From Mathew Brady's Civil War photos to Ansel Adams' landscapes to Irving Penn's magazine shots, antique and vintage photographs are highly collectible. Photography was introduced in the U.S. in 1839, and immediately became popular.

Daguerreotypes dominated the field of photography until the mid-1850s. A daguerreotype is a copper plate covered with a thin layer of polished silver that looks like a mirror when held at a certain angle. By the mid-1840s, they were affordable for the average person, and it is therefore relatively easy to find old daguerreotypes today. Most daguerreotypes were studio portraits, where the subject posed for the photograph at the photographer's studio. Daguerreotypes featuring outdoor or street scenes are far rarer.

In the mid-1850s, ambrotypes replaced the daguerreotype. An ambrotype is a negative that has been put on glass and placed against a black background to make it look like a positive. Ambrotypes were popular until the 1890s. Another example of a cased image like the daguerreotype or ambrotype is the tintype, which was patented in 1856 and was made using a thin sheet of iron.

Stereoviews, also known as stereographs, were also created in the late 1850s and reached a peak of popularity in the 1870s. Stereoviews were cheap photographs that simulated a 3D view. In the 1880s, various companies decided to mass-market stereoviews that featured pictures of foreign locations to homes and schools. Stereoviews remained popular throughout the early 1900s.

In 1859, the carte de visite, which had been created in France, was introduced to the U.S. The carte de visite, or CDV, was a 2.5 inch by 4 inch print made of paper. As it was more affordable than previous forms of photography, it was accessible to a wider group of people. Many Civil War soldiers had their photographs taken and printed as a CDV.

Real photo postcards are another popular form of photographic print. Real photo postcards were made by developing a photograph onto postcard-sized photo paper with a postcard backing. They are still made today.

The most popular paper photographic print is the gelatin silver print, or black and white photograph. Gelatin silver prints have a long lifespan if well-maintained. Most 20th cen...

Scarcity, condition, and the identity of the photographer and subject all play a role in determining the value of antique and vintage photographs. Some examples of popular (and collectible) photographers include Lewis Hine, Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith, Danny Lyon, Paul Outerbridge, Jr., and the photographers associated with the Farm Security Administration, such as Ben Shahn, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Collection of Collections

Collection of Collections

Jack and Beverly Wilgus' personal collection website, of which the most interesting areas are: strongmen and strong… [read review or visit site]

Wisconsin Historical Images

Wisconsin Historical Images

The Wisconsin Historical Society has really outdone themselves with these excellent galleries focused on the 1880s-… [read review or visit site]

