“Baseball Photography” forward by Dave Bushing
At the 2005 National Sports Convention in Chicago, A Portrait of Baseball Photography written by Marshall Fogel, Khyber Oser and Henry Yee was introduced at a special dinner hosted by MastroNet Auction Company, the publisher of this fantastic 347-page book. For the first time ever, we have a definitive format to guide photograph collectors on the subject of how to collect date and authenticate photographs regardless of the subject.
I asked my good friend Marshall, who owns the finest baseball photo collection, to write an informative article on the subject of photography. If you would like to order a copy of the book simply call MastroNet at (630) 472-1200.
“A Portrait of Baseball Photography”
by Marshall Fogel
I became interested in collecting baseball photographs in 1989 with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I relied strictly on instinct. In those early days, there were no authentication services for baseball cards, bats, and other memorabilia items. Over the last fifteen years authentication services have strengthened the sports collectible industry. Now photographs have gained widespread interest from collectors. The proof is evident as photographs have sold for up to $100,000. Photographs by HP Horner, Conlon, Bain, Van Oeyen and several others are recognized as valuable museum pieces.
As expected, many photographs were sold with descriptions that were based on opinions rather than facts. Sellers were using various terms to describe photographs as original, vintage and first generation without attaching any meaning to these terms. As such, I felt it was time to write a book on the subject. I was buying photographs from Henry Yee. I called him about three years ago just to introduce myself, we talked for a while, we discovered that we had enough knowledge on the subject of photography to write a book. I then contacted Khyber Oser, a wonderful writer, to be a co-author. A draft of our publication was reviewed by Bill Mastro and Doug Allen, executives of MastroNet, and they immediately wanted to publish the book as part of the MastroNet library. With this background, I take pleasure in outlining information that I hope will encourage you to collect sports photography.
Let me acknowledge, I include myself, there is always a fear of collecting items in areas one knows nothing about. As a result, we tend to collect only in an area we feel comfortable. Baseball cards are a good example of where all the work is done for us by the grading services. Even though other sports items are graded such as bats, we still have to do some self-imposed research. For example, a Jimmie Foxx bat, which is rare, may be cracked at the handle or part of the knob is missing and is for sale for $20,000. Though the bat is properly authenticated you have to decide if the price is fair. Unlike baseball cards there are no price guides for baseball bats. Likewise, there are no price guides for photographs.
I’ll give you two very simple rules to follow so in no time the apprehension to collect items such as photographs will dissolve. Simply, follow the prices realized at auction and seek advise from expert authenticators, dealers and collectors. If you follow this advice you will piece together a more interesting sports collection that should include photographs. Without a doubt, baseball photographs are more in demand than any other sports photographs.
Like collecting baseball cards, you can purchase a photograph for ten dollars or ten thousand dollars and achieve the same ownership enjoyment. I have had friends and collectors from all over the United States view my collection and what they enjoy the most are the baseball photographs.
In the late 1920’s the Fortune magazine editors began to realize the photographs told a story better then long print articles. From their photograph format, the magazine was an instant success. Soon after, news photography was a major format for all of the news media. For example, there are several available photographs of Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run. Showing your friends the photo stirs their emotions as opposed to reading the story of Ruth hitting that home run. You can buy an original of this photograph from $50 to $2,500 depending on its condition and clarity or you can buy a reproduction for $10. What is great about collecting photographs is anyone’s budget can be accommodated.
In our book we write about how to start collecting. Most importantly we define, for the first time, how to categorize the types of photographs:
A first generation photograph developed from the original negative during the period (approximately within two years from when the picture was taken) Type 1’s, because of their vintage and originality, are the most desirable and valuable of the four photograph types.
A first generation photograph developed from an original negative during a later period (more than approximately two years from when the picture was taken).
A second generation photograph developed either from a “duplicate negative” or a “wire transmission” within approximately two years of when the picture was taken. A “duplicate negative” is produced by taking a photograph of an existing original photograph thereby creating a second negative that is of inferior quality to the original.
A second generation (or third or fourth generation) photograph from a duplicate negative or a “wire transmission” more than two years after the picture was taken.
I assure you that A Portrait of Baseball Photography has easy to understand examples that make it very easy to fully understand the four types of photographs. Feel comfortable in using these terms when buying photographs for your collection. We the authors know we did not want our book to simply be another collectors guide.
We therefore enriched the content with twenty-two biographies of the great and important baseball photographers as well as samples of their photographs. The book traces the history of news photography as well as writing about the 33 major news photo services and subscribers such as Acme/Nea, Associated Press, Underwood and Underwood, United Press, The Sporting News, and Central News Photo Service. Most importantly, we identify the stampings on the reverse of news photographs and other photographs in an easy to understand format. You will learn the difference between news photographs and wire photographs, and photographs starting 1840 with the Daguerrotype process. Four instance, there are over 15 identified Acme Stampings that appear on the reverse of their news photographs. Each stamping is pictured with the time period the stamp was used in order to identify which of four types of photos relate to the specified photograph. If the photograph depicts Ruth Hitting his 60th home run in October 1927 and the stamping on the back is of the same time period then the evidence is such that the photograph is a Type 1.
Lastly, we filled A Portrait of Baseball Photography with a “huge” number of fabulous photographs never published for public review. Black and white sports photographs have given way to color digital and other modern technology used to produce photographs. Many news organizations destroyed their photographs on the basis they were of no value.
So if you decide to wet your curiosity, buy one of these old photographs of the past – look at the faces of the players, the fans, the uniforms of the players and the clothing of the fans and the event depicting the culture of the time the photograph was taken, and the feeling you will experience if unlike any you will achieve with other items in your collection.