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What You Need to Know About Pre-1940 Collectible Vintage and Antique Photos

Whether you collect old photos or are looking for an picture to complement your existing decor, eBay has an assortment of rare antique photographs for sale. Here are some things for you to consider before you purchase old photographs from 1940 or earlier.

Which pre-1940 photos are antique and which are vintage?

It's possible for old photos for sale to be vintage but not antique. Photos that are more than 100 years old are considered antique, such as those from before 1920, while ones that are at least 20 years old are vintage photographs.

What to consider when buying collectible vintage photos pre-1940

Consider the following design choices before making your purchase:

  • Type: Options include cabinet photo, Viewmaster, snapshot, tintype, photogravure, CDV, gelatin silver, negative, and Magic Lantern slides.
  • Colors: Black, white, gray, and amber are the most common colors that are present in earlier photos.
  • Finish: Most of the pictures have a matte finish. Some old photos are hand-colored to create the appearance of a color print.
  • Themes: Typical photographs feature family, holiday gatherings, household pets, vehicles, children, landscape themes, film, and life events from before the 1940s.
Can you find valuable vintage and antique photos on eBay?

You can find collectible photos and vintage pictures from the 1800s, 1900s, and after. Some photos might be vintage images of famous people, architectural landmarks, or historic events.

Affordable vintage photos are sometimes accompanied by personal mementos like a love letter or a small object. Collectible pictures might also be sold with some form of proof of authenticity, or a listing might include details about the photo or its history as a way of establishing its validity. Generally, the older a photo is and the better its condition, the more it will be worth. If it depicts any notable events or people from history, it will likely be worth more as well.

Finding reasonably priced sets of vintage photos

Purchasing your photos as a lot rather than individually can help you to save money. This is also great way to expand your collection quickly or to acquire photos to complement the decor of several rooms in your home.

Photo bundles can contain images that relate to the same theme, such as gatherings, pets, or graduations. You might also come across bundled photos that are of the same type, such as a lot of tintype, cabinet, or black-and-white photos. Some lots also contain a random assortment of photographs rather than featuring a specific theme or type.