View Full Version : Antiques Dealers

07-22-2008, 12:46 PM
Here's an ethics puzzler for the collected wisdom:

over the weekend, I went to an antiques dealer to poke around. I saw some old photos that were of interest to me - a pair of cased tintypes. They were a little unusual in that both had photos in both sides of the gutta-percha cases. One was more unusual in that both photos were of men, whereas the other was more obviously a husband/wife pair. The photos were in good condition, not museum quality, and both sets were fairly small (1/8th plate or thereabouts). None of the subjects were identified. The dealer had them mis-labeled, one set as daguerreotypes, the other as ambrotypes, when in fact all four images were tintypes. He was asking some OUTRAGEOUS prices for them - ($175 and $195). The ethics question, then, is whether or not to say something to the dealer about mis-labelling the photos. On the one hand, saying nothing means that someone else coming along behind might be taken in and at the very least buy something for the wrong reasons, let alone get ripped off for the price. On the other, saying nothing lets the dealer stew in his own foolishness as any collector with half a brain will know the difference and not take him up on his price, and he'll reap the rewards of his ignorance.
If you say something, though, the best case would be that the dealer would appreciate the education on the difference, and not make the same mistake in the future, perhaps saving him from overpaying on future photographs. Worst case, you piss off the dealer and he keeps his price high out of spite.

What would you all do?

07-22-2008, 12:53 PM
Ask him why he thinks they are Dags. Then if he gives you some BS answer, nod politely, thank him for the information and say, "well, I'm more interested in tintypes, they are in my price range". Then leave and make sure you let people know that his guy doesn't know much about THIS particular type of antique.

It isn't really your job to educate him. If he wants to be a professional, then he should know better. If he wants to be a rip-off artist then nothing you can do. But if you feel like being generous and possibly getting into a pissing match, then show him they are tintypes, not DAGs and let him know his price is way out of line. Then you have to decide if you want to dicker for a new price.

Steve Smith
07-22-2008, 04:14 PM
I see the same thing in this country. Dealers mark something up the same price as the most expensive 'similar' item they can find.


Ian Grant
07-22-2008, 04:35 PM
Saw the same in Izmir (ancient Greek/Roman city of Smyrna) about 3 months ago. There's an antique dealer in the Kemeralti who for 2 years had a beautiful Wet Plate camera it was expensive but superb, and a fair price. That had been sold but they had another that was so clearly fake, obviously home made using the focus track etc from a pre-war press camera, they wanted $2000 for the fake. Next time I'm passing I'll take a snap if it's not been sold.


Jim Noel
07-22-2008, 04:40 PM
Most antique dealers rely on their pricing books which are usually far from accurate. They have no idea of the difference between dags, ambros and tintypes.The same is true of cameras. I had one try to sell me a 2D claiming it was a daguerotype camera.

07-22-2008, 05:14 PM
Yep, I've seen this a million times in the many antique stores in the town I live in. Any type of cased image is often called a dag. Most often this is ignorance rather than deception.

Ian Grant
07-22-2008, 05:25 PM
For ignorance substitute opportunism.


07-22-2008, 06:13 PM
hehe - I tried the opposite!
at an antiwue fair, I bought an emty casing for these images - then I got home, and fitted one of my newly made cyanotypes in it - it looks nice.

however, I was told, that the next day a lot of experts from auction houses would be at the fair, and they'd evaluate ones antiques..

I couldn't resist, and brought my "antique" to one of the experts.

he wasn't impressed by the casing (!) as it was not in real good condition, but "the IMAGE!! - This is a VERY nice erotic image from "the period"... Where did you get it?" :)

I almost bit off my tounge.

and told some dealers about it later.... the "expert" was the laugh of the day:D

But to your question.
I'd proberly tell - but that's me: I can't help it..

(once went to a bakery and noticed a cake, where the name was misspelled: it said "toscka cake"..
I went to the young and beautiful girl that worked behinf the counter and told her.. "It is misspelled! it is supposed to be "Tosca cake" - looking quite serious..
the girl replied: "it is'nt that tosca!"


07-22-2008, 06:55 PM
who is the dealer?

David A. Goldfarb
07-22-2008, 07:04 PM
I'd say something. Even if it's an honest mistake, dealers need to know that these distinctions are important to collectors, and they can't just guess.

