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Vintage Sports Memorabilia Questions and Answers

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The following are some more answers to past cards and memorabilia questions I have received. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Question: What is a CDV?

1870s CDV of baseball pioneer Harry Wright

1870s CDV of baseball pioneer Harry Wright

Answer: The acronym for carte de vistie (a French word), a CDV is a small photo card that was popular in the 1800s and early 1900s. They measure about 2.5 x 4 inches and have a photographic print on a usually larger piece of cardboard.

The photography studio or photographer is often printed on front and/or back. The images depict everything from family photos to US presidents to Civil War soldiers. CDVs are popularly collected today, and CDVs of athletes are collected by collectors of early sports cards.

Question: Do you think modern photographs are collectible?

Answer: Definitely. I’m a fan of modern photography, from the 1970s to today. Quality original and limited photos by famous photographers can have good value too.

Color of Tom Seaver in  his last year with photographer George Brace's stamp on back

Color of Tom Seaver in 1986 with noted photographer George Brace’s stamp on back

Question: Do you think the major auction houses are reliable for selling authentic photos?

Answer: I used to see a good number of mistakes about ten years ago, but they’ve improved a lot. It’s always a photo by photo and auction lot by auction lot case, but I think the big sports auction houses are generally reliable.

It is interesting that the most recent auction house error that comes to mind was for a rare 1860s baseball photo that the auction house incorrrectly labelled as being from the 1870s. As the older the rarer and more valuable, their dating lowered the value. I told them and they were happy to correct their online catalog listing.

Question: Why are cabinet cards called cabinet cards?

Answer: Because the antique photos were commonly displayed in cabinets, just as people today display collector’s plates in cabinets. There is another type of 1800s photo called a boudoir card, because it was intended to be displayed in a boudoir. Boudoir being an old-fashioned name for a lady’s bedroom or dressing room.

Question: What is a chromolithograph?

An example of chromolithography: 1880s Goodwin Champions baseball card

An example of chromolithography: 1880s Goodwin Champions baseball card

Answer: A chomrolithograph sounds like some big technical term, but it is just a nickname for especially colorful lithography. It was coined in the 1800s for fine art prints, but colorful 1800s sports cards and advertising pieces are often called chromolithgraphs. The term is applied to antique items, not modern prints. I’ve never heard of a 1960 Topps card or 1996 Bowman called a chromolitiograph.

Question: What’s the best way to tell if a World Series, Super Bowl or other championship ring is authentic or a salesman sample?

Salesman's sample 1961 Yankees World Series ring

This one’s a salesman sample

Answer: One is to take it to a local jewelry store to determine if the gems and metal are precious. A real World Series ring would be made of genuine gold or silver and diamonds or other valuable stones, while a salesman’s sample would be use cheaper version. I would also hope that a genuine World Series or Super Bowl ring would come with good provenance.

Question: What is a seriograph?

Answer: Serigraph is a fancy name for silk screen or screen printing. Artists want to sound fancy and thought silk screen was too common sounding. I guess they thought a fancy name would be better for sales. Examples of silk screens, I mean serigraphs, include Andy Warhol and Leroy Neiman prints and, of course, t-shirts.

Question: What are Harper’s Woodcuts?

Answer: Harper’s Woodcuts are woodcut prints (prints printed from hand cut wood blocks) that appeared in the popular 1800s illustrated magazine Harper’s Weekly.

1874 full page Harper's Weekly woocut print of the Philadelphia Athletics including a young Cap Anson at bottom right.

1874 full page Harper’s Weekly woocut print of the Philadelphia Athletics including a young Cap Anson at bottom right.

The prints are popularly collected today as they depict everything from US Presidents and Civil War action to daily life. There are many Harper’s Woodcuts of 1800s baseball players including stars Cap Anson, King Kelly, Buck Ewing and Hoss Radbourne and team pictures.

These’s aren’t independent blank backed prints like premiums or supplements, but pictures that are part of the magazine. They are often surrounded and backed by articles text. The key is in the 1800s they didn’t have the technology to reproduce photos as they do in todays newspapers and magazines. All the printing plates were carved by hand. So, though ‘just’ magazine pictures, they are handmade prints made the same old-fashioned way Picasso or Rembrandt made their original prints hung in a museum. Though mass produced in magazines, they can be considered original works of art. They make great display pieces and, since they were mass produced and not hard to find, are very affordable for 19th century items.

May 1886 Harper's Weekly: Boston playing New York at the Polo Grounds

May 1886 Harper’s Weekly: Boston playing New York at the Polo Grounds

About David Cycleback

David Cycleback is an art and artifact historian and an internationally known authentication expert. He has advised and examined material for major auction houses and institutions, and was a writer for the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography, the standard academic reference. Reprinted by Beijing's Three Shadows Art Center, his guides "Judging the Authenticity of Prints by the Masters" and "Judging the Authenticity of Photographs" were the first comprehensive books on the subjects published in China. You can find his books for sale on eBay here: http://bit.ly/1mixAcg. He can be reached at [email protected].

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