Some high prices are being paid today by collectors for rare old photographs.
The highest price paid for a collection of old photographs at the November week of photographic auctions held at Christie's East (219 East 67th Street, New York City) was $75,000. It was for a pair of atlas folio albums containing 63 albumen prints by Careton E. Watkins.
The photographs were views of Thurlow Lodge, Menlo Park, California, taken circa 1874. These albums are the only known examples of this architectural commission executed by Watkins and are one of the most thorough records of an example of 19th-century American domestic architecture.
Not all old pictures are as valuable -- or even nearly so. The value varies depending on age, type, condition and archival interest. Other photographs sold at the auction were a daguerreotype by Seth Eastman and Horatio P. King taken in 1853 which sold for $12,000, and a solarized female portrait by Man Ray photographed in 1930 which sold for $9,000.
It can happen that a subject today may be worth very little, but tomorrow a great deal. The photographic collectors' market seems to have arrived at the state of fine art, where the price is determined by demand and probable re-sale value rather than production cost.
There are a number of ways to determine the value of old photographs. One is to call local photo galleries and ask their opinion. Another is to contact a reputable firm such as Christie's. A third is to look for collectors' ads in publications dealing with photography, such as Shutterbug Ads which recently carried the names of two collectors: Northern Companies, 448 Henry Street, Detroit, Michigan 43201, "specializing in the acquisition and collection of international photographic and manuscript history"; and John Masington Visuals, 104 Station Avenue, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333, who "pays cash for original old photos."
When writing in or inquiring about the sale of your old photograph, be sure to send all the pertinent information that you have. Often it may be the circumstances, photographer or site that determines value.
But don't think that every old silver print has turned to gold. If the offer doesn't suit you, don't sell. It may be worth more as a keepsake, and who knows, later on it may be worth a great deal more. GIRL SCOUT SHUTTERBUGS
Eastman Kodak has announced that entries are being accepted for the 1981 Girl Scout Photo Awards. Both Girl Scouts and their parents are eligible. The theme is "Girl Scout activities that reflect the energy-saving concerns of the '80s and the sports and widening range of career opportunities for girls."
Top awards of $500 in U.S. savings bonds will be given in three age categories, as well as other money prizes and certificates.
Rules and entry blanks may be obtained by writing Girl Scout Photography Awards, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., 830 Third Avenue, New York 10022. Deadline for entries is June 30.