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Arts and Collectables Q & A
by David Rudd Cycleback

The following are answers to assorted general interest questions I've received on and offline. Newsest answers are at top. Thank you.


What is a TTM autograph?

TTM = "through the mail." With a TTM autograph, the fan wrote to the celebrity or representative and received back the autograph. If the original mailing envelope was kept, that considered good evidence of authenticity. A return address of Ronald Reagan or Chicago Cubs Baseball Club doesn't mean the included autograph isn't secretarial or pre-printed, but obviously proof that the signature came from the right place. Many old TTM autographs were government postcards, often provided to the celebrity by the collector, with the date and place of the postmark being helpful for authenticating the autograph. As most signature forgeries of the long deceased are modern concoctions,a vintage postmark is very desirable to the autograph collector.


Some art prints have a lettering when they're numbered. I assume AP means artist's proof, but don't know about the others. Do you know what they stand for?

The below link describes and lists the the common lettering found on prints. The different letterings represent the different editions of a print, like artist's proofs and printer's proofs.

Editions in fine art prints


What are the strangest pieces of sports memorabilia you've seen in your career?

Below are a few notables that come to mind, from the gross to the creepy.

1) Ty Cobb's false teeth. These were owned by legendary baseball collector Barry Halper and now in the the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

2) The watch worn by legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne when he died in a plane crash. Recovered from the wreckage, the time is stopped at the moment of the crash. It was sold in Mastro auction.

3) A baseball painting by serial killer John Wayne Gacey autographed by a plethora of baseball greats plus US Presidens Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. It appeared the painting owner took the paintings to various public signings and shows and the signers had no idea who was the artist. Nixon, Hank Aaron et al simply penned their names to the amatuerish benign-looking painting placed in front of them. Gacey had signed the painting, but they apparently didn't notice.


Someone told me that silent movie star Fatty Arbuckle had his own baseball card. Is this true?

It's true. While he was a movie star, Arbuckle co-owned the Vernon (California) Tigers baseball team of the Pacific Coast League. Zeenuts candy annually issued baseball cards of PCL players and in 1919 Arbuckle got his own card (see below). The vast majority of Zeenuts cards were for active players, so a card for an owner was unusual. The Arbuckle card is rare, with only a handful known to exist, and expensive. The Pacific Coast League was equivillent to a AAA League and many future stars cut their teeth in the league and appeared on 1910s-30s Zeenut Cards. This includes Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Lombardi, Lefty Grove and Jim Thorpe. On the US West Coast (including California, Oregon, Washington) there are many collectors of PCL cards and memorabilia, and the Zeenuts are a staple with these collectors.



Are the old printing techniqued by folks like Durer and Rembrandt used today?

Not for mass production commercial purposes like printing magazines or newspapers, but the old techniques are still used in the arts. If you wanted to, you could learn through how to make etchings, engravings, woodcuts, etc. Many art centers, community colleges and similar adult education organizations offer classes on how to make these prints. You'll be able to work the printing press and everything.


For a prospective sports autograph collector, what are some safer areas to collect?

To start, it's best to deal with reputable and knowledgeable autograph dealers and know who are the recognized reputable third part experts (folks who write LOAs). It's also important that the collector educate himself, including having experience looking at genuine signatures of the folks they collect. Even if you aren't an expert, it's good to be able to say, "I've seen a lot of Nolan Ryan autographs, and this one for sale doesn't look right." While some forgeries are good, many look obviously bad to someone familiar with the person's genuine signatures. It's alway good to find fellow collectors of autographs, so you can ask for their opinions and visa versa.

There are a number of reputable and respected companies that do in person signings. This means the athlete is under contract to sign and the company witnesses in person the signings. These companies include Steiner, Tri Star, MLB.com (Major League Baseball), Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA), GTSM, ReggieJackson.com and Mounted Memories. These companies will incude a COA and hologram or sticker affixed to the signed item.

Many individual athletes will sell autograhs with their own COA and/or hologram. This includes Barry Bonds, Stan Musial (Stan The Man, ink), Cal Ripken Jr (Ironclad), Brett Favre, Willie Mays, Allen Iverson, Wayne Gretzky, Nolan Ryan, etc. You can buy Favre, Ryan, Musial and others' autographs directly from their official web pages. Green Monster sold Ted Williams autographs and was run by his Ted's son. If you find an autographed ball with the player's personal hologram affixed, you're in good shape.

Manufacturer certified autographed sports cards, where the player was under contract to sign the cards, are generally reliable. These have popular appeal as they are both autographs and sports cards. Over recent years Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck, Donruss and a few others have issued these company certified autograph cards.

There are other modern manufacturer certified autographed memorabilia, again where the athlete was under contract to sign the items. For example, a company named Salvino has issued some athlete signed figures and stuffed bears and Upper Deck has issued signed bobble head, posters and other memorabilia.

