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Stephen Recker On:
Collecting Gettysburg Photoviews

Let me begin by saying that I do not consider myself a major colllector of Gettysburg views. What I can say, though, is that in the course of collecting the hundred or so views in my collection I have picked up some great tips from the major collectors it has been my pleasure to meet.

One thing everyone agrees on is that you have to do some research before you start spending huge sums for those choice views. When I first started collecting, a rare Gettysburg view came up for sale on Amazon.com. They seller wanted $750 to start the bidding and I was ready to grab it because I had always heard that it is best to buy the most expensive items that you can afford. One item for $750 will appreciate faster than 15 items at $50 each.

Another seller was liquidating a collection at the same time and I ended up purchasing ten less rare items for a few thousand dollars. When I met the seller to transact the purchase I related the disappointment I felt over having passed on the rare Brady view. He told me that he was familiar with the photograph and was present when the seller originally bought it for $250.

I felt I had learned a great lesson. Patience is key. When you know that you have found a great view at a great price, you have to be ready to make the purchase. But you would be well advised to think twice before you buy something that, after seeing it for sale, causes your temperature to go up twenty degrees .

A great place to look for Gettysburg photoviews is in Gettysburg itself. Many shops in town have good selections and the dealers are very reputable. Other good sources are the many book shows and auctions that occur in Gettysburg yearly. Be aware, though, that Gettysburg views sold in town will often go for a premium. Bidding wars at Gettysburg auctions can be fun to watch, but buyers can easily spend more than twice market value for a desirable view.

Another thing to look for is fakes. This is especially important when buying stereoviews. Often times mono views were simply duplicated and put on stereo cards. When viewed in a stereo viewer they will appear flat. Some contemporary views were sold like this and are still collectable, but be aware - if the two stereo halves are actually one piece of paper with two photos printed on it, it is probably not a true stereo.

As long as we are talking about viewing stereos I should mention that a good stereo viewer will quadruple the enjoyment of owning and viewing stereo battle scenes. A friend of mine has an antique light box that he uses to display his vast collection of Gettysburg stereoviews. It is not unlike the old nickelodeon machines that you stoop down and look into, spinning a carousel of views in front of a light source. I can truly say that looking through that viewer was as close as I have ever come to actually standing on the battlefield, circa 1863. I get chills just thinking about it.

Photographs taken right after the battle, most notably the death studies, will sell for, at least, a few hundred dollars. Monument studies, most commonly taken by Tipton in the eighteen-eighties, are easily had for a fraction of that price. They make excellent started purchases. Be sure to look for monument views that show a lot of the field in the background. It can be exciting and educational to see how the ground used to look behind the monuments. When I was collecting individual photographs monuments to include in Virtual Gettysburg, I tried to get as many contemporary views as I could for that very reason.

Collecting the views one at a time can get very expensive. There were many collections of monument photos published by the individual states. The books put out by Pennsylvania and New York are pretty easy to find as first editions. Books by Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland and others are available as reprints.

Use our searchable monument database to view images of your favorite monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Choose from hundreds of historic photographs.

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