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Sow’s ear v. Silk purse



Our friend Dave Pence (a.k.a. Steve Spence, dieseldave) sent me a postcard once, a long time ago, of a building disaster: the ice-encrusted, still-smoldering ruin of a three-story opera house. It was unidentified and un-postmarked, but it was also a perfect fit for the sort of center-city disaster that might have made way for the 1914 Carnegie era public library I had imagined for Agincourt.

Years later, while engaged in my usual routine survey of the overnight postcard listings on that unnamed on-line auction site, what should appear but another view—another real photo image—of precisely the same urban fire, only this time it was identified as Keokuk, Iowa. And it was dated, so that I could search elsewhere for information on the event. While I’m sorry for the loss of property, I’m grateful for the sort of accident that isn’t so much “sow’s ear becomes silk purse” as it is making lemonade when someone drops a bag of lemons in your lap.

I’m not exactly sure what the card above (which shows the Dodge Theatre disaster) is all about. But it’s currently on auction, though at a price I can ill afford. It would be a nice addition to the collection, but posting it here may be enough.

1 Comment

  1. corgidogdave says:

    I think that the fairly recent ability to “capture” high-quality digital copies of images has had an interesting impact on the sales and collecting of vintage postcard and other historic photos.
    As a seller, I think this phenomenon has pushed prices down–or even resulting in non-sales.
    As I (potential) buyer, I am now satisfied to “own” a nice sharp .jpg image, rather than shell out for an exorbitantly overpriced card on eBay or at a card show. But there are complications…
    One parasite on eBay sells reprints of great images he has clearly stolen from sellers listings before they sold at auction. Yet, I’ve even purchased 3 images from him–shots I’ve never ever seen, and probably wouldn’t in my collecting lifetime.

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