Carleton Watkins Photograph, ca. 1863
Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000 (1999)
$15,000 - $25,000 (2013)
IMAGE: 1 of 6
Appraisal Video: (2:13)
Vice President & Director of Photographs
Swann Auction Galleries
GUEST: I found it in my house. I'd lived there seven years and I found it in the attic when I was up rewiring the house.
APPRAISER: What you have is a photograph by Carleton Watkins, one of the most important American photographers of the 19th century. The caption indicates that it's of Golden Gate Harbor, San Francisco Bay. What's exquisite about this photograph is the detail in it. In the rear of the picture, we can see a cemetery. In terms of the size of the photograph, it's very big. It's an albumin print, which is one of the most common photographic prints of the 19th century. And actually, the size of the negative turns out to be the size of the print. What happened before you apparently got it is that someone decided the picture was too big. Possibly they were trying to put it in a picture frame, and so they clipped or trimmed about three inches from the top of it. Not a good thing. These little tears in the picture don't concern me as much because the tears can be repaired in something of a seamless manner. But the disappearance of the top portion of the picture is something of a problem. Watkins' photographs of the Yosemite Valley, of which he made many in the 1860s, are very desirable. His pictures of San Francisco are very scarce. Had this picture not been cut, it would be a $20,000 to $30,000 photograph. The fact that it does have this disappearing top edge makes it difficult to estimate. I would say a conservative estimate at auction would be $4,000 to $6,000.
GUEST: That's great.
APPRAISER: So thank you very much for bringing it in.
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