I know an appraiser who sometimes gives workshops for antique and art appraisers and dealers who want to learn about appraising photographs. Part of it involves identifying the print from a range of 20 prints of the same negative in processes ranging from platinum to Xerox, and most can only get two or three. Since it's a short workshop, the main objective is to convey to the participants that it's harder than they think, and if they really want to get into photography, they need to educate themselves.

Uncle Goose
07-23-2008, 05:27 AM
That's something I see regularly, some antique dealer that charges 10x the real value. Especially with boxcamera's and old folders because they think it's old and antique although millions have been made.

Barry S
07-23-2008, 10:00 AM
So true. I had a friend who worked for an antiques dealer and he told the dealer I was a photographer. Both of them insisted on setting up a special viewing for me of some recently arrived photographica. When I got there, I saw a table of grotty old folders, clapped-out box cameras, and 8mm movie odds and ends. Nothing in good condition and I've seem way better stuff offered for free on this forum. I politely looked over the cameras and the dealer reeled off the most incredible prices. For a second, I thought it was a practical joke, but no-- the dealer was serious.

07-23-2008, 10:37 AM
I'm thinking I might go back next weekend and pop my head in to see if he still has them, and have a chat about the differences and about the prices he's asking. If he'd come down a bit (well, QUITE a bit) I'd be willing to relieve him of them.

07-23-2008, 03:12 PM
Take a magnet with you.

07-24-2008, 12:08 AM
Most antique dealers rely on their pricing books which are usually far from accurate. They have no idea of the difference between dags, ambros and tintypes.The same is true of cameras. I had one try to sell me a 2D claiming it was a daguerotype camera.

Woe upon the poor 2D, sold for an exorbitant price, to wallow high on the shelf of some self absorbed boomers McMansion, who knows not the front from the back, let alone that it is perfectly usable.

Paul Goutiere
07-24-2008, 02:00 AM
Some "Antique" dealers over inflate the prices, usually because of ignorance, occasionally because of avarice. Some don't know what they have and that can work in your favor.

This spring I found a nice little Kodak Retina IIa (with case) in a shop with a price tag of $30.00, marked down to $20.00. The guy who sold it to me told me that the shutter was jammed and he didn't think you could get film for it. I bought it anyway.

When the frame counter, on a Retina is on 1, the advance locks. It isn't the first time I've been told that film may be unavailable. It's a nice little camera that just need a little cleaning.

I was a little surprised that the guy hadn't looked for the thing on the net, but I think he hadn't. A really ugly old Kodak Autographic, on another shelf had a price tag of $120.00.

Uncle Goose
07-24-2008, 03:12 AM
It's the truth Paul, sometimes those guys don't know what they are having. Recently I went to a fleamarket and some "antique" dealer had a nice Agfa Isola II lying at his table for the royal price of 2 Euro. I picked it up and he said it didn't work anymore (at least he was honest about it) and that's why the price was so low. Little did he know that in order to get it working you have to pull out the lens (because it's a tube design). He was unpleasantly surprised when I popped it out and had it working without a glitch. Needless to say I had already payed of course :).

sun of sand
07-24-2008, 10:48 AM
I'd tell em.

On ebay a beau brownie just sold for $500
A bit suspicious but still
I played with this very camera and decided not to buy it ..it probably sold for $15-30 along with a box of other crap
Figured it was worth $75 or so but not very interested in that kinda thing
Body in very nice condition but being the Tan/Brown model not something I put a huge collector value on
Anyway, the shutter didn't work. I lost all interest eventhough likely easy as pie to fix

On ebay the photo had horrible white balance and the color seemed to be reddish on the faceplate
would be a rare anomaly

It was only at $75 with a bit of time left so I figured no one was frothing
It jumped and ended up at $500 ..suspicious but still

Now I think I should have at least attempted to set people straight on the camera.

I really like my Retina IIa +sun shade/filters box I just bought for $30 ..along with other cameras/stuff
SWEET little camera. It's in really nice condition and the everready is beautiful

I call it my Lil Leica. It may see as much work as my OM-1

11-23-2008, 12:40 PM
I picked up an old 1/2 plate camera in central London. The antique dealer was selling some old wooden double darkslides (which fitted the old camera).
He was adament that they were 'Photo frames'! and could understand why I wanted them with the camera.