Rare trove of historical Qld photos under hammer – and cryptocurrency is welcome

Rare, high quality photographs of Coolangatta and the Queensland border crossing dating back to 1880 will go to auction next week after the collection was uncovered in the spare bedroom of a family home in Victoria.

Jun 17, 2021, updated Jun 17, 2021
A stereograph of Kirra Beach, part of a large collection of historic Gold Coast images captured by the Rose Stereograph Company now up for auction. (Lloyds Auctions)

A stereograph of Kirra Beach, part of a large collection of historic Gold Coast images captured by the Rose Stereograph Company now up for auction. (Lloyds Auctions)

And in a world first that melds new-era digital technology with the historical discovery, potential owners can bid on the historical glass plate images with cryptocurrency, and will receive a unique minted non-fungible token (NFT) of the original with their purchase.

Original images of Marine Parade, Kirra Beach, Point Danger and even border gate views of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads are among the individual rare photographs that will be auctioned over eight nights through Lloyds Auctions on the Gold Coast from Wednesday.

The Queensland images are among more than 8000 glass negatives – photographic plates that were used before film – and 100,000 photographs from the 140-year-old Rose Stereograph Company.

The glass plate photographs are around 9cm x 14cm and are of such high quality that the images from the glass negatives can be blown up to around the size of the Sydney Opera House.

Other photographs to be auctioned from the collection include images of the landing at Gallipoli in 1915 at what is now Anzac Cove, Ned and Dan Kelly’s armour taken at their court trial in 1880, and Phar Lap winning the Melbourne Cup in 1930.

Chief Operations Officer for Lloyds Auctions, Lee Hames said the original glass negatives and photographs were historically highly valuable and preserved in exceptional condition.

“We believe this to be a world first, to offer these tangible original glass plates which rival any modern photographic resolution,” Hames said.

“This has to be one of the most important photographic collections in Australia if not the world and that’s why we have taken considerable measures and invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology in order to honour the owners.”

The photos were taken by company founders George Rose and Herbert Cutts, and later their sons, who travelled around Australia and world taking the photographs.

As the popularity of stereographs faded, to be replaced by cinema and film, the family turned the Rose Stereograph Company into Australia’s first commercially viable photographic postcard business, specialising in postcards of iconic historical moments and significant landmarks.

The family kept the whole image collection in their spare bedroom, with the grandchildren of the founders deciding it was time to dig them out and share them with Australia.

“It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a collection that spans five generations and 140 years,” current custodians Stephen and Jeffrey Cutts said in a statement.

“We understand that for these historically important pieces to rest with one family is to deny others the pleasure of their custodianship.”

The Coolangatta images feature iconic pictures of “downtown” Griffith Street, Marine Parade, Kirra Beach and the Kirra surf pavilion, as well as Point Danger and Greenmount beach.

In one image, tourists stand at the famous signpost on the border pointing to Queensland, New South Wales, Coolangatta and Point Danger.

Images also include historic shots of Coolangatta south across the border to the Tweed.

The collection is available online until Wednesday before the eight separate auctions get under way.

Winning bidders on the iconic glass-plate images in cryptocurrency will receive ownership of the original physical glass-plate negative and the minted NFT.

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