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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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c1872 Mark Twain Early Cabinet Card by Burlock Philadelphia Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
c1872 Mark Twain Early Cabinet Card by Burlock Philadelphia Samuel Langhorne Clemens
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $400- $500
$3001 Bid
1893 Ferris Wheel Midway Plaisance World’s Columbian Exposition Cabinet Card
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
1893 Ferris Wheel Midway Plaisance World’s Columbian Exposition Cabinet Card
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $100- $120
$800 Bids
c1890s One Man Band Piano, Violin, Bass Etc. Cabinet Card Photograph
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
c1890s One Man Band Piano, Violin, Bass Etc. Cabinet Card Photograph
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $100- $120
$800 Bids
c1880s Cabinet Card Early Baseball / Softball Pitcher (By Sabin, Yorkville, Illinois)
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
c1880s Cabinet Card Early Baseball / Softball Pitcher (By Sabin, Yorkville, Illinois)
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $250- $300
$2000 Bids
VINTAGE CABINET PHOTO OF INDIGENOUS SAMI CHILDREN
Dec 07, 9:00 AM EST
VINTAGE CABINET PHOTO OF INDIGENOUS SAMI CHILDREN
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $100- $200
$300 Bids
Charles & Leopold Reutlinger (French, 19th - 20th Century)
Dec 15, 12:00 PM EST
Charles & Leopold Reutlinger (French, 19th - 20th Century)
by Vallot Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$200 Bids
Group of (55) Antique Cabinet Cards, CDVs, RPPCS
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
Group of (55) Antique Cabinet Cards, CDVs, RPPCS
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $50- $60
$400 Bids
c1890s Rare Dinosaur Bones Cabinet Card (Possibly Hadrosaurus?) Williamsport, PA
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
c1890s Rare Dinosaur Bones Cabinet Card (Possibly Hadrosaurus?) Williamsport, PA
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $150- $200
$1000 Bids
(2) Cabinet Cards: 101 Ranch Wild West Show (1901), Hebron, ND Horseback (1899)
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
(2) Cabinet Cards: 101 Ranch Wild West Show (1901), Hebron, ND Horseback (1899)
by Regency Antique Books
Est: $60- $70
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Cabinet Photos


Regency Antique Books

Regency Antique Books

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC

Vallot Auctioneers

Vallot Auctioneers