Best eBay title for rare antique photo?
December 28, 2019 8:49 PM   Subscribe

I need to auction an antique photo that is very rare but no one searches for the word "rare". And no one really knows the photographer's name. Halp!

I'm pretty desperate to sell this photo to help someone out financially. I need all the help I can get.

The photo is a rare cabinet card landscape that is pretty beautiful and rare. But "Rare beautiful antique landscape photo" is not going to get any clicks, I'm afraid.

The photo would make a beautiful framed print for a wall hanging for a rustic decor. Like a rustic lake mansion rich people have where I live. I have thought of using the words "rustic decor" in the title.

The landscape subject, let's call it MountainX, is a unique word but I don't think anyone would search for it, really. But I may have to use it because I can't think of what else to say. Here is what I can think of so far:

MountainX rare beautiful antique cabinet card landscape photo rustic decor

I'm hoping to catch the eye of someone who buys art for the rustic mansion crowd in places like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho

What do you think?
posted by cda to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of print is it? That's the first thing that anyone who collects antique photographs is going to ask.
posted by bradbane at 9:13 PM on December 28, 2019

Response by poster: It is a cabinet card. So you are saying I should lead with MountainX Cabinet Card...?

I'm not trying to sell to photo collectors. I'm trying to sell to an interior decorator or art buyer who is looking for the perfect photo investment and frame-able landscape for a rustic mansion in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho.

I am going to try to sell it on eBay and if that doesn't work Plan B will be to send out postcards to interior decorators I find in rustic mansion magazines.

Open to any other suggestions.
posted by cda at 9:43 PM on December 28, 2019

If you don't know the photographer, how do you know it's rare? What makes it more rare than a random print I could find at Goodwill?

Whatever the answer to the above would be better to focus on than the rarity.

Also maybe the size?
posted by bbqturtle at 10:00 PM on December 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure eBay is your best bet, especially if this cabinet card is valuable. Others with more experience than I will hopefully weigh in, but I think you should look at Ruby Lane, EBTH, Bonanza, and even Etsy. What about Swann, Christies, Sotheby's, etc. In your shoes I might also approach people who deal in antique photos, as they may know someone with a pertinent collection (yes, I know you don't think that's the right market) or design clientele.

If you can find others for sale or that sold, mine those listings for verbiage.
posted by carmicha at 10:30 PM on December 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Think backward from what you predict your target audience will be using as search terms.

That rules out "rare" and "beautiful" out of the gate. More generally, subjective superlative terms are useless in this context.

As an occasional eBay buyer, I've learned that "rare" and "unique" (and to a lesser extent, "vintage" and "antique") in item descriptions are virtually always gigantic lies, and treat them as a huge red flag for both the item and the seller. (Don't even get me started on that bizarre fornication of language "very unique"...)

You may not get a lot of people searching for "MountainX", but those few who do might be strongly interested in your item. I'd include that for sure, and probably lead with it.

Include "cabinet card", "landscape" and "photo". Those are all concrete, specific terms that describe what the thing actually is. Of those, "cabinet card" in particular seems like something that people looking for the specific thing you're selling might use as a search string.

Do you know anything about the date, provenance or photography process? Those might be important things to include. (Obviously, don't speculate unless you actually know for sure.)
posted by sourcequench at 10:34 PM on December 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I know who the photographer is. And it is a famous location and actually a notable event. Retired academics living on a pension who can't afford this photograph know who the photographer is. Interior designers and art buyers for rich people do not know the name of this photographer. Trying to reach them.
I just feel like I am going to get more money from a rich person looking for a beautiful investment they can hang on their wall than I am from a photography collector.
Although I will put the name of the photographer in the title I think the name alone will get zero clicks. He is not a photographer known for beautiful images. It is just this one of his that I think is beautiful. Maybe I should just title it "Hey art buyers for rich people with rustic mansions!"
I've thought about Etsy but I want to at least try to get bids on it.
The LA and New York crowds would hate this photo. Although I have thought about Sothebys and Christies. It's just really not their thing. I've thought about Cowan's but they don't get the prices I think I could get for this. I believe it is because they market more to collectors rather than art "investors".
I know this sounds crazy but what I want to do is use the money to help 2 young families out - get into starter homes. I also want to help someone who wants to retire. Why I am over-analyzing all this. It just seems very serious to me right now.
I don't know any individuals who deal in antique photos.
posted by cda at 11:20 PM on December 28, 2019

