The Value of a Picture

Content Tools

409 Mills Lane New Albany, Indiana 47150

Most of the old iron collectors and hobbyists I know generally have some pictures to show off. They usually include their rare or specialty pieces and maybe some 'before' shots of a unique basket case.

On several occasions, I have read in this very publication, that someone arrived home and took a couple of quick snapshots of their prize before unloading it. When I acquired my first engine, I actually only had a curious interest in old engines, and it took about a year, off and on, to get it restored. By accident, I was my own salvation on this project. I wanted a couple of pictures of the engine as I had gotten it, and since the film had been in my camera for several months, I wanted to get it processed. Actually, I had forgotten what pictures I had taken on the roll of film. Anyway, I kept circling the engine and snapping pictures until the film was used up. (About 8 exposures.) By the time I was ready to re-assemble the engine, I wasn't sure how everything went together. With the aid of a magnifying glass and that handful of pictures, I managed to get it back together and running.

I don't plan on taking that long on another engine, but I have a similar problem. I'm often working on more than one project at the same time, so before I start cleaning or disassembly of an engine, I take pictures from all angles. I try to take detailed close-ups of intricate areas, i.e., the head, igniter, magneto, crank and gears. After developing, I keep the appropriate pictures in an envelope with the project until it is completed. These pictures have become as valuable to me as a wrench or screwdriver when working with my 'toys.'

I hope this never happens to anyone, but can you imagine how the average insurance adjuster would deal with trying to fix a value on a 50-year-old gasoline engine 'which has no current value as a machine or tool?' (Settle down, that's not my view, just how a businessman would put it into perspective!) In this case, a few good pictures of the finished product would certainly add value to the old saying, 'One good picture is worth a thousand words.' I'm not aware of any 'Blue Book' of antique engine values; a lot of value on antiques is based on condition, and what better way to prove condition than pictures?

Ditto, the above, if some low-life manages to get possession of your treasures, without your permission, and you have to provide the police with detailed descriptions! In this case, one picture is worth ten-fold a thousand words!

My last point, I promise; after you have sold or traded your fine treasure, and are regretting your moment of weakness, you can double your misery by pulling out the pictures and lusting after that which you foolishly parted with!! Or, you can show the pictures to your best engine buddy and say, 'Smartest thing I ever did, getting rid of that piece of junk. It never started when I wanted/needed it to. It dripped oil and slung it all over me and everyone else. It was too big and heavy to handle, and boy, I'd give anything to have it back!' (Ever notice how, after explaining all about old engines to a friend or neighbor, you volunteer to run one for him, and it won't start for nothing'?) This, of course, was all in jest. A good collection of pictures will always serve as a faithful companion to you and friends may need them for reference sometime.

What about pictures? Well, for the before shots, most 'pocket 35's' will produce what you need. When the project is finished, and better than brand new, you should try to get the best pictures you can! I'm not advocating hiring someone to do it, but if you can't get the quality you desire, I'm sure you have a neighbor or friend who might be delighted to do it for you. Most would be glad to do it for the cost of the film and processing, and the recognition.

For even more enjoyment, make a video of all your engines. In the winter when it's too cold and miserable to get out to the shop, it's a great 'pick-me-up' to watch all your engines, each in turn running, and with sound. All that's missing is the sweet fragrance of oil and gas. Your pictures can serve as an alternate way to keep the records I wrote about earlier this year. Using a soft-tip permanent ink marker, make notes on the back of your prints (include serial number, costs, paint color number, when and where acquired, etc.)