Many collectors like to have items that were examined and approved by well known and largely respected companies and individuals including PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication (JSA), Mike Gutierrez. These companies are reputable and their LOAs should be considered significant evidence of authenticity, but the are not perfect and will make occasional mistakes. This is why being knowledgeable, having a keen eye and asking for friends' opinions is important.

Though they will make errors from time to time, most of the big time sports auction houses are reliable for offering authentic autographs. This includes Mastro Auctions, Lelands, SCP/Sothebys, Lelands, Robert Edward Auctions and Heritage.

For more vintage items, different types of material are more reliable than others. For example, anyone can buy a baseball, index card, photo or old Time magazine and sign it. More reliable items include postally used Government Postcards (GPCs), contracts, personal bank checks, items that come with the original postmarked mailing envelope with relevant return address (signer, New York Yankees, etc), letters on personal stationary (especially with original envelope).

Experienced collectors know that personal bank checks are safer sources for authentic autographs.

Vintage autographs with strong provenance is great. For example, items that came from the player's estate, teammate or team executive. It's best if there is proof of this provenance as, of course, a forger can make up fake provenance. In cases ,the items are known to have come from an estate auction by a major auction house like Sotheby's or Mastro Auctions. In some cases the autographs may come with a provenance letter from a family member.

Team baseballs are easier to get a handle on than single signed balls, as there are so many more different signatures to look at. It's one thing to forge Mike Schmidt's autograph, it's another to forger Mike Schmidt and his 20 teammate autographs. If the nobody, common players' signatures on a team ball looks good, that's a strong sign the overall ball is good.

Be aware of secretarial and batboy signatures on otherwise genine items. Though not common, sports figures sometimes had his secretary or assistant sign items. For example, a busy NFL executive might have his secretary sign his name to business letters. It most cases the secretary wasn't trying to mimic the executive's writing style, so a comparison to known genuine examples will weed them out. As baseball great Joe Jackson was neary illiterate, most of his 'signed' items were signed by his wife.

Though not often the case today, many vintage team signed baseballs had a few to some of the signatures signed by the bat boy. This means that on a 1950s New York Yankees team signed ball, most of the autographers are genuine and a few might be by the bat boy. It is probably best to buy an expensive team ball from an experienced autograph dealer and have a company like PSA/DNA or JSA issue a LOA who can identify the batboy signatures.

Realize that certain athletes are the focus of forgeries and much more care should be taken when purchasing their autographs. Common focuses of forgery include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Michael Jordan, Cy Young, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson and other expensive superstars. Though their names may not be as glamours, folks like Ned Yost and Phil Garner aren't nearly as commonly forged and are safer to collect. There aren't any forgers spending hours and hours perfecting their Phil Garner signatures. There's something to be said for collecting autographs of the notbale but not-so-famous.

Lastly, always remember that if you are wary or unsure of the authenticity, you don't have to purchase. And always be sure that you are purchasing from a seller who will allow return/refund if the item turns out to be fake.



Question: What's the difference between an acrylic painting and an oil painting?

Oil paint is an old time type of paint, used to make the Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother and other famous classics. Invented in the 20th century, acrylic paint is the modern, synthetic viersion of oil paint. As such, acrylic and oil paintings will resemble each other in ways and are often used on similar types of paintings. For example, one can see the brush strokes easily in both types of paintings.

Acrylic dries much faster than oil and can be much thicker on the canvas. Acryic tends to much much brighter, 'plasticy,' sometimes day glo colors. Oil has a more old fashioned, glowing, transcluscent feel. Oil paint is still used today. Anything from before 1900 couldn't by acrylic and an acrylic painting couldn't be from before 1900.



Question: How can you tell if an N172 Old Judge is real or reprint?

Issued in 1887-90, the N172 Old Judge baseball cards rank amongst the most popular and collected 19th century baseball cards. Luckily for collectors reprints and counterfeits are almost always simple to identify if you know what to look for.

The Old Judges are actual photographs, with a very thin paper photographic print pasted to a sturdy cardboard backing. Unlike with a Topps, Bowman or Upper Deck card, the player images on the Old Judge have no dot pattern, even under high magnification. This is because photograph images aren’t made with ink and printing press, but by the subtle exposure of photochemicals on the paper and light. The cards were made by a photography studio.

All to almost all reprints and counterfeits of the N172 Old Judges are mechanical prints, whether lithographs or home computer prints. These are easily identified as they have a dot pattern in the player image. The dots will usually be multi colors, but can be monotone (one color). A strong magnifying class or microscope will reveal the dot pattern of a reprint.

The simple N172 Old Judge equation is: dot pattern = reprint.



Question: Why are art prints signed in pencil and not pen?

Art prints are commonly signed and numbered in pencil or crayon as ink can bleed on the paper.

Traditionally the artist’s signature was included to identify prints he or she consider the finished product. The signature was the mark of approval, rather than an autograph like on a baseball. With today’s collectors, some like the autograph as an autograph, while others like the autograph as it indicates the artist personally approved the print.

