Cycleback’s The Vintage Collector



Q & A

March 15 2002

by David Rudd





QUESTION: I've never owned one before, but it seems to me that with the original painting used to make a magazine or baseball card, it would be obvious that the painting is original just be comparing the two.  Is this true or don't I know what I'm talking about?  How plentiful are the original paintings for trading cards?


ANSWER: I'm far from an expert on this type of material.  However, a couple of months ago I had an interest in this area, as I was working on an article on painting which I never finished.  In order to fill in my brain, I contacted two people who know a lot more about this-- John Pound, a artist for Topps' non-sport trading cards, and Rob Lifson, President of MastroNet's Americana Division.  Both said your theory is true.  They said that, by comparing side by side the painting with the trading card, magazine cover or whatever, that it is obvious whether or not the painting is the original.  I temper this by saying that Lifson and Pound no doubt have better eyes for this material than most of us.


According to Lifson, the supply of original paintings for early (Pre-1955) trading cards is rare.  For baseball and football trading cards, he could only come up with, off the top of his head, 1933 National Chicle (football), 1930s Diamond Star (baseball) and 1950s Topps and Bowman.  He said that even vintage non-painting original art (photographs, flexichrome, etc) is rare.  After talking to him, I felt like going out and getting one a Chicle or Diamond Star painting.


I note that John Pound and Rob Lifson were both friendly, patient and helpful in answering my questions.


QUESTION: Hi, David.  I have an old copy of you book on baseball photographs (Giants team on cover) and have a couple of questions about baseball photographs and also sports photographs.  1) Okay, which auction houses have sell the best old baseball photographs?  2) How do the trends in baseball photographs apply to other sports?  Or don't they?  3) Can you make a short list of baseball players who are the most sought after in photographs, and that I should be on the look out for?


ANSWER: 1) Amongst big auction houses, MastroNet and Leland's come to mind as usually offering a quality selection of expensive baseball photographs.  There are often a lot of great less expensive sports photographs on eBay.  Obviously greater care has to be taken when buying on eBay, at least when you are unfamiliar with the seller.  Barry Sloate, a dealer in Brooklyn, has periodic small mail auctions that usually offer unique examples.  In general, the collector should be on the lookout everywhere, including small antique shops and family collections.


2) Taking in to context a particular sport's history (for example, basketball is younger than boxing), the trends in styles and types of photograph can be applied to most any sport.  The style and photographic process is consistent for an 1885 cabinet card, whether it pictures a baseball, football or hockey player. 


3) Amongst Pre-World War II players, a quick and dirty and no doubt incomplete list of the most desirable subjects include King Kelly, Hoss Radbourne, Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Joe Jackson, Ed Delahanty, Cap Anson, Jim Creighton, Lou Gehrig, Harry Wright, Cy Young, Buck Weaver, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Johnson.  The supply of these photographs for each of these players varies widely, this fact obviously affecting the prices.  Ruths' are plentiful, while Creightons' (baseball's first superstar who died c. 1860) are almost non existent.


For more modern times, the list includes the usual cast of characters, with Mickey Mantle, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays heading the list. As vintage photographs of these players are plentiful in the market, the collector has to take great care to determine which photos are the gems.  Artistic quality will always be an integral factor.


QUESTION: About two issues ago you mentioned that the collotype could look almost like a photograph.  What is more valuable, a collotype or a real photograph?


ANSWER:  This will vary from collecting genre to collecting genre, but, all other things even, the photograph will ordinarily have more valuable in the collectables area.


QUESTION: Morning David.  How often are vintage photographs reprints of earlier photographs, and how can one identify these?


ANSWER: Many old photographs, even from the 1800s are reprints of earlier photographs.  The subject of Identifying these would fill an entire article, but I will say here that many of the early reprints are identified as such because the photograph's style and/or process are not consistent with the image subject.  I recently looked at a photograph that was advertised as being from the 1880s, but was really made in the 1910s.  The later date was determined, in part, because it was made with a photographic process that was not available in the 1880s.  Luckily, the difference in date had little if any effect on the photograph's value.


QUESTION: I bought an old album of real photo postcards and newspaper clippings.  Some of the postcards have very bright pictures.  What are these?  Are they rare?


ANSWER:  Assuming they are real photo postcards, the blue ones are cyanotypes.  They are scarcer than the typical black and white real photo postcards, but are not rare.


QUESTION: Can things be authenticated by pictures only, like if I mailed or emailed someone pictures of a print I own.


ANSWER: No.  Items have to be examined in person.   Pictures-only can be used to identify obvious fakes and for making helpful opinions ('From the pictures, it appears to be …')


QUESTION: What the hell is that pictured on the Vintage Collector's web page?


ANSWER: Watch your language, this is a family newsletter.  Pictured is a 19th century trade card for Dr. Haas' Remedy for Pig Cholera.  It pictures a baseball game, with the team of healthily plump Dr. Haas' treated pigs (the 'Remedy 9') beating the team of skeletal choleric pigs ('Cholera 9').  It's one of my favorite items, in part because it reminds me of a favorite dog I had who loved to eat and resembled a member of the Remedy 9.



Cycleback’s The Vintage Collector