Antebellum Cased Images, ca. 1850

Value (2010) | $5,200 Auction$5,300 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
These are some daguerreotypes that I inherited probably about 30 or so years ago from my aunt. And she gave them to me because I'm the family historian, and she thought I should have them and take care of them.

APPRAISER:
And these photographs are all from folks who were living around Vicksburg, is that correct?

GUEST:
That area. Actually, from Claiborne County, which is just south of Vicksburg, and these people lived on a plantation called Buckhorn Plantation.

APPRAISER:
So, Buckhorn Plantation no longer exists, correct?

GUEST:
No, unfortunately, when the federal troops came through on their way to siege Vicksburg, they marched along the road that went past Buckhorn and they burned it, according to family legend.

APPRAISER:
Sure. It's a really interesting group of pictures. You don't see in the scheme of things a lot of antebellum photographs from the South from this period. These photographs were taken in the 1850s. And they're not all daguerreotypes.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
This is a daguerreotype. You see that it's a sort of a shiny, almost a mirror-like surface. A daguerreotype is an image taken on a silver-covered copper plate. This, on the other hand, is an ambrotype.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
Which is on glass. And the daguerreotype is earlier than the ambrotype. This is probably also an ambrotype, and boy, is it badly corroded. The South is not often good on these sort of period photographs. This picture, though, is the keeper. What do you know about him?

GUEST:
My great-great-grandmother wrote a little note that his name was Stephen Armstrong and that he was the cook, and he was much loved. So it was kept among the family photographs and daguerreotypes.

APPRAISER:
Well, and in fact, this is a daguerreotype. There were a lot of photographs taken of African Americans during the antebellum period, but to find a slave that's identified by name and can be attached to a plantation is very rare. Not only can you tell that he was a well-loved member of the household-- because they spent a little extra money tinting the buttons, tinting the tablecloth-- but he's also holding a book. It's either a studio prop or he really did know how to read. And if he was a valued servant who was a cook, it may have been required for him to read. But it's unusual to see a slave holding a book when we know that in most states, it was illegal to teach slaves to read. You add to that this tremendous, striking pose that he has taken there, and that, to me, makes the rest of the bunch. These photographs here are relatively common. Collectively, the three photographs there may be worth $200 or $300. The daguerreotype of the African-American slave, however, is a really great image. And I think in an auction setting of 19th-century photography, I would not be surprised to see that photograph sell for maybe as much as $5,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my heavens.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
Cincinnati, Ohio
Appraised value (2010)
$5,200 Auction$5,300 Auction
Event
Biloxi, MS (July 24, 2010)
Period
19th Century
Form
Portrait

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.