How to Tell if that World Series or Super Bowl ring is real

World Series and Super Bowl rings given to players and team employees are identified as genuine as the use real diamonds and precious metals. Salesman samples and other copies will not have real diamonds, and not real gold. A trip to your local jeweler can identify a World Series or Super Bowl ring as real, as the jeweler will have no trouble determining if the diamonds are real. If the ring has been appraised by a reputable jeweler, the appraisal will have already determined if ring has real diamonds and precious metals used.

These rings commonly come with provenance documentation showing they came from the player or team employee. In cases, the ring comes with an LOA from the player or family.



Metal Eyelets as sign of Ken Well Ad Sign Reprints

Ken Wel was a well known vintage baseball glove manufacturer. They issued a number of attractive glove advertisements, the best known featuring Lou Gehrig. Cardboard reprints of the signs are common on the market, but many are simple to identify. The most common reprints have little metal rimmed eyelets near the top—metal rimmed holes for hanging . The simple to remember equation is: metal eyelet = modern reprint.


Hi, David. I am looking to get a 52 Topps Mantle, and I was wondering if there are any distinguishing elements of the Topps set that I can use to authenticate prospective cards. Printing techniques under magnification, card stock, popular reprint blunders, etc. Anything you know would be greatly appreceated. Thanks!

The classic 1952 Topps baseball cards are 2 5/8" x 3 3/4." Topps reprinted the cards in later years, but I believe all their reprints are of smaller size and will have the later copyright year printed on back. So these reprints are easy to identify.

There are a good number of homemade, computer reprints but these can be identified if you know what to look for.

The real card was printed on genuine, dark cardboard. A computer reprint of the back will have lots of multi color dots under strong magnification-- where the real card will have none.

The real card had a white substance coated over the front before printing. This means that the front white border will have a different, smooth texture versus the back. Also, there will be no multi color dots in the white borders, where a computer reprint likely will.

As the genuine card is on heavy, dark cardboard, it should let no/little light through when held up to a light.

Home made reprints will often have handcut, irregular edges.

There are lots of reprints. However, the genuine Mantle isn't rare like the T206 Honus Wagner, so it's always possible for an average old time collector to have one. While we hear lots of made up stories about T206 Wagners found in the attic, it's conceibable someone could find a 52T Mantle in his dad's old collection.

Lastly, buy a small cheap lot of cheap 1952 Topps common cards. A reprint will be decidedly different than these real commons-- in thickness, texture, feel, look, etc. If you have some real 1952 Topps cards on hand, it should be no trouble identifying a reprint.




How can you tell if something is hand colored instead of the colors being printed on?

For a print or photograph, the hand coloring is typically done in a watercolor-like paint or ink. For vases and porceline, the hand color may be done in a different kind of paint.

If the colors are hand painted, the ink consistancy and darkness will be uneven, like with a watercolor painting. As the bursh applies, the paint is distributed unevenly, with darker areas here, lighter there.

In most but not all cases, if the colors are printed, a color almost always will be solid.

A halftone reproduction of a hand colored item will reproduce the tonal pattern of handcoloring, but is easily identified as a reproduction. If you take a microcope or strong maginfying glass, there will be a multi color dot pattern in the image.

Of note, if two extra colors are added an item is 'tinted.' If three or more extra colors are added it's 'colored.'


What is the difference between a print and a poster?

Technically, a print is anything that is printed. By this definition, printed trading cards, postcards and magazine covers are prints. As posters are printed, they are a style of print.

Often used for public advertising, posters are much larger than normal prints that are posted or displayed. A common size for posters is 2x3 feet, though they can be found in other sizes.

For collectors and dealers, the term print is often used to label a smaller than poster print that is suitable for framing or inside display. The term is often used to describe a fine art or other 'fancy' print on paper.



Can a poster be original art, or are they all reproductions of something else?

Most posters are photomechanical prints, meaning the graphics are reproductions of some photo or other art. However, a number of posters are original prints. Pablo Picasso and Mark Chagall made original art advertising posters. Most pre American Civil War posters are original art, as the modern photomechanical processes weren't yet in use.



Who was Barry Halper?

The recently deceased Barry Halper was a minority owner of the New York Yankees baseball team and a legendary vintage baseball memorabilia collector. He owned everything from Babe Ruth and Jim Thorpe game used jerseys to Ty Cobb's false teeth. He knew many players, including Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose. In 1999 a portion of his collection was auctioned by Sotheby's for about $25 million. A another portion makes up the Barry Halper Wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. From what I understand, Halper stored it all in his house.



What does 'photographic print' mean?

The term photographic print can be confusing, as the 'print' can imply an ink and printing press print like a lithograph or etching.

