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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 2

Family Treasures

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series   

Old Family Albums  

If you’ve ever rummaged among boot sales and markets, you’ll probably have come across old photo albums carrying images of people long forgotten by their families.  And if you own any old family albums of unidentified subjects yourself, think twice before you throw any away, because some collector might find them highly desirable.  

Size matters

If your photos measure about 4in by 2 1/2in, you have cartes de visite, sometimes used as calling cards.  The craze for ‘cartomania’ began around


1860, when as many as 400 million were sold in a single year. Portraits were the main subjects, but views of towns and cities were also popular. Queen Victoria was an enthusiast with 36 albums full. Needless to say, cartes of Her Majesty sold like hot cakes, and if you find you have one, you will be pleased to know that they are worth about 25 today.

Bigger, card-mounted photographs date from about 1880 and are known as  ‘cabinet pictures’, usually studio portraits against painted backgrounds.

Look up cartes and cabinet pictures on the internet, and you may seem them called c-d-vs and cbs by collectors. Visit  and go to the collectables/photographic images sites.  

Portraits differ in value

A full-length soldier in uniform can be worth 25 to a collector of military mementoes. Prices for ‘sporting’ studies -  tennis players, golfers, boxers - and for politicians, theatricals, musicians, are around 20.  ‘Occupations’ can be 25: a policeman, a fireman, a baker or a butcher in his working clothes is worth more than great-great-grandfather in his best suit.  

What’s on the back?

Many cards have decorative backs, where the photogapher would print name and address. A decorative back can raise value from an unimpressive 50p to 5. The names of the photographers can add value.  Look for Frank Sutcliffe (views of Whitby); P E Chappuis of Fleet (‘by royal appointment’); G Wilson of Aberdeen (local views); and another ‘royal’ photographer, John Mayall.  

No fortune to be made

Old album pictures won’t make anyone a fortune, but  they don’t cost much to collect, either, and it can be fun to try. Market traders may ask as little as 1 for three.  Dealers say they can pay 35-50 for a filled album and think themselves lucky if one in fifty of the photos recoups the cost. Sometimes they strike lucky. If you ever come across a picture of someone holding a pet, you could be on to a winner.  Pictures with animals in them are rare, because few animals stayed still long enough for those slow-exposure cameras. A lady holding a dog fetched 100 for one lucky collector. It could be you.  


Previous editions:

Family Treasures -1

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



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