Wallace Nutting was widely recognized as the country's leading producer
of hand-colored photographs during the early 20th century's Golden
Age of Hand-Colored Photography (1900-1940), he was by no means
the only photographer selling this style of picture. Throughout
the country, literally hundreds of other photographers were selling
hand-colored photographs from their home region or travels. The
subject matter of these photographers was very comparable to Nutting's,
including Interior, Exterior, Foreign, and Miscellaneous Unusual
scenes. The key determinants of value include the collectibility
of the particular photographer, and the picture's Subject Matter,
Condition, and Size.
is basically a 4-tiered, inverted pyramid hierarchy within the field
of hand-colored photography. On the top and largest tier (A) are
Wallace Nutting pictures...they represent the largest quantity of
available pictures, are the pictures most sought-after by collectors,
and as a general rule, command the highest retail prices overall.
2nd largest tier (B) represents the Big 3 of Wallace Nutting-Like
Photographers...David Davidson (Providence RI), Charles Sawyer (Concord
NH), and Fred Thompson (Portland ME), and each of these photographers
worked with Wallace Nutting early in their careers and are collectible
in their own right. They represent a sizable quantity of available
pictures, are highly sought-after by many collectors, and as a general
rule, command strong prices (although usually lower than comparable
Wallace Nutting pictures). The collective total volume of all 3
combined photographers is significantly smaller than Nutting's overall
the Big 3 (tier C) are the hand-colored photographs which are signed
or directly attributable to "lesser known" photographers.
This group includes literally hundreds of photographers, some more
readily findable (e.g., Charles Higgins , J.C. Bicknell, and H.
Marshall Gardiner), and others not nearly so plentiful or collectible
(e.g., Harris, Hodges, Lamson, Ward, and Wright, just to name a
few). The collective total volume of all of the 100+ lesser-known
photographers is significantly smaller than the combined output
of the Big 3.
at the bottom of the pyramid (tier D) both in volume and collectibility
would be those hand- colored photographers not directly attributable
to any particular photographer, studio, or company. Collectors collect
these pictures based primarily on Subject Matter and Condition,
and as a general rule, unsigned hand-colored pictures bring less
than comparable pictures by a known photographer..
Rule of Thumb: As in most other areas of antiques, Collectors collect
"the name", with the name "Wallace Nutting"
being the most collectible of all early 20th century hand-colored
In very simple economic terms, when too many people chase after
too few goods, prices have a tendency to rise. In very simple terms,
this is what is happening within the Early 20th c. Hand- Colored
Photography market today...too many collectors and dealers are chasing
after too few pictures...both Wallace Nutting Pictures...and Wallace
Nutting-Like Pictures The net effect is that prices for those pictures
remaining in circulation now cost more than ever...and quality hand-colored
pictures have become increasingly difficult to find.
not that the number of pictures is decreasing, but rather that an
increasing number of pictures are being purchased and held in private
collections. These are usually the finest pictures, in the best
condition, which, in effect. takes them out of circulation. Which
is exactly what we are seeing today: The asking prices on common
pictures, in poor quality, are generally higher than they were 12-24
as Wallace Nutting pictures have become increasingly more expensive
and difficult to find, more collectors have been gravitating to
the increasingly collectible, yet less expensive, pictures of other
early 20th century photographers.