A photographic print is a photograph made, or 'printed,' from a negative or transparency. A transparency works the same as a negative, but the image is positive instead of negative. The vast majority of photographs are photographic prints, including the paper photos in your old family album. Most photographic prints are on paper, but are occasionally found on glass, metal and plastic.

Examples of photographs that are not photographic prints are 1800s Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes. These were not printed from negatives.


I have some 1800s tobacco cards that have scrapbook paper on the back. I have heard that people soak the cards in water to remove the paper. My worry is that the images will dissolve away. Do you know anything about this?

Collectors have been able to cleanly remove paper and glue using water. I don't know the specific methods, other than the cards are soaked in distilled water. The old time glue dissolves in water and the scrapbook paper will come off. The standard inks used to print old cards, scraps and trade cards do not dissolve in water. It takes specific specific toxic chemicals to dissolve the printer's ink.



Are watermarks in old prints or documents ever faked? If so, how can you can you identify a faked waterark?

Watermarks are often used to help authenticate prints, letters, documents, etc. For example, it is known what watermarks appear in certain original Rembrandt, Salvador Dali, Picasso and John James Audubon prints.

Though rare, watermarks are sometimes faked. This is ordinarily done to make a forgery appear genuine.

A genuine watermark is a design in paper made by creating a variation in the paper thickness during the manufacture of the paper. The watermark is visible when the paper is held to a light.

Watermarks are known to have existed in Italy before the end of the 13th century. Two types of watermark have been produced. The more common type, which produces a translucent design when held up to a light, is produced by a wire design laid over and sewn onto the sheet mold wire (for handmade paper) or attached to the "dandy roll" (for machine-made paper). The rarer "shaded" watermark is produced by a depression in the sheet mold wire, which results in a greater density of fibers--hence, a shaded, or darker, design when held up to a light.

Watermarks are sometimes forged using linseed oil, mineral oil and other substances that tend to make the paper transparent. These foreign substances are often easil identifiable by shining black light on them. The will fluoresce differently under black light. A genuine watermark is a part of the paper and will fluoresce the same as the rest of the paper.

Fake watermarks can be made by wetting the paper and pressing it with a rubber stamp that contains the design of the watermark in relief. An artificial watermark compresses the fibers instead of separating them as with an authentic watermark. The opacity of this fake watermark will differ from the authentic example. Water will penetrate a genuine watermark faster than the surrounding paper, whereas water on the paper and compressed watermarks will penetrate evenly. There are chemical tests that can also be performed. Obviously, this water test should only be used in exceptional cases, as water can ruin a print. The average collector should not apply water to an expensive or otherwise desirable print.

In most cases, a fake is identified by looking at other areas instead of the watermark. A modern reprint is most commonly identified because the type of printing and/or paper is too modern for it to be original. The vase majority of fakes and forgeries have multiple areas that are clearly incorrect. For a forged print, an expert might be able to make a list of 20-30 different things that prove the print is fake-- with a faked watermark being just one.


How does one tell the difference between a platinum print and gelatin silver print? I'm not talking about old photo, but recently made ones.

Platinum prints and gelatin silver prints are black and white photographs that can be easily mistaken for each other. The platinum print is rarer, used for special pursposes only (not family snapshots or wirephotos) and usually more valuable on the market.

When comparing the two, the photographs are differentiated by looking at the photographic paper and examining the image with a microscope. In many cases, the photograph type is identified before a microscope is needed.

Platinum print paper has the same matte/fibery texture front and back. There is no shine, gloss or plasticy feel to the paper on either side. The paper often has deckled edges (rough, not machine cut smooth), like it was handmade.

A large percentage of modern gelatin silver prints have a smooth (not matte, not fibery), plasticy feel on the front or on the front and back. If the photopaper has manufactuer's branding on back ("This Paper made by Kodak" or "Fuji Crystal Archives Paper"), the photo is gelatin silver. If the paper has one or more above these qualites, it's a gelatin silver.

Some gelatin silver prints have a more papery/matte-like surface front and back and with no manufactuer's branding on back. The front surface is still often slighly different than the back, though it may not be obvious. With these matte gelatin silver prints, it's often not obvious from normal view whether or not it's platinum or geltin silver.

If you shine a black light on the matte gelatin silver, the front and back will typically shine noticeably different in brightness. The platinum print will shine the same front to back.

Lastly, if you take a microscope of say 80 or 100x power you can see the paper fibers in the image of a platinum print, but not in a gelatin silver print. Gelatin silver prints have a thin layer of gelatin on the image side. While transparent, the gelatin hides the paper fibers from view.

It's also relevant to know that platinum prints are much less plentiful than gelatin silver prints. When in doubt, the safest guess is that the photo is a geltin silver.

When comparing gelatin silver and platinum prints, most gelatin silver prints are obvious right away (glossy front or back, printing on back, etc). However, it takes a bit more detective work to prove the identity of a platinum print.


Are black lights safe?

Longwave black light is safe for normal collector's use. Shortwave, on the other hand, is more dangerous, but okay if used carefully (read the directions that come with the light).

