I recently purchased this packet of old photos on eBay.
I needed to buy photos to use in my sample pages for my genealogy forms Etsy shop and I wanted to get some to use as props on Instagram since I’m nervous about messing up family photos from my archives. I figured it made sense to invest in a stack of prop photos and maybe even do a little side project digging to see if I could reunite eBay photos with family trees.
In the process, I learned three things about buying photos on eBay:
/// As a genealogist, I’m much more interested in groups of photos that have a location or family name included in the title. Even though I only needed prop photos, I wanted as many to be related as possible to create a cohesive family look and if I was buying in the hopes of finding photos of my own family, surname and location would be a must.
/// Poor image quality makes me assume the photos weren’t stored well in the home, even though the two things aren’t really related. Poor image = you’re not taking this sale seriously.
/// I only looked at listings that had a reasonably specific count of how many photos I could expect. “75 photos” or “125+ photos” is a lot more appealing to a buyer than “lots of photos” because I don’t know what that means to each buyer. I feel like I could buy “lots of photos” from two different people and either end up with 18 photos or 300 photos.
Eventually I purchased one lot of black and white photos and one album of cabinet cards (which I’ll share in a different post). Both listings had clear pictures, a specific number of photos included, and they had at least a few locations listed.
It’s a little sad to look through a stack of purchased photos because I imagine what the people in them would think if they knew they’d somehow ended up on eBay instead of in albums and frames. That being said, I really like that people sell photos on eBay (rather than just tossing them!) because it gives photos a chance to be rescued, reunited, or at least reused.
If you’re thinking about selling old photos on eBay, keep these things in mind:
/// If the photos are dirty, smoky, or otherwise damaged, be sure to disclose that.
/// Get as close to an accurate photo count for the listing as you can.
/// Include surnames and locations if you have them.
/// If information on the back of photos is particularly relevant, you might want to add an image of that.
/// From what I’ve seen, photos of children and weddings seem to do the best so put them front and center in your listing photos. Use natural light if you can and clear other objects from the background. If you’re selling less than 15 photos, each photo should be clearly visible. Otherwise it’s fine to stack them or show them in a pile.
/// You have a right to sell old photos that belong to you (even if you didn’t take them) but often you don’t hold the copyright privileges to reproduce old photos and sell that product. If you took the photos, you naturally hold the copyright. If you didn’t, it’s usually the photographer’s lifespan plus 70 years or 120 years from the creation of the photo. At the moment that would be photos from 1899 or earlier. Yes, people do it all the time but I’m just giving you a heads up before you get creative.