This column offers some additional information about vintage and antique cards and memorabilia.
Many 1800s sports cards are actual photographs
Modern card collectors often don’t realize that many 1800s trading cards are actual photographs, taken with a camera and developed in a photography lab. While modern ink and printing press technology can reproduce photographic quality, it wasn’t possible in the days of the Old Judge and Allen & Ginter cards. To give a realistic representation of a player, the card companies had to use actual photographs. The ever popular 1880s Old Judges have real photographs pasted to cardboard print.
Realize that in the 1800s, many people who lived outside of the big cities followed the big teams and stars in the newspapers and magazines but never saw the games in person. Pulling an Old Judge or Gypsy Queen photographic card from a pack of cigarettes was often a fan’s first time to see what a star such as King Kelly or Cap Anson really looked like. It was akin to meeting the player in person.
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Blue sports photographs
One will occasionally see antique sports photographs that are a distinct blue. These are called cyanotypes (cyan = blue) and antique blueprints are cyanotype photographs. Cyanotypes have sharp images and don’t fade or deteriorate like other photographs. However, they generally don’t fetch high prices because collectors tend to be turned off by the blue tone. Most collectors consider them curiosities.
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Fred Flinstone golfing news photo
Here’s your curious news photo of the day. It’s an original 1963 ABC television press photo of Fred Flintstone golfing. Television and movie studios sent promotional photos of their shows and movies to newspapers and magazines and this one happens to be of a cartoon character.
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Flexichromes were colorized photographs that were used as the original art for numerous 1950s-60s Topps, Bowman and other trading cards. While the 1953 Topps baseball cards are reproductions of oil paintings, the landmark 1952 Topps used flexichromes as the original art. Cards made from flexichromes are easy to identify due to their dayglow colors. Colorizing the photos was a painstaking process that could only be accomplished by professionals and advanced amateurs.
Flexichromes used to make sport and non-sport trading cards are highly popular and can fetch good prices.
An excellent article on the flexhichrome process can be read at the Topps Archive blog.