Luckily, longwave is the type of black light that collectors and dealers use to identify fake and restored prints, photos, trading cards, antique furnature, etc. Shortwave is for specialized purposes, including authenticating stamps and gems. The average collector visiting this site only needs the safe longwave black light.


What does a 'plate signed' print mean?

For a print, plate signed means the artist put his 'signature' on or into the printing plate and the resulting prints have his printed faux signature. The signature is part of printed graphics. Some might call it a faux or pre-printed signature.

This is as opposed to 'hand signed' print, where the artist autographed the finished print by hand.

Hand signing a print print is a relatively recent thing (started late 1800s). Original Rembrandt and Durer prints are not hand signed. Durer prints often have his monogram as part of the printed graphics.

In modern times, the artist's hand signature on an original print shows that the print was personally approved as finished by the artist. The artist signs it when it's all finished and meets his or her approval. Prints that didn't come out right go unsigned and are often literally destroyed and tossed in the trash. This explains why art collectors pay more for a hand signed original print by a famous artist. The extra price is not just because it's autographed, but because the autographed indicates the print was personally okayed by the artist.



Do forged tintypes exist?

Yes, though they aren't common. The forgeries are usually of desirable/expensive subjects, and have the images printed onto a piece of metal. There are also forged ambrotypes, often on plastic instead of glass.

More common than forgeries, are genuine tintypes that are misidentified. This includes misidentified subjects (a guy who somewhat resembles Custer but is not) or misdated (an 1865 baseball photo is much rarer and more expensive than its 1895 counterpart). An expert in baseball photography can judge the period of the baseball players by the style of uniforms and equipment. For example, the catcher's face mask was invented in the late 1870s. A novice might buy the seller's claim that the photo with a catcher's mask is from the 1860s, but an baseball expert would know the photo was from much later.

In his or her area of collecting interest, the collector should be knowledgeable both about the physical photo and the subject in the image.



Can you authenticate prints and photographs from an emailed scan?

No. From a digital picture I can identify obvious fakes or say something appears consistant with a genuine item, but I have to see something in person before I will say something is authentic.

Digital pictures are inherently limited and sometimes deceptive. To authenticate something, I examine the item under the microscope and sometimes with other tools (black light, other). Obviously I can't do this with a digitial scan. Putting my microscope to the computer screen or the black light to the computer print out doesn't work ... Also, as anyone who sells on eBay knows, a digital picture can be different in tone, appearance and focus than the original item. A bad digital scan can sometimes make a genuine item look fake.

With an item potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, one can't even be sure that the emailer owns or even physically has the item, or that the three or four detailed pictures sent are details from the same item. A man once emailed me a picture of an item 'he owned and wished to sell.' The only problem being that I owned the item and the picture he emailed was copied from this website. A criminal genius he was not.



I bought a Barry Bonds autographed baseball on eBay because it had a PSA/DNA certificate. When I got it there was a 'Bonds' hologram on the ball. Do you know anything about this and does it effect the value of the ball?

The Barry Bonds hologram was placed on the ball by Bonds or Bonds' official when he signed the ball. If anything it will raise the value of the ball.

These days many superstar athletes place their personal holograms on game used items and items they formally signed. These stars include Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez and even old timers like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Gary Carter. The holograms are often accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the player or his marketing company.

Other good 'extra' holograms that can be found on a signed ball include Tri Star, Steiner and Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA). These are respected companies that conduct in person only autograph sessions with players. The signings are conducted under strict and formal conditions (in person, witnesses, athlete under contract with the company to sign, etc).

If wishing to resell, you would have no trouble finding a buyer for a Bonds signed ball that has both his hologram and a PSA/DNA COA.



Can you recommend a good resource or resources for original Andy Warhol prints?

Yes. Purchase the Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962-87 by Feldman and Schellmann (Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts publisher). The book describes and pictures in full color most every Warhol orininal print. It includes the essential info for the prints-- size, type of paper and printing (lithograph, silkscreen, other), how many known made, if and how signed and numbered, etc.



If a photograph has the stamp with the photographer's name does that mean it's original?

No. The photographer's stamp most often means the photograph was made by or with the permission of the photographer. This alone makes the presence of a famous photographer's stamp desirable to photo collectors. However, photographers sometimes make reprints and 'years after' photographs, so the stamp does not automatically mean the photograph is a vintage original.

If a photograph has a crystal clear image, is vintage and has the photographer's stamp, the photograph is likely original. The vintage part is judged by looking at the paper, aging, etc.


I was told that there are a lot of N173 Old Judge baseball fakes on the market. How can I tell the difference?

There are a series of later made fakes on the market. Luckily, they look significantly different than the regular 1800s N173 Old Judge cabinets of baseball players.

