January 19, 2018

Vintage Sports Photographs Gain Stronghold in the Marketplace

Vintage sports photographs have always been admired. But only recently have they carved out a significant market in the world of sports collectibles due to the rising demand for them. The public seems to be waking up to the fact that these pieces are a true time portal. They are an image that allows us to look back into time to see what the baseball world was originally made of and what the legends did that made them so special. Although nothing compares to actually being there, collectors are realizing that  vintage sports photographs are he closest thing to a time machine as one can get.

Just like other sports collectibles, old sports photos come with a set of guidelines that determine value. For instance, how can you be certain an original truly is an original? If it is a photograph of Babe Ruth in 1920, does that mean the actual photograph itself dates back to 1920?  What if it is a reprint that followed his death in 1948? Was it printed from the original negative or was a reprint of a reprint?

In their book, A Portrait of Baseball Photography, Marshall Fogel and Henry Yee have created a classification system for photographs that allows collectors to categorize their sports photographs as “Types.” (Type I, Type II, Type III or Type IV). This classification system is expected to set the bar for which standardization will evolve through in the future for vintage sports photographs.

The Type classification system depends on three factors: originality, development process and publication date. Stamp analysis is also considered when trying to determine a photograph’s authenticity.

Fogel believes that the vintage sports photography market is “heating up at a rapid pace.” Although the genre and all its spawning interest is still in its infancy, it is bound to take off much in the same way the sports card industry has. The value has now been realized and there has been comprehensive study on the best way to authenticate a vintage sports photograph. This will now lead collectors to feel more secure with actually acquiring these pieces for the prices they have long since deserved. "It will take a bit more time to see what values are determined by competitive bidding. Then, as time goes by, supply and demand will establish values just like it has with cards." Fogel said.

Henry Yee has said that “the photograph is a time machine.” This was in response to why he thought vintage sports photographs are so appealing. “Vintage original photography has just started to be appreciated by many of the auction houses. People are starting to realize that many of the true original ‘period’ news service photos are extremely rare.” Yee said. These vintage pieces were only used among the news and media, not the public.

The two collectors have teamed up with PSA/DNA to develop a photograph identification service. This is in response to the emerging popularity of vintage sports photographs. This service is one of a kind and will help ensure collectors of what they are buying. Vintage sports photographs are sure to follow in the footsteps of sports cards and find a real place in the collector’s arena. Click here to see Type photos on eBay.


  1. […] vintage sports photographs of Bobby Orr flying prone across the ice after his goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs to Pete […]

  2. […] Vintage sports photographs have become one of the hottest segments of the sports memorabilia industry, with original Type One photographs dating from the era of Babe Ruth often selling for thousands of dollars. […]