We’ve all been there: some family member hands you a box of assorted photos and you might not know who half the people in the pictures even are. While you should probably hold on to photos of family members you know or those which are labeled, it can be tempting to declutter by getting rid of some of the “unknowns”. But, there are quite a few types of photos that you might want to hold onto- even if they aren’t of your immediate family members.

7) Round or Oval in Glass

Via: Russell Lee/NYPL Digital Collections

These custom frames are often very ornate and unusual and can be worth money in the antiques market. Even if the photo inside isn’t all that special many folks will buy them for their bubble glass (many of which get broken over the years) and rococo frames.

6) Daguerreotypes

Via: Francis Grice/Library of Congress

As one of the earliest types of photos, daguerreotypes can be old and valuable- as far as photos go. Other types of sought-after photos that collectors love are ambrotypes (printed on glass) and tin types (printed on metal). These early photo types were later replaced by film and Polaroid photos. By their very nature they exhibit their age and rarity- and many haven’t survived into the modern era.

5) Photos Made Into Objects

Via: Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the old days photos were sometimes made into buttons and pins so that loved ones could be worn close to the heart. These small objects hold a certain amount of value based on the fact that they are so unique and can be worn today, too.

4) Celebrity Photos

Tommy Dorsey sighted at a record store in 1938. Via: William Gottlieb/ Library of Congress

Old Polaroids and Brownie prints most likely aren’t going to be worth anything, unless the subject matter is compelling. I have found in my family photos a Hollywood actor that happened to be friends with a many-times-removed cousin. I don’t plan on selling the photos, but it’s fun to think about someone who rubbed elbows with the most elite in the film business dining with my family members! And, if you do plan to sell photos like these they will have some value beyond just being old timey.

3) Photos from Wars

Via: Library of Congress

Many photos related to wars will be from the 20th century as photography in the 19th century required lots of heavy equipment and specialized chemicals and knowledge. It wasn’t a hobby for the casual observer of life. But, with the advent of more portable cameras in the early days of the 1900s there arose opportunities for soldiers to take their cameras with them overseas to battle. They documented not only war life and military life, but also captured scenes from strange lands and different cultures. Many of these photos have ended up in family archives. These types of photos can hold mass appeal since they document not one family or company, but also aspects of these world-altering events.

That being said there many studio photographs from the Civil War era, many documenting incredibly young soldiers about to head off to fight.

2) Photos of Historical Events

The Great Fire of Chicago (1871). Via: NYPL Digital Collections

Photos of rallies, events, earthquake damage, and fires have significance for anyone interested in history. Extreme weather events also make for really interesting photos that hold reverence for people far and wide- not just people in your family.

1) Photos of Cities

Bain News Service/Via: Library of Congress

Photos that show buildings and streets as they were 75, 100, or 150 years ago have wider appeal to many people and can give insight into how much a city or town has changed. These are just plain fun to have in your possession, but also hold value for many people and institutions if you ever did decide to get rid of some.

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