Pictured below is a genuine Old Judge cabinet, with the standard size and shaped mount and gold text below the player picture. The fakes have unusual shaped and colored mounts, sometimes with three photographic prints per mount framed behind glass. Some of the fakes are on metal (marketed as 'tintype proofs.')

If a collector sticks to the Old Judge Cabinets that look like Old Judge Cabinets, he'll bypass these funky monkey fakes.




What is a giclee?

Giclee (a french word pronoucne zhee-clay) is a fancy form of ink jet printing that can be used to make high quality reproductions of paintings, posters and photographs. Numerous famous have made giclees, including photographers Richard Avedon and David Bailey and painter Stephen Holland. A photographer can scan an original negative or transparency and make a giclee from that.



I bought what was advertised as the proof of an old magazine cover. It's made up of two sheets of paper loosely connected together. The front paper is very thin, almost like tissue paper. The backing paper is thick. Is this kosher, because I've never seen anything like it?

What you describe is consistant with a genuine proof. The thin on thick paper is called chine aplique, and some proofs are chine appliques.


How can you tell the difference between the old and new Hurrell photos? I mean the new photos with old subect?

(The famous Hollywood photographer, George Hurrell, photographed many movie stars in the 1930s for MGM. Subjects included Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, etc. Circa 1980, Hurrell made numerous 'printed later' photos of the early subjects. Both the vintage originals and some limited edition numbered and signed modern ones can have financial value).

An experienced seller of such photos will be able to tell the difference and won't misrepresent a newer photo as vintage.

The new ones can come in very large size and are often limited edition numbered. Few if any of the original versions were jumbo, typically measuring 8x10" and 11x14". Also, the look too new to be old. A black light will identify most to all new ones (reference book Judging the Authenticity of Paper Photographs).

The vintage 1930s photos will look old, and will often his his name with MGM studio stamp on the back.




* * * *

What's the easiest way to tell if a Salvador Dali print for sale is genuine?

It's safest to buy a Dali that comes with an authentic LOA from Albert Field/Dali Archives. Field knew Dali and was a world famous Dali expert. He provided LOAs for many Dali works, often placing a Dali Archives stamp on the work itself. Though Field died a couple of years ago, The Dali Archives still exists.

Field wrote the standard Dali guide The Official Catalog of Graphic Works of Salvador Dali. This book is used and referenced by museums and major auction houses like Christies and Sotheby's. This in an important book for the collector, as it discusses common fakes and lists the Dali prints that are known to be genuine. The collector can check on his or her own to see if the for sale print is 'listed' in the book.

Unless you're a Dali expert yourself, it's important to purchase expensive origial Dali prints from a reputable and preferably established seller. A good seller is knowledgeable in the area and has a good authenticity/return guarnantee. For the collector who wishes to someday resell the item, it's will only be a plus to have the receipt or other documentation showing it was purchased from a known reputable and knowledgeable seller or auction house.



This is a really dumb question. In a MastroNet auction I saw some of the original paintings for the 1953 Topps cards. How did Topps make a painting into a card?

The same way calendars have pictures of the Mona Lisa on them. Without getting in depth, Topps hired artists to make the players' paintings. Topps' printers would take a photo of one of the paintings and make a plastic negative of it. Though a technical process, the photographic image from the negative would be transferred to a printing plate (one printing plate for each color), and the printing plates were used to print the color image of the player on the front of the card.

It's not too far different from if you took a digital image of a painting on your wall and printed the digital image out on your computer printer. When done, you'd have both the computer print and the original painting.




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?

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 by 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.




How come you never seem to see original printing plates for Pre-War baseball cards, like the T206s?

The printers had no use for the finished printing plates (after all, they were only for silly baseball cards), and would clean off the surface, throw away and/or melt down the plates for other purposes. The printing plate necessary for cards like the 1915 Sporting News were large, heavy and bulky and I'm sure the printers were in a position to let these types of plate pile of in a backroom.



How does a collector purchase an original T206 Honus Wagner? I'm not looking to buy one and don't even collect baseball cards. I'm just wondering because I was told most eBay cards Wagners are fakes.

Ninety nine plus percent of the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball cards are reprints or fakes.

For those who don't know, the T206 Wagner is the most famous and expensive trading card in the world. The most famous example was co-owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky and last sold for over one million dollars. Even the lower condition example usually sell for over $200,000. A knowledgeable potential buyer with that kind of money and who knows what he is doing isn't going to cut corners and clip coupons. He may recruit the assistance of an expert.

These days real Wagners are purchased through well known and reputable auction houses. MastroNet, Robert Edwards and Sotheby's are few places that have sold Wagners. If you follow these auction houses, you can watch bidding on a genine Wagner.

Most of the Wagners sold by these auction houses will have been judged authentic by an outside grading company, such as PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators) and SGC (Sportscard Guarantee). A card from these graders will be in a plastic holder with the card/grader's label on top (inside the holder). The holder will also have a condition grade Poor to Mint for the card, reflecting the condition of the card. The value of the Wagner, and all cards, is directly related to the condition.