Cliff House Project

Cliff House Project

Gary Stark’s encyclopedic website is dedicated to photos and historical information on San Francisco’s legendar… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique Photographic History Stereoview Photograph Civil War General CusterAntique Civil War Union Solider & Model 1851 Colt Pistol Ambrotype PhotographSharon Tate Vintage 1967 Valley Of The Dolls Stylish Mod Rare Sexy PhotographLarge Wwi Antique 1919 Photograph, Us Transport Ship Agamemnon 6000 TroopsLot Of 5 Civil War Photographs 3 Tin Type 2 Cdv General Custer Company J 1 RegtC1890 Native American Sioux Indian Sitting Bulls Cabin Cabinet Card Photo PoliceCivil War Massachusetts Or Virginia Militia Soldier 1/2 Plate Ruby Ambrotype1860's Civil War Union Navy Sailor Cased Tintype Photo Sixth Plate Photograph1860's Civil War Large Format Photo / Print Of President Abraham LincolnVintage 1929 Jean Harlow Edwin Bower Hesser Risqué Griffith Park Photograph1860's Civil War Union Navy Sailor Cased Ambrotype Photo Sixth Plate PhotographDaisy Ridley Signed 11x14 Star Wars Photo Rey Auto Psa/dna Itp Coa 1890 Western Americana Wild West Show Performer Oklahoma Bill Cabinet Card PhotoAmbrotype "the Chess Players"C. 1874 Very Rare Original Albumin Photograph Of Jessie James.1860's Whole Plate Ambrotype Photograph Of Niagara Falls - Large Ambro PhotoVintage 1953 Marilyn Monroe & Sidney Skolsky Photograph Bob Beerman InkstampedSlaves & Slave Quarters Cdv By George Barnard Of South Carolina - Super Rare CdvConfederate Virginia Militia Soldier In Uniform 1/2 Plate Ruby Ambrotype FramedOutdoor Daguerreotype Of A House With A Group Of People - Sealed 1/6 Plate Cased1860's Identified Civil War Union Navy Sailor Tintype Photo Sixth Plate SizeMichael Collins Signed 8x10 Nasa Photo Auto Autograph Jsa Loa Astronaut Risqué Pre-code Femme Fatale Eve Southern Vintage Edwin Bower Hesser PhotographKatharine Hepburn Very Scarce Hand Signed Autographed 6x4 PhotoEarly Joan Blondell Vintage 1930s Leggy Stockings Art Deco Pin-up Photograph NrHarrison H. Schmitt Signed 8x10 Nasa Photo Auto Autograph Jsa Loa Astronaut Civil War Cdv Of Calvary Soldier From Wisconsin W/ Big Pistol, Hat Sword Killed1860's Civil War Cdv Photo Of President Abraham Lincoln - Ostendorf O-84Ambrotype Photo Civil War Confederate Florida Artillery Soldier Battleshirt RedOutstanding And Superb Museum Quality Half Plate DaguerreotypeLouise Brooks Rare Vintage 1927 Rolled Stockings Silent Film Flapper PhotographCarl Van Vechten Vintage 1934 Stamped Self Portrait Double Weight PhotoArmed Civil War Soldier & Sword Bright Gold Highlights Tintype Great Camp Scene1860s Civil War Union Navy Sailors Tintype Photo W/ American Flag Cigars WineLeggy Pin-up Gossip Girl Anne Francis Vintage 1950s Sexy Modernist PhotographRadiant Redhead Early Susan Hayward Vintage 1939 Beau Geste Ingenue PhotographChinese-american Jazz Age Icon Anna May Wong Vintage 1929 Piccadilly PhotographSlave Couple Henry & Pregnant Fannie From South Carolina Cased 1/6 Plate TintypeVictorian Fashion Lady With An Almanac Dag DaguerreotypeEt) Scarface Al Pacino & 11 Other Cast Members Autograph 11x17 Photo Psa/dna Loa1960s President Lyndon Baines Johnson Signed & Inscribed Photograph Lbj Sp PhotoRadiant Femme Fatale Dorothy Lamour Vintage 1930s Art Deco Glamour PhotographDramatic Art Deco Beauty Madge Evans Vintage 1930s Striking Glamour PhotographVintage Daguerreotype, Native American Holding Print Of Andrew JacksonThree Civil War Soldiers Tintype, 1/4 Plate, Possible ArtillerymenVintage 1944 Hedy Lamarr Close Up Daisies Glamour Photograph Alex Kahle PortraitCa1890 Cabinet Card Photograph Of President Abraham Lincoln - Ostendorf O-84Exotic Pin-up Beauty Rita Hayworth Vintage 1953 Irving Lippman Salome PhotographDaisy Ridley Signed 11x14 Rey Star Wars The Force Awaken Photo Auto Psa/dna Coa1860s Civil War Union Navy 2 Sailors Cased Tintype Photo Sixth Plate PhotographQuarter Plate Dag Of Beautiful Woman HandtintedVintage 1958 Some Came Running Early Shirley Maclaine Ingenue Photograph2 Uniformed Civil War Soldiers 1/6 Plate Tintype In Thermal Plastic CaseTintype 1850/60 Black African Slave Nanny White Child Santiago De Cuba RareVictorian 1/6th Plate Relivio Ambrotype Of Armed Civil War Soldier Tinted Gene Wilder Signed 11x14 Willy Wonka Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna CoaWalter Brennan Hand Signed Photo+letter+orig.envel....won 3 Academy Awards.Clint Eastwood Signed 8x10 Photo Auto Autograph Jsa Loa Rare: Original Civil War Cdv Of A Double Amputee SoldierLauren Bacall Vintage 1950s Dramatic Portrait Photograph Film Noir Icon The Look