printers don’t  have a printing plate.  And the more advanced printing gets, the further away it gets from old printing.  That’s the nature of technology. 


Granted, many home inkjet and laser printers can make a vivid reprint of a T206 Honus Wagner image downloaded from the internet.  But, if this reprint is deceptive, it is only deceptive on the casual, naked-eye view.  Under the microscope, identifying the printing is modern is no more difficult than identifying the Lamborghini in Amish country.



QUESTION: Can you tell if a family or person was wealthy from their family photos?


ANSWER: I am assuming you mean by the type of photographs, rather than if the photo’s image shows a mansion or yacht,  The answer is Yes.  Certain types of photographs were too expensive for people of normal means to afford.  For example, in the 1800s large photographs were expensive to make.  An especially large 1870s photograph of a woman would suggest that she had money.


A woman once had me look at a pair of old photographs of her great great grandparents.  The images themselves were typical family portraits.  I said to the woman that her relatives must have been wealthy or otherwise prominent.  She said, “How did you know?”



QUESTION: When dealing with items that belonged to famous people or came from estates, are there ever ownership disputes, like the family wanting stuff back? 


ANSWER: Personally, I’ve had two instances where ownership was an issue, but these were the few and far between.  In most cases an issue doesn’t come up. 


In some cases, family members have contacted me, but only because they are interested in what I have, want to chat about it (‘tell the real shory’) and sometimes want to buy some of the items.  In one case, I had an interesting item that belonged to a Pre-War Hall of Fame baseball player, and his granddaughter contacted me because she wanted it.  She couldn’t afford it, but we ended up making a trade.  Most interactions are friendly like that.


I can tell you that many people are going around buying, bidding on or trying trade for items relating to their famous relatives—including on eBay.  Other than they have a personal stake in the subject, they don’t feel (or at least act) as if they have more rights than the other collectors bidding in the eBay auction.  They are collectors like you or I, they just happen to be collecting stuff relating to a relative. 


Realize that the family of a famous person doesn’t automatically have more right than you to an item.  Say, when your Uncle was a little kid in the 1940s, he met Joe DiMaggio and Joe, in a particularly good mood, gave your uncle a gold engraved pocket watch.  Years later, you inherited this watch from your Uncle because he knew your followed baseball and would appreciated more than his other nephews and nieces.  You are the rightful owner of Joe DiMaggio’s watch.  It doesn’t matter what the DiMaggio’s family claims, it was originally a gift and it is now yours.


Similarly, if the DiMaggio family donated a bunch of Joe’s personal items to a local charity for auction and the stuff was sold to the public— the DiMaggio family no longer has any rights to the stuff.  If the DiMaggios regret selling a particular item, the current owner may grant the consideration, but she has no responsibility to give it back.  Ordinarily, you will have to own something really special before the DiMaggios come knocking on your door.  They won’t care if you own Joe’s dirty baseball socks or high school tap dancing shoes.


When considering buying something truly substantial, like Lou Gehrig’s World Series Trophy or Citizen Kane’s ‘Rosebud’, it is wise to determine it’s provenance (history of ownership & sales) to make sure it isn’t hot (stolen).  This same provenance is necessary anyway to determine the item’s authenticity-- meaning, if the smart buyer is going to buy something expensive that supposedly belonged to Orson Wells, she will require the seller to provide substantial evidence that it belonged to Orson Wells.  


If you can determine that the current seller of the Lou Gehrig gold Trophy won it in a Christies auction last year, and the Gehrig family were the direct consignors to Christies-- this not only helps prove the authenticity but that, if you buy it, you will be the rightful owner.


In an interesting case, I once obtained from the estate of a famous sports writer, a Hall of Fame baseball player’s diamond All-Star Game ring.  For those who are unfamiliar, at the annual All-Star games, fancy precious metal and stone rings are given out to the players as gifts.  For many years, it was this sportswriter’s job to hand them out before the game.   Some time after I obtained the ring, I was contacted by the player’s lawyer saying that ring was stolen from the player and I had to immediately return it to this lawyer. 


After minimal research, it was determined that, while he had been voted to the All-Star team, this baseball player did not actually attend the game or even go to the city it was played in.  It turned out that, whenever a player didn’t attend (injury, needed the rest, pouting, other), Major League Baseball let the sportswriter keep his ring.  I’m sure MLB baseball felt that if they player couldn’t be bothered to attend, this well liked and elderly sportswriter was more deserving.  Over the years, the sportswriter accumulated a small collection of rings for players who didn’t show up. 


In short and despite the lawyer’s claim, not only was this ring never stolen, but the player never even owned it.




QUESTION: I was at a local show and a dealer was selling Alfred Steiglietz photographs from ‘Camera Works.’  I was interested, but didn’t buy any as they were pretty expensive.  I looked into it later online and now know that Camera Works was a magazine.  Does this mean the pictures were removed from the magazine?  Are they original works or reproductions?  Have they been reprinted?  How can I tell if one of the photographs is original?


ANSWER: Camera Works was a legendary photograph magazine produced in the early 1900s by the famous American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (husband of painter Georgia O’Keefe).  Each publication had a portion for text only (articles, discussions, etc) and a portion set for pictures.  The pictures were not just from photographs taken Steiglietz, but by other famous living and dead photographers. 


The pictures were reproductions of the original photographs and were printed in a variety of ways, from the common commercial methods to high end methods.  In a particular magazine, different pictures were often printed using different methods, which is unusual and expensive. 


Stieglitz and most of the rest of us consider most of the pictures to be reproductions (though now vintage reproductions), in the same sense as a picture in Time Magazine or on a 1950s baseball card.  However, a number of pictures were printed in a special way using the original photographic glass negative. Stieglitz considered these to be originals.


The pictures you saw were removed from the publications.  You can find the complete/intact magazines for sale, even on eBay from time to time.  The publications have  been reprinted in modern times.  Luckily for the collector, the originals pictures and publications are straight foreword to identify.  In particular, Camera Works has been well catalogued and studied, so there is much information on each picture— size, date, how made, etc. 


My recommendation bookwise is Camera Works: a Pictorial Guide by Marianne Margolis (Dover Publications).   This book pictures (black and white) and describes every picture, with cross references.  It also gives an excellent history of the magazine.  There is a more recent book on the subject, but I haven’t seen it and can’t comment on the quality. 


 The potential buyer should also be familiar with the various photomechanical printing process and how to identify/date them.