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Where to buy vintage photographs of Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / November 7, 2011

Toronto Vintage Photographs BuyOne of the questions I'm commonly asked after publishing a set of vintage photographs of Toronto is where one can buy such images. On some more recent posts, I've taken to including a link to this information, but given the amount of attention these types of photos get on this site, it makes sense to do up a quick little buyer's guide.

Thankfully, the vast majority of Toronto images that we've shared are quite easy to acquire from the Toronto Archives. Depending on the size of image that you want, they're also not particularly expensive. An 8" x 10" print costs $25, and 11" x 14" come is at $40, and a 16" x 20" will set you back $50. If you're looking to go bigger than 16" x 20" then it's best to order an electronic file, which the Archives will send out on a CD-ROM. The price on these is generally $25, but varies depending on file size.

There are many thousands of digitized photos in the Archives collection eligible for printing/sale, the lists of which you can peruse here.

The next best bet for purchasing vintage images of the city is the Toronto Public Library. Although the local holdings aren't as extensive as those of the Archives, the prices are basically the same, and there are plenty of excellent historical images of Toronto and the other areas in Ontario. You can check out their collection on their Special Collections page.

In addition to these surefire sources (both with easily searchable databases), I've had some luck on Ebay, but it's difficult to know what kind of print quality you're going to get with the cheaper offerings, and it's always possible that you're buying materials that aren't supposed to reproduced for sale on account of copyright laws. In other words, caveat emptor.

For a selection of historical images in the Archives collection organized by decade, have a look at our series Toronto in photos from the 1850s to the 1990s.

Know of another place (besides Craigslist) to buy vintage images of Toronto? Let us know in the comments!

Lead photo of Yonge & Queen streets in the 1910s from the Toronto Archives



Dan / November 7, 2011 at 02:24 pm
I've bought vintage photos at the St. Lawrence Market's Sunday antique market... can't remember prices though. Definitely cheaper than the Archives.
Bron / November 7, 2011 at 02:54 pm
There are 2 stalls that sell vintage photos at the St Lawrence vintage market every Sunday. One has a big stack of Toronto photos ready for framing.
Paul / November 7, 2011 at 05:49 pm
I've never been clear on how the Archives can require you to ask their permission to use photos that are out of copyright (I realize that not all of the images they have are out of copyright, but some are).

I get that it's nice to acknowledge their efforts, but do they have any legal rights to do so? Does their scan of the original photo carry its own copyright? Perhaps someone here would be kind enough to address my confusion :)
Aric / November 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm
This is public domain imagery (bought and paid for by a public entity). Why do I now have to pay for it?

In the States, the Library of Congress and NASA give out imagery like this in digital form (as a download) for free.

Michelle / November 8, 2011 at 09:24 pm
Toronto Star is good. Nice 2012 calendar.
Toronto Transformed / February 25, 2013 at 04:58 pm
Note that the prints you are buying at St.Lawrence market are reproductions.

An authentic photograph from the year it was printed will run you well over $100.00, but it will be authentic to that year.
Dan / May 14, 2014 at 03:43 pm
Btw...the images on ebay of Toronto are all the free images from the library of congress. Unless the ebay listing says that it's a repro of an original photo, then you're just getting something you could download for free and print yourself.
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