There may be some big dollar behind-the-scenes purchases or real Wagners that have not been 'entombed' by a grading company. These sales will usually involve well known hobby veterans, either as buyer, seller or advisor.



What is guache?

Guage is opaque watercolor paint and the resulting painting. With a watercolor painting, you can often see through the paint to the paper behind. If there was an outline pencil sketch, you can often see the pencil lines. With guache they add chalk to the watercolor paint so you can't see though it.



How can you tell the difference between a real 1950s Red Man baseball card poster and a reprint?

The original posters were on thin poster paper and in person have strikingly high quality graphics (crisp, colorful and bright). I have heard that most of the reprints are on cardboard. There was a find of unused original posters, so the originals can be found in strong condition.


Can a giclee photo be considered original?

It can. A photographer can computer scan the original transparency or negative from his camera and print out this scan. A giclee made this way is original.


I bought on eBay what is supposed to be an original 8x10 color photo of Gerald Ford while he was President. I have no idea how to tell if it is original (I only paid a few bucks). On the back it says "This Paper Manufactured By Kodak" in three lines. This is printed all over all over the back. Would this give any indication of the age?

That printing on the back of Kodak paper appears to have been used from the early 1970s to late 1980s. While it does not pinpoint a year, it is consistant with yours being vintage. The photo was definitely not made recently, as that printing is no longer used.


Why do really old photographs have cardboard backing?

It's a combination of need and beauty. The standard 1800s photographic print was on especially thin and delicate paper. The cardboard backing, known as 'mounts', served as protection. As cabinet cards, cartes de viste and other mounted photographs were meant to be displayed for people to look at, the mounts were often designed to look nice. The borders surrounding the print are found in a variety of designs and colors.


How do you know if one of those big John James Audubon bird prints is original?

The wildly popular large Audubon "Birds of America" prints were originally printed in the 1820s-30s, and have been reprinted many times since, including as everyday posters. Luckily for collectors, identifying the original large prints are surprisingly easy if you know what to look for.

An original large 1820s-30s Audubon "Birds of America" print should have the following four qualities (There are also genuine small (1/8th) size Audubon prints, but this brief essay is only about the jumbo versions):

1) Measure about 26x39 inches if untrimmed. A reprint can be the same size, but an untrimmed odd size is a giveaway a print is a later reprint.

2) A "J Whatman" watermark in the paper. A watermark is best seen when holding the paper up in front of a bright light. Many of today's computer printer and typing papers have watermarks, so you can practice your looking skills on paper around the house. The Audubon watermarks will say J Whatman and a year of printing below (ala '1831').

It's possible that if the watermark was at the very edge of the paper and the print was trimmed that the watermark may be missing or obscured. For the potential buyer it's best to make sure that watermark is in the paper, and leave the "was trimmed off" watermarks for other buyers.

3) Presence of a plate mark. A plate mark is an indentation in the paper that surrounds the printed graphics. Caused by the pressure from the metal printing plate against the paper during printing, it appears only with certain types of printing techniues. Some reproductions might have fake plate marks, but most will have none.

4) Hand colored colors. The colors on the original large Audubons were painted by hand. Under close examination, this will be apparent. If under a strong magnifying glass, the colors have a fine multicolor dot pattern like on a magazine picture, it's a later photomechanical reproduction. A small few of reproductions have hand painted colors, but the majority of modern reprints will have the multi-color dot pattern.

If a print has all of the above qualities, it's near certain that you have an original on your hands. The watermark in particular is a strong sign of originality, as it doesn't appear on any known reprint sets. As a reproduction can be hand colored, be of the correct size or have a plate mark, remember to check all four qualities and don't focus on just one.



For sports autographs, who are reputable experts who issue LOAs and COAs?

A short list of generally respected autograph companies and individuals include James Spence Authentication, Mike Gutierrez, Global Authentication Inc (GAI), PSA/DNA, Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA), Richard Simon, Steiner and OnlineAuthentics. I'm sure I've missed a few worthy names.

Is etching and engraving the same thing?

Etching and engraving are different though closely related prints/printing techniques. They are both members of the intaglio class of printing, and the techniques are centuries old.

If you look at the typical engraving and typical etching placed side be side, it's easy to identify which one is which. The typical engraving has conservative, stoic, conservative lines like in the portraits on US paper currency. The typical etching will look like a pen and ink sketch, with spontaneous line as if hand drawn.



What is a tintype?

A tintype is an old time photograph with the image on a thin sheet of iron, resembling tin. Tintypes were popular in the 1800s. Tintypes can be found showing famous people like Abraham Lincoln, but most show annonymous everyday folk. Many of our personal family history collections contain tintypes of long ago family members.

Closely related popular photographs from the 1800s are the Daguerreotype (image on a sheet of silver plated copper) and ambrotype (image on glass).



