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Cabinet Photos

Cabinet cards are small, easy to share photographs that become popular in the late 19th century. They were often displayed in albums or in cabinets, as their name indicates.

Typically, cabinet photos were developed as five and a half by four inch prints mounted on six and one-fourth by four and one-fourth-inch cardstock. The space between the photograph and the edge of the card was stamped with the photographer's studio information and sometimes the name of the sitter. Later cards often had identifying markings on the back as well. Cabinet cards were typically printed on albumen paper, but later cards were made through a variety of analog processes, such as silver gelatin, collodion, or platinum prints.

Photographers exercised creativity with cabinet prints, as they offered a larger format than what was available before. They created elaborate backgrounds with props and other types of embellishments for portraits. Cabinet cards were sturdier than their predecessors and were more often displayed in the home than shared by mail. Cabinet photos maintained their popularity as collectibles until the invention of real photograph post cards in the early 20th century.


Quick Facts

  • Cabinet cards were introduced in England in 1866, but took ten years to spread to popular use in the United States. Once the process made its way overseas, cabinet cards were popular keepsakes for tourists visiting New York City, or celebrity portraits for commercial distribution
  • Photographer Benjamin Falk, first based in New York City's theater district, gained a celebrity following for cabinet cards. He later experimented extensively with artificial light
  • It is possible to date a cabinet card by many of the general characteristics on the card, including card color, border design, and lettering. Wide gold borders were only used between 1884 and 1885, and embossing was only used after the 1890s

Recommended Items at Auction

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LEIPZIG, NATE (NATHAN LEIPZIGER). CABINET CARD PORTRAIT OF ...
Oct 30, 10:00 AM CDT
LEIPZIG, NATE (NATHAN LEIPZIGER). CABINET CARD PORTRAIT OF ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $400- $800
$2000 Bids
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Photographs - Miscellaneous - USA (hundreds) [139485]
Nov 01, 8:00 AM PDT
Photographs - Miscellaneous - USA (hundreds) [139485]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $150- $400
$750 Bids
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Territorial Cabinet Card Collection [139262]
Oct 29, 8:00 AM PDT
Territorial Cabinet Card Collection [139262]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
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United States Cabinet Card and Carte de Visite Portrait Collection [139268]
Oct 29, 8:00 AM PDT
United States Cabinet Card and Carte de Visite Portrait Collection [139268]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $150- $200
$750 Bids
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Foreign Cabinet Cards and Carte De Visites [139267]
Oct 29, 8:00 AM PDT
Foreign Cabinet Cards and Carte De Visites [139267]
by Holabird Western Americana
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
MISSOULA MONTANA MCBRIDE HARDWARE CABINET CARD
Nov 06, 9:00 AM MDT
MISSOULA MONTANA MCBRIDE HARDWARE CABINET CARD
by Davis Brothers Auction
Est: $50- $75
$100 Bids
2 Cabinet Cards Advertising Fraternal, Sculptures
Nov 21, 11:00 AM EST
2 Cabinet Cards Advertising Fraternal, Sculptures
by Moggies Auction Service
Est: $20- $40
$100 Bids
father Wright brothers aviation photograph
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
father Wright brothers aviation photograph
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $250- $350
$950 Bids
Atlantic City ca. 1913 aviation cabinet photograph
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
Atlantic City ca. 1913 aviation cabinet photograph
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $75- $100
$350 Bids
aviation photograph pilot killed 1910
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
aviation photograph pilot killed 1910
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $175- $200
$550 Bids
aviation airship cabinet photograph 1904 very rare
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
aviation airship cabinet photograph 1904 very rare
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $350- $450
$1500 Bids
antique ca. 1905 automobile cabinet photograph
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique ca. 1905 automobile cabinet photograph
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $125- $150
$650 Bids
five antique electric automobile cabinet photographs
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
five antique electric automobile cabinet photographs
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $250- $300
$1200 Bids
ca. 1910 non PC cabinet photograph
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
ca. 1910 non PC cabinet photograph
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $150- $200
$750 Bids
antique cabinet photograph occupational
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique cabinet photograph occupational
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $75- $100
$250 Bids
antique cabinet photograph of hillbilly family
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique cabinet photograph of hillbilly family
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $65- $75
$180 Bids
set of 3 cabinet photographs of factory explosion
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
set of 3 cabinet photographs of factory explosion
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $300- $400
$750 Bids
pair antique cabinet photographs of ship
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
pair antique cabinet photographs of ship
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $125- $150
$450 Bids
antique 1910 cabinet photograph of a bridge
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique 1910 cabinet photograph of a bridge
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $65- $75
$200 Bids
antique 1910 cabinet photograph of a bridge
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique 1910 cabinet photograph of a bridge
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $65- $75
$200 Bids
antique cabinet photograph horse sleigh transport
Nov 21, 10:00 AM EST
antique cabinet photograph horse sleigh transport
by Yardley Antiques
Est: $75- $100
$250 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Cabinet Photos


Yardley Antiques

Yardley Antiques

Holabird Western Americana

Holabird Western Americana

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Moggies Auction Service

Moggies Auction Service