If this is a regular cabinet card (10 x 16 cm) in average condition you aren't going to get more than $50-100 for it from the interior design crowd. I sell photos and even a very popular one on a large canvas size doesn't sell for anywhere near house deposit or retirement prices. Plus right now the fashion is large statement pieces. The ONLY thing that drives a small, old photo into 5
figures or more is historical significance or a very famous artist. Also there is no point in hiding the details here, these things sell to people who want them and you're going to have to do some talking to people to get the best price. High auction prices are usually preceeded by someone working the usual suspects to garner interest. You have nothing to gain by being secretive.

If I were you and thought this was worth real money I'd ask online on speciality forums and also talk to several auction houses, agents and collectors just to get an idea of the market and to verify my thoughts. Whatever you do, dont sell it to the first person who makes an offer if its really worth something though.
posted by fshgrl at 11:47 PM on December 28, 2019 [17 favorites]

Also if this is a significant art work worth tens of thousands or more as you're implying and you don't own it you cannot sell it. Provenance is hugely important. You can act as an agent but make sure you understand what that means, legally. Get everything in writing. If its potentially worth that much consider the implications to you if it gets damaged or stolen in your care. Or if you broker a sale and the legal owner decides to back out or decides later on they could have got a lot more money.

If youre only expecting to get a few hundred bucks disregard the above.
posted by fshgrl at 11:54 PM on December 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

To make what you're implying the worth of the photo is, you'd need to sell it to people who recognize that worth - the collectors and investors. People who are looking for a pretty photo for a wall aren't looking to spend art-collector money. You seem to want two things that aren't compatible here.
posted by augustimagination at 12:12 AM on December 29, 2019 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not saying details because of Pepsi Blue - as I understand it I'm not supposed to use Metafilter to actually sell a product, I'm just trying to get tips on how to sell it.

I own the photo.

It is a large cabinet card and would look perfect framed and displayed in a rustic mansion.

It is actually of historical significance and by a famous photographer.

But I hear what you are saying fshgrl. I am familiar with contemporary photography prices. This is different - it would not appeal to LA or New York people anyway. This is just going to appeal to the rustic crowd and I am going to try to shake things up for my cause. Wish me luck!
posted by cda at 12:18 AM on December 29, 2019

You can test the eBay waters by setting a reserve price at a level you’d be happy to sell at.
posted by at at 6:27 AM on December 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Maybe research the event itself? Is there a museum near where the event took place? Other museums that feature that event?

PBS’ _Antiques Roadshow_ has a list of appraisers.
posted by at at 6:50 AM on December 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

What about a gallery in Jackson Hole or a place like that? Have you appraised the photograph? I think Christie's may do a free online appraisal. It seems unlikely to me that Ebay is the right venue for this, but if it were me, I would list the photographer's name in the title. Definitely list the location depicted. (I don't think you would break any rules by posting the name here, so people have more context.) If the person is famous, why do you say that art buyers wouldn't be familiar with them?
posted by pinochiette at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I wonder if might be a good place to list it?
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:30 AM on December 29, 2019

The main thing is to include everything you know. Why leave anything out? Why over-specify your audience? It's not costing you anything to include all details in the description. Get it all in there and increase your chances that you will trigger someone's automatic alert.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:36 AM on December 29, 2019

The Antiques Roadshow list of appraisers is a good place to start.
posted by fshgrl at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2019

Have you tried checking for similar cabinet card sales on EBay by putting in relevant information and clicking the "sold" filter? Try the basics like "cabinet card mountain x" in search, click SOLD listings in the left hand filters. Are there any results that are similar? What have they sold for? What are the words used in listing titles? What happens if you add another key word like the photographer's name? If you find cabinet cards selling for the price you're thinking of, check to see the lister's ratings, and whether they have an eBay store. These influence auction prices of collector items. If you're an individual who doesn't sell much you may not see comparable bids just because no one knows your reputation.

When you list, put all the information in the listing description. It not helpful to try and second guess your audience. Quite honestly I am not sure how many "rich" people do a lot of shopping for decor on eBay. Collectors, sure. People looking to furnish their rustic mansion- much less likely.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:07 AM on December 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

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