https://bit.ly/2ZGW76q It is possible (likely even) that there were older photos of individual coins in other catalogs but probably not by much. While photography was invented in 1827 the mass reproduction of photos did not come until much later. While a few experimental photos had been printed in newspapers as early as 1873 it wouldn't be, coincidentally, until 1881 that the process was commercialized. It wasn't until 1889, for example, that National Geographic would print its first photo. Back in the 1880's Sambon was a leading auctioneer and, I think, getting into photographing coins for publication was probably more about showboating how avant-garde they were than any practical benefit they could get from photographing their lots. I don't know how most sales went down but I doubt these catalogues were primarily intended to be the equivalent of mail order print catalogues of today. I'm guessing if you were a client you'd simply show up to see the coins in person (or your dealer would). The printing process was itself expensive and time-consuming involving master glass plates which could be used to transfer the image onto paper. From this we still inherit the word "plate" even though the term has been obsolete for decades! While newspapers used the crude halftone method, these catalogues were typically made with a process called collotype which could capture much finer detail. Anyway, I hope this is of some interest. I find the history of printing processes just as fascinating as that of photography itself. By the way, here's a lot the earliest color photograph plate from a 1929 Adolph Hess sale. Unfortunately, they chose gold for the whole plate so somewhat of a wasted effort in terms of showing off the possibilities of rendering many different color tones but, hey, imagine the oohs and aahs this must have caused back then! Don't forget that most printed auction catalogues carried black and white photography until the mid-2000's!!