Assignment #5: Stamps and Tags

Assignment: Read chapters 15 (stamps), 20 (news photos stamps) and 21 (news photos paper caption) in the textbook  (free pdf version here or purchase hard copy here).

The great thing about stamps and tags is they are something you can judge in an online auction. Paper quality, gloss and black light fluorescence are something judged in person, but you can read and a photos stamps in an online image. Many online photos are identified as modern reprints or vintage by the stampings. If you can read and understand stamping, you will be more confident in your online purchases.

The reading includes a dating listing for standard new service stamps (ACME, AP, UPI, etc). Referencing this listing, you will be able to date many news photos of anyone from Ty Cobb to John F. Kennedy.

Of course rubber stamps and tags can be forged, so you should judge the entire photo and not just go by a stamp.  You should always judge photos by the totality of evidence and not focus on just one quality.  This includes the clarity of the imae, the appearance of the paper, signs of aging etc, knowledge of the seller, provenance, etc.

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Here’s an example of judging an online auction photo by reading the stamping.



The above photo was auctioned online as an original 1975 newspaper photo of American football player Joe Namath.  The image is sharp and clear, while the back has various vintage stamps and paper captions, plus the 1975 date stamp.  This all points to the photo being authentic and original.

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The photograph was auction as an original 1924 photo of sculptor Gleb Derujinksy and silent movie actress Lillian Gish.  The front image is sharp and clear, while the back has a brown dated paper caption sheet and 1924 date stamp.  This all points to the photo indeed being original.

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The above photo was offered as an original photo of actress Norma Shearer by famed photographer George Hurrell.  The front image is sharp and clear.  The back has Hurrell’s stamp and a 1935 date stamp, along with paper toning.  The photo appears original and vintage.
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The following show the stamps or other markers of famous photographers
Stamp of famous baseball photographer Charles Conlon
Press photo with Ansel Adams stamp
Stamp of noted photographer Nicholas Haz


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With famous photographers, their stamp or other personal identifier will significantly raise the value of the photo.

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AGFA photo branding

* According to photo conservationist Paul Messier on his
“Prior to the mid 1950’s Agfa used a two part logo (manufacturer name “Agfa” and the brand name, i.e. “Brovira”). After the mid-fifties, Agfa dropped the brand name. Therefore, if you have a paper with a two part Agfa logo it was produced before the mid 1950’s.”
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Below is a link to an article I wrote on famous baseball photograph George Burke’s photos. He consistently stamped his various types of photos and, as he moved he moved his studio at one point, the address in a Burke Stamp shows whether the photo is old or more modern.

The George Burke photos are as simple as this

Geo. Burke stamp w/ Belmont Ave address = 1920s-40s
‘Burke & Brace’ Stamp w/ different address = 1948-51
‘Burke Photos’ stamp w/ different address = after 1951

The article:

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Homework questions for assignment #5

21)  When was the 5 digit US postal zip code introduced?

22) If the back of a snapshot says ‘A Kodak Paper’ what period does the photo date to?

23) Can photographers’ stamps be forged?

24) When was the International Newsreel Stamp used?

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Course Assignments:

Assignment #1 : Introductory Reading

Assignment #2: Albumen Prints

Assignment #3: Gelatin Silver Prints

Assignment #4: Daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other ‘hard’ early photos

Assignment #5: Stamps and Tags

Assignment #6: Color Photographs

Assignment #7: Real Photo Postcards

Assignment #8: Antique Mounted and Card Photographs

Assignment #9: News Photos and Press Photos

Assignment #10: More News Photos

Assignment #11: Provenance

Assignment #12: Other Antique Paper Photo Processes

Assignment #13: Modern Photomechanical and Digital Processes

Assignment #14: Making Final Identification Judgments