Sales are an indicator of the health of any collector’s market. By this measure, a review of recent sales indicates that the state of Civil War image collecting is strong. The most desirable photographs command ever-increasing prices. Recent auction results for some images have exceeded pre-bid estimates by wide margins. Dealers, and sellers on social media marketplaces, have followed suit and adjusted prices to meet expectations.
Prices for images not on the top tier have remained relatively flat or demonstrated modest gains. Though this may not be advantageous to sellers, it is good news for anyone entering the hobby, or for the curious who are considering it.
Access to affordable images is critical to future growth. Ask any serious veteran collector about their journey and you will hear a similar story. They started with less expensive images and spent more as they gained education and experience. The late Mike McAfee had entry-level collectors in mind when he stated that the true collector wants prices to stay low.
Since the birth of the modern collecting community in the 1950s, inexpensive images have always been available. And it is important that we continue to make it so.
Inexpensive images do not necessarily equate to cartes de visite of an unnamed soldier on a mount without a photographer’s imprint, or a severely scratched and dented tintype. Today’s photo sleuths have amazing tools just clicks away to find information that can turn an inexpensive purchase into a high-dollar item. Or, put another way, putting a name and story to a previously unknown face—making history come alive, one person at a time.
On the flip side, the fakes that have been the bane of collectors—first mentioned in Military Images in 1983—have only improved with technology. It will always be a challenge. We need to continue to educate and raise awareness to combat this evil.
Bottom line: The hobby remains financially accessible to all. Add to this unprecedented access to images and research, and veteran collectors moving their collections to new caretakers.
The future looks bright for new folks coming into the hobby. We have a shared responsibility to insure its sustainability.
Ronald S. Coddington
Editor & Publisher
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