Sell Vintage Photographs On eBay

Tin Type Mustache Gentleman
Image by MadeByMike via Flickr

If your niche is related in any way to:

  • Genealogy
  • History - Historical Events
  • Vintage "Stuff"

... you have certainly figured out that Public Domain material is "Your Best Friend". :)

Genealogy is a huge - HUGE - niche... every family has a genealogist in their midst - someone who is the designated family archiver. Even if they are not actively searching for the family "roots" - they are still interested in the family history.

If someone types in their family name into a search engine online - they are interested in their families "mark" in the world.

Tapping into the genealogy market - (Money Train) is both very easy and very difficult.

The reason it's easy: A ton of genealogy of online or in your local library.

The reason it's difficult: How do you sell to the masses if the information is "family name" specific.

I've checked on eBay and did some digging. Some vintage photographs (I mean old) that are identified are being sold. These are one of a kind of course - because the sellers are offering only the original photograph.  I don't see these going for a "high" price (but I might not be looking in the right place).

Anyway... I've been rolling this idea around in my head.

Essentially- the idea would involve shopping for original - Identified - portrait photographs. Then selling them for a profit on eBay or a combination of eBay and a website.

The buyers of these photographs are most likely interested in genealogy. And... they are willing to spend money. Perfect opportunity to upsell them on or a book on genealogy research.

My Question: I had thought that making copies of the photos and selling them on eBay was a great idea. I am interested in working once and selling multiple times.

But this might be a case of diluting the market. If the image isn't one-of-a-kind - would it still sell for a great price?

My answer is... probably. If I was looking for an image of a relative... and there it was. I wouldn't care if it was printed on old ratty newsprint. I would be so excited to have the image.

What do you think? Would you pay for a "copy"? You might not pay the "original image" price... but would you be willing to pay a "profitable" price?

What if you did a little census research on the photo so that it is put in a time and place and then, lists it in the Genealogy category?

Then another problem pops up... photographs that have not been published are usually protected by copyright.

Question: Where would you find a slew of pictures? Photos that are already identified and online? Images that have been published? 

How about scanned Year Books? has scanned yearbooks!

And sometimes you can find really great photos that have everyone identified...

Let me know what you think and any of your thoughts and ideas. :)

P.S. Do you need to know how to find Profitable eBay Niches. Deb Henry (who I trust to know all things about eBay) has the best book about How To Find eBay Niches.  She has dropped the price and it's worth many times the price.  Here book teaches you HOW to find profitable niches and products on eBay!

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  1. says

    Hi Debra,

    I was thinking along those lines the other day, when I could not sleep. Some time ago I bought a domain name to do with remembering dates and celebrating dates. And as yet have not done anything with it.

    To me it would not dilute the market that much. For example if you had a picture of a froup of people and it was a one off, you have the potential to market to all the people.

    Also how about saying there are only X number of pictures printed, make them limited editions. And sell them ready to frame.

    You could offer a service to people in your local area or further afield where you say you will look for pictures of whatever from their childhood. An example I just thought of while typing is.

    Someone contacts you and says……………. It is my Parents 50th wedding anniversary soon, and I would like to give them a keepsake from when they were married. Ok you may not be able to find pictures of them. But by asking a few questions you could locate pictures from that time period in the area. Now you could burn these to a CD, or for extra costs produce a powerpoint or Youtube video.

    Producing a powerpoint sounds like a lot of work, (and you can charge for it),well the 1st one is yes. But then you will have a template and just need to drop the pictures in the next time.

    The above are a few quick thoughts I had.

    Andrew Milburn´s last blog post ..5 Ways To Increase Your eBay Sales

  2. Laura says

    Hi Debra. I’ve been trying to come up with a clever way to market the genealogy niche. Genealogy research is something I do myself. I like your idea about the photos. If I found a photo of an ancestor I would buy it even if it was a copy. A lot of people like vintage photos whether they know the person or not. I know that professionally taken photos have copyright restrictions for a certain length of time. Do have to be able to identify the person in the photo to resell it?

  3. Anonymous says

    What timing – I just listed a couo\ple of vintage photographs, one is of all the students of a one room school house in 1911, someone wrote every child’ s name on the back, the other identifies a couple with not only their maried names but her maiden name. Now I am thinking I need to market them differently. Thanks for the great tips!

  4. Roberto E. Fiad says

    Hello Debra.

    I truly appreciate the contributions you have made to my happiness. I have bought some of your ebooks for the last few years now. They have been useful and I plan to buy more from you because they definitely inspire me.

    In college, I had majored in graphic design (illustration mostly) and I minored in history. I can see myself uniting the two fields for doing projects.

    Roberto E. Fiad

  5. Shauna says

    Hi Debra! This idea of using old photo’s and other images is the main reason I subscribed! Only I’m not going in the genealogy direction I’m going to use them to sell for mixed media artists. One can make collage sheets according to a theme and sell the actual printed sheet and/or digital collage sheets for immediate download then you can take many images and put them in the form of tiffs on a CD to sell those! Sites who do this are very successful! This is something I’ve wanted to do for sometime however I had no idea where to come up with enough images. Then serendipitously I found your site! Through all of your great links, books, images, etc. I can now access many, many images and focus on images that are lacking at other sites. As a mixed media artist I know what a demand there is for all kinds of images they are free to use in their artwork. Once you make the images available one must only state the images or collection of images cannot be sold or given for any reason. However, they can be used in artwork. It is up to each seller to either allow use for only personal/gift artwork or for artwork that is for sale. Most images sellers allow the images to be used in artwork for sale but, I have come across a very few who only allow personal use. I think that is ridiculous and will allow mine to be used in any artwork. I don’t plan to sell on ebay but on Etsy or ArtFire and then will have my own website as well. Thanks so much for all the great resources you provide! Even before I became a paying member I learned a great deal from your newsletters!

  6. Marie Bonin says

    I will check out your information on vintage photographs and let you know. I am trying to send my first e-book for copywriting to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They both use HTML to upload to their site.

  7. LT says

    Some of my professional photographer friends are selling their old original photos on eBay. If some one buys or wins them in an auction, does the copyright transfer to the winner? In other words, if my older, retired photographer buddies are emptying out their archives by auctioning off their original slides and negatives, can the person who purchases them do whatever they want with the images, including publish or resell them for a profit?

    Please advise.



  8. says

    Copyright does not transfer… but – you can ask for permission. If they put a creative commons license in with the purchase – you are free to use the image anyway you like.


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