It was not uncommon
for a news service, newspaper or magazine to reuse an image over
the years. Upon Babe Ruth's death in 1948, Associated Press may
have reproduced a 1922 photo of the baseball star hitting a famous
homerun so newspapers across the country could show him in his
heyday. Associated Press may have reproduced it again in 1970.
If Gone With the Wind was re-issued for movie theatres decades
later, the studio would make new press photos and stills.
With other qualities equivalent the vintage original photograph
will always have financial value greater than the later generation
or printed later versions. This is why collectors go to great
lengths to identify the originals.
Though of lesser value, later generation press photographs
should not be idly dismissed. They were official photographs,
usually with stamping on the back. While some images are poor,
many that were made from the original negatives can have beautiful
crystal clear images. Just like their older counterparts, only
a handful of each was made and distributed.
Many collectors can't afford that original 1922 Babe Ruth photograph,
but they can the 1960 version. For collectors who are looking
for nice photographs to matt with autographs or to display in
the office or den, later generations are a great way to go.
As age is important to collectors, the age difference between
the original and the later generation photo affects value. A
1980 photo with a 1920 subject will usually be worth less than
a 1950 photo with the same image. The average collector will
look at the two and give value to the 1950 version, as it is
Identifying Later Generation Press Photos
A later generation press photo photograph is identified by
examining all the qualities of the photograph, including stamping,
captions and overall appearance.
Especially with old subjects, later generation photos are
usually clearly inconsistent with a vintage photograph. This
can include modern stamping or text (a UPI stamp or a 1995 copyright
date on a photo with a 1910 image), modern appearing paper and
images with signs of reproduction. Signs of reproduction can
include cracks from the negative, tears or scratches that are
in the photographic image rather than actually on the photograph
(a photo of a tear rather than the damage physically on the photo)
and a general sense that the photograph was copied. A black light
will quickly identify many modern made photos.
Remember that some later generation photographs were made
from the original negatives and can have crystal clear images.
With experience, the collector will find that many later generation
photos in their area of collecting will stand out like sore thumbs.
There will be cases that are hard to determine. A photo may
not have clear stamping. The photo paper may appear to be from
the right time, but you aren't a hundred percent sure. In the
end, there's nothing wrong with giving an honest but inexact
answer. There's nothing wrong with offering for sale a photograph,
describing it as "Appears to be from the 1930-50s, but can't
give a specific date. Does not look like an original, but appears
to be old none the less."
Identifying Original Press Photos
All other qualities equivalent, the original photograph is
the most desirable.
Originals are identified as they are vintage and have images
with detail and clarity consistent with being original.
If a photo has vintage stamping, the original paper caption
and the images appears to be first generation, it's most likely
an original. If the photograph has no markings, but the paper
and image are vintage and the image is crystal clear, it's likely
an original. Remember, only the original negative can create
the image with the highest quality. Later generation negatives
and wirephotos will produce lesser images.
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