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Photograph Identification Guide
by David Rudd Cycleback

Chapter 4 : FINAL NOTES

(c) cycleback 2003, 2005 all rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This final chapter consists of assorted notes, restating of important points and helpful hints.

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In person observation and general knowledge of photos is essential to identifying photos. If you've collected lots of 1910s real photo postcards or 1940s wirephotos, the average modern reprint will stand out like a sore thumb. The experienced human eye is a sophisticated tool.

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I have seen few sophisticated forgeries of cabinet cards, cartes de visite or similar mounted sports photographs. A digital print or thick Kodak snapshot pasted to a sheet of cardboard shouldn't be hard to identify as fake.

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With many old original photos you won't be able to date the photograph to a year. You might describe it as a "circa 1920s snapshot" or "19th century tintype." Circa translates to "about," "around" or "plus or minus."

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Mounted photographs with dark colored mounts typically date to the 1880s and after. A few 1870s CDVs have dark mounts, but these are unusual.

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Old real photo postcards were sometimes hand colored or otherwise colorized. Commercially sold European postcards are often found with bright colors. Other photographs can be found with hand coloring, including cabinet cards, CDVs and salt prints. CDVs were most commonly colored in the 1860s.

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Many early 1900s gelatin silver prints have rich tones, with touches of grey or brown or even hints of blue or green. Many modern reprints have much starker black and white images, without the richness and subtly in tone. This makes these reprints obviously reprints.

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One will occasionally see genuine 1800s cabinet cards, CDVs and 1880s trading cards that are 'skinned.' This means the photographic print, and often the entire front surface of the cabinet card and cdv, has been pealed, or skinned, from the mount. These are grade poor and will be priced accordingly. Some of these were pasted into Victorian scrapbooks and damaged upon removal

* * * *

Many fakes are genuine photographs that are badly misrepresented. For example many 'baseball tintypes' are genuine tintypes but do not show real baseball players. The image may show 1870s firemen whose uniforms closely resembled baseball uniforms.

Some genuine photographs are misdated. A 1910 cabinet card with period embossment and color may be advertised as from the 1860s. Knowledge of mount styles and uniforms and equipment will usually assign a more accurate date.
Know what that the people looked like. It can't be a photograph of if the guy in the image isn't Johnny Weissmuller.

* * * *

1850s-60s CDVs are easy to identify as the mounts are light colored and the corners are square. Most later CDV mounts had rounded corners.

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Mounted photographs with the photographer's name embossed typically date 1890s to 1900s. Other embossed designs, like faux frames and textured surface, also date to the 1890s and after, and usually post 1900.

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All other qualities equivalent (subject, year, etc), the larger the photograph usually the more expensive. The larger versions often were rarer and have more popular eye appeal.

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Fake ambrotypes are often plastic instead of glass, and usually depict high end subjects, like General Custer.
Forged sports ambrotypes are rare and I've never heard of a forged sports Daguerreotype.

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Post World War II gelatin silver paper can be difficult to date to a specific year by just looking at it. 1940s can resemble 1950s paper, 1950s can resemble 1960s paper.

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Some original photos can have off quality images, if the image was intentionally or unintentionally shot out of focus, poorly aged or developed. Original 1800s albumen photographic prints can have fading or washing out due to aging. If an original photograph is a blow up (photographic print is much larger than the negative) the image can have a grain.

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Many images are obviously second generation due to the lesser quality of the image.

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Foxing is a good sign of age.

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The 8x10 inches photograph with white borders is a relatively modern convention, probably popularized in the 1920s-30s. It's not impossible for an unmounted 1905 photograph to be in this style, but it would be unusual. In other words, if you see a 8x10 white bordered photo showing Christy Mathewson in 1903, it was probably made years after the image was shot.

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If a photograph has a vintage stamp or tag, the image is crystal clear and overall the photograph looks constant with the age (toning, foxing, silvering, thinness of paper, other), the photo is probably original.
If you find an ACME Newspictures stamped photo of Mickey Mantle in his rookie year and the image is crystal clear, the photo is probably an original.

* * * *

Many news service photos on the market have vintage stamps (ACME, International News Photos, etc) and brown paper captions. So it is not difficult for collectors to find photos they know to be vintage.

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Many photographs can quickly be identified as authentic or fake by a single quality. Silvering in the image or an ACME Newspictures on the back helps prove a photograph old.

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If the photograph looks great hung from your wall and cost you $20, it's probably worth $20 even if it turns out to be later generation. There's no reason to lose sleep over a $10 or $20 purchase.

 

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Cabinet and CDV mounts are more difficult to forge than the photographic print, especially if there are gold gilded edges, die-cut edges, embossed photographer's name or foxing on back. Stuff like embossing, uniform edges and gilding would be tough for a forger to make.
Remember than the original cabinet, CDV and similar mounts were factory made. The photographer didn't cut his own, but bought in bulk them from a factory. Just as with Topps sports cards, the mounts have factory cut edges.

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