I'm looking into to possibly buying an original Leroy Neiman print. I saw a Neiman serigraph on eBay with a LOA from "Knoedler." I have never heard of Knoedler, and was wondering if they are considered reliable.

Knoedler Publishing LLC, of New York City, is the official publisher and distributer of Neiman's work. The Knoedler Publishing LOA for an original Neiman print is official and likely came with the print when the print was first offered for sale to the public.



How can I tell if a 1928 Fro Joy Babe Ruth card is the real one or reprint?

The rule of thumb with the Froy Joy Babe Ruth cards and uncut sheets is to only buy one if you really, really know what you are doing or from someone who really, really knows what he or she’s doing.

For those unfamiliar with the cards, here’s a brief history. In 1928 Fro Joy brand ice cream issued a set of black and white trading cards black depicting Babe Ruth in various poses (portrait, batting grip, sliding into base, etc). The backs of the cards have Fro Joy ads. The 1928 ice cream eater could mail in a set for a photograh of Ruth swiging the bat and an uncut sheet of the cards.

The cards and sheets are scarce on the market. The problem is that in later years the cards and sheets were reprinted without authorization. The reprints come in the original black, and also in blue and white and multi color. Knowing that the originals are only black and white, the average collector can quickly identify the blue and multi-colored cards and sheets as fakes. However, the black and white reprints also far outnumber the originals, so great care should be taken when buying one.

The original cards were made with an obsolete printing method called photoengraving, and are authenticated with a microscope. This method of authentication is beyond most collectors and dealers, but is covered in detail in Judging the Authenticity of Early Baseball Cards.


Can a computer print be considered an original?

Yes, if the design did not exist before (not a reproduction or copy). Assuming there isn't major graphic embellishment, if someone scans and computer prints out the cover of Reader's Digest, that's not original. However, if your young daughter draws a unique picture of her kitty cat on a computer drawing program and prints it out for the refrigerator door, that's as original as that Rembrandt etching in the museum.

The common pitfall in defining what is original is assigning false qualities to the term. Common phrases one will hear include: "It's by Picasso and sold for $1 million. It's got to be original" ... "A cheesy baseball card sold in packs of gum can't be as original as a painting" ... "An original can't be in a kid's fingerpaints. It's got to be something like oils" ... "I paid $1,000 for it, so I consider it an original" ...

While financial value, artist's celebrity, beauty and prevailing taste are fine and dandy qualities, they have nothing to do with originality. The originality of your daughter's computer sketch isn't defined by its sell price on eBay.




I’ve recently started collecting photographs, and I notice that there are different names for color photos, like c-print. What is the significance with these names?

Though few photo collectors know it, it’s an easy lesson to learn.

There are four standard color photographic processes/prints: c-print (chromogentic), dye-transfer, Cibachrome and Polaroid. The popular significance attached to each process is the quality and durability of the images. Some have better images than others, and some images last longer than others. Brief summary is as follows:

chromogenic print (also known as c-print). The c-print is the normal, everyday color photograph. This includes the snapshots in your family album, wedding photos, 8x10 you had autographed by Willie Mays, etc etc. 99.9 percent of color photographs are c-types. C-print images are often nice, but have a tendency to fade and discolor. This makes the process not desirable in the fine arts and for display photos.

Polaroid: You know what Polaroids are; those small instant, self developing photos you aunt may have shot at the reunion picnic. Images can be nice, though often fade. One neat thing about Polaroids is that each photo is unique. With most photographic processes, many original copies of a single image can be made. Due to the unique self developing way the are made, there is only one of a particular Polaroid.

Dye-transfer: The Rolls Royce of color photographs. Have unsurpassed image quality and are the least likely to fade or discolor. Scarce on the market, this process has been used by famous artists and for museum displays.

Cibachrome: The BMW of color photographs. High quality images, though not quite as good as dye-transfer. Long lasting images, though not as long as dye-transfer. Cibachromes are often easily identified due to their often super duper glossy fronts and common jet black borders. Also known as Ilfachrome.



What is a progression proof?

Progression proofs are proofs, or test prints, that are used by the printers to test the colors and color alignment before final printing. The purpose of such proof printing is to identify and correct any errors and make sure everything looks good before you print the final product. You don't want to print 5,000 final movie posters then realize you did a dumb miscalulation that made the colors look horrible or printed the text upside down. You want these types of errors weeded out in the proofing stage.

There was a series of progression proofs for a print, with each proof testing a unique color combination. For example, one proof was printed in black and white, the next black and yellow, the next blue and red, and so on. The set will show the prints in a variety, or progression, of colors. Progression proofs are often also called 'color separation proofs,' or 'color separation tests,' all which are acceptable names.

The below shows a progression proof set for a 1975 Hostess baseball card, printed by the famous Topps Chewing Gum Company of New York City.



(c) cycleback, all rights reserved

(c) cycleback, all rights reserved