Thursday, November 01, 2012

Collecting Photography

Until 25 years ago or so, photographs weren’t seen as a distinct collectible. Today, dealers specialize in photography collectibles, many of which are of interest to book collectors as well.

From a story in the Somerville News...

Around the turn of the century, many wealthy families made grand tours of Europe. This was before postcards, so tourist shops carried photographs of local sites. Visitors chose which photographs to buy for their album, making each album unique depending on what the owner selected. This is a fascinating way to get an idea of what traveling through Europe at that time was really like. Photo albums of the Near East, Far East and Russia are a bit more rare than albums depicting European locations. There are American ones as well, and some of these, especially ones depicting the railroads and California, are very interesting. Many of these travel albums can be purchased quite inexpensively, although depending upon which photographer’s work is featured, they can bring a bit more money.

One area of photography collecting that people don’t often think of is college yearbooks. I have a customer who collects yearbooks dating from as far back as the 1800s. What is interesting about collecting yearbooks is that all of the yearbooks from one year are not necessarily the same. Each graduate would get a catalog of available photos and pick the ones he wanted for his yearbook, creating a custom book just for him. Much like the travel albums, yearbooks differ depending on which photos each student selected. It was also customary for graduates to sign their photo in the yearbook, an addition that can make the book more valuable. For example, if you have a yearbook from Harvard’s graduating class of 1861, it may include a signed photo of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who later went on to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

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