Month: February 2013

Tips for newbie collectors of most anything

Whether it involves celebrity autographs, movie posters, fine art prints, baseball cards, postcards or antique figurines, collecting can be good clean fun for boys and girls of all ages. However, all areas of collecting have fakes, reprints and scams.

The following is a brief but important list of tips that the beginner should read before jumping into the hobby with open pocketbook.

1) Start by knowing that there are reprints, counterfeits, fakes and scams out there. If you start by knowing you should be doing your homework, having healthy skepticism of sellers’ grand claims and getting second opinions, you will be infinitely better off than the beginner who assumes everything’s authentic and all sellers are honest.

2) Learn all you can about material you wish to collect and the hobby in general. The more you learn and more experience you have, the better off you are. Most forgers aren’t trying to fool experts. They’re trying to fool the ignorant.

3) Realize that novices in any area of collecting are more likely to overestimate, rather than underestimate, the value of items they own or are about to buy.

4) Get second opinions and seek advice when needed. This can range from a formal opinion from a top expert to input from a collecting friend. Collectors who seek advice and input are almost always better off than those who are too proud or embarrassed to ask questions.

5) Start by buying inexpensive items. Put off the thousands dollar Babe Ruth baseball cards and Elvis Presley autographed photos for another day.

Without exception, all beginners make mistakes. From paying too much to misjudging rarity to buying fakes. It only makes sense that a collector should want to make the inevitable beginner’s mistakes on $10 rather that $1,000 purchases.

6) Gather a list of good sellers. A good seller is someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy. A good seller fixes a legitimate problem when it arises, and has a good authenticity guarantee and return policy.

It’s best to buy real expensive items online from good sellers, including those you have dealt with or those who otherwise have strong reputations.

What authenticity is

In all areas of collecting, from movie memorabilia to oil paintings, something is authentic if its true identity is described accurately and sincerely.

If you pay good money for an “original 1930 Greta Garbo photograph by the famous Hollywood photographer George Hurrell,” you expect to receive an original 1930 Greta Garbo photo by George Hurrell. You don’t expect a 1970 reprint or a photo by an unknown photographer.

An item does not have to be rare or expensive or old to be authentic. It just has to be accurately and sincerely described. A cheapo 2003 reprint can be authentic if described as a cheapo 2003 reprint.

Errors in the description of an item are considered significant when they significantly affect the financial value or reasonable non-financial expectations of the buyer. An example of the reasonable non-financial expectations would involve a collector who specializes in real photo post cards of her home state of Iowa and makes it crystal clear to the seller that she only wants postcards depicting Iowa. Even if there is no financial issue, she would have reason to be disappointed if the purchased postcard turned out to show Oklahoma or Minnesota.

Many errors in description are minor and have little to no material effect. If that 1930 Greta Garbo photo turns out to be from 1934, it may not effect the financial value or desirability to the purchaser.

“If a photograph has the stamp with a famous 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.

“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.

Reprints of Ken Wel Advertising Signs

Reprints of Ken Wel Advertising Signs

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. You can make out the eyelet at the top of the sign here.

Question: “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, 8×10 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.

“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’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.