Don’t Throw Away Your Old Photos

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Vanishing Officer Photo

Maybe you have a few boxes in the attic, basement, or garage that are full of old photos. Black and white pictures of who knows what just taking up precious room. But before you throw those boxes away, check first with a vintage photography expert – you could have a priceless treasure.

It’s happened before, where an owner doesn’t feel the photos look important and tosses them only to talk about their content later to an expert who has the sad duty to report that they threw away a fortune. I had run across just such an unfortunate incident in which a man had thrown out boxes of old photos. He was tired of carrying around these boxes of photos over the years and had contacted his children to see if they were interested in the photos contained within these boxes. His children did not have any connection to these old photos, so they told him that they were not interested.

I asked him what was in those old boxes and he described album after album that contained photographs, tintypes to be specific, of men in uniform. Specifically, these men were civil war soldiers. He described photos containing men with rifles, swords, pistols, some were officers and all were identified by their names. The photos appeared to number in the hundreds, if not a thousand or more. I could only imagine that these must have been part of the recruitment files from a military company or perhaps a state militia, during the civil war.

If the fellow was only half right in his description of what was contained in these boxes, the value would be in the tens of thousands of dollars. However, what was truly sad, is that these were probably the only photos that existed of these men and now they are lost to the world. It’s regretful as we will never be able to replace these vanishing ghosts of history.

This type of story is far too common. It is even becoming more common today, as the next generation will be carrying their digital photos around in their phone, their I-pads or on their laptops. Carrying around boxes of photos will be as foreign to the next generation as carrying around boxes of old record albums. The boxes of old photos that are handed down from generation to generation are disappearing as technology creates a new paradigm. Photos, like music cds / albums, are no longer kept in their physical form.

So, before you dispose of your boxes of old photographs and paper collectibles, make sure you have a well versed collector run through those boxes. Sitting in those boxes of old family photographs, you just may have photographs or paper documents that are not only valuable, but historical as well.