A Hot Collectible, & They’re Everywhere!

photosPeople often ask me ‘What’s hot?’ in terms of antiques and collectibles. It’s a question that usually follows my grim speech about the largely declining resale marketplace.

One of the first things that comes to mind is photos. And I’m referring to everyday snapshots, the kind that are often found in shoeboxes in closets. Many times people are shocked by this ‘You mean collectors are interested in photos of people they don’t know?” they ask. And the answer is Indeed they do, it’s called vernacular photography;  photos taken by unknown or anonymous photographers for themselves, family photos essentially. And it’s a burgeoning collecting field.


Photography was invented in the 1820s so by 1900 almost every household had a camera. Flash forward 5-6 generations and what we got are literally thousands of snap shots of ancestors we didn’t know. These often have little interest to families and therefore end up being given away, sold or (god forbid) thrown out and are currently flooding flea markets, auctions and antique store shelves.


Now one of the big appeals to photography is the human element. Nothing is much more personal than a photo, it allows us to look into a person’s face, examine their clothing, analyze the people they are with or the situation they are in, and imagine what was going on or why the photo was taken, by whom and so on. It allows us to fill in our own narrative.


Additionally, the potential variations within the field are limitless. For example, I have a client who collects photos of wedding cakes, some people collect images with dogs or cats in them, while others may be interested in photos that depict a certain geographic area like their city or cottage area. So you can see there are literally thousands of categories appealing to a huge range of collectors.


There’s something for every budget. Lastly, because you can go down to your local flea market or antique show and buy a photo starting at a few dollars or less, it means the bar to entry to starting a collection is very low and virtually anyone can begin. It makes them very accessible to a lot of people.  The reverse is also true, some photos and photo albums regularly sell in the hundreds and thousands of dollars locally and on eBay. An early photo of Billy the Kid sold for 2.3 million dollars in 2011.

So there you have it, supply, demand, diversity and affordability all colliding to create a very robust and growing field of collecting.


  • Black and white is a good cut-off point. Anything later is generally of less interest.
  • Unusual subject matter (different lifestyles, exciting images, buildings that don’t exist anymore).
  • Specific subject matter (profession related, local interest)
  • Gay interest. Photos depicting the gay lifestyle and same sex affection are very popular.
  • Photos that tell a story. Photo albums that are well laid out and follow someone’s journey, through life or on a trip can be of interest to collectors.

Watch it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y604bYzZtXY

Todd Milks is the founder and owner of EstateNet.ca, a Toronto based company that deals in art, antique and estate liquidation. They offer certified appraisal services, specialized internet selling and complete content dispersal.

Posted in Financial, General Information, Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Font Resize