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Looking at the World Through an Optical Lens

by Tom Carrier (12/11/08).

“The heavens above and the earth below” is from a song, I think. But, how do you know what heaven looks like if not through the lens of a powerful telescope.

Thom Pattie, an auctioneer for over 40 years knows all too well. Pattie is Chief Worthologist at WorthPoint, and was a guest evaluator at the annual “Treasures from the Attic” antique road show to benefit the Manassas Museum Associates in Manassas, Va.

One extraordinary find at the show was a virtually complete early telescope kit, brought in from someone who said the telescope had been within the family for several generations. But the gentleman didn’t know very much more about it. The only clues he had was the etched name “Carl Zeiss, Jena,” and a serial number, number 6022.

“Carl Zeiss was one of the most famous lens makers for optical items, whether for microscopes, cameras or telescopes,” Pattie first told him.

In fact, Carl Zeiss began manufacturing lens in the 1840s in the German city of Jena. His work allowed for the creation of compound microscopes, using multiple lenses instead of the simple one lens manufactured previously. He was awarded a gold medal at the Thuringian Industrial Exhibition because his compound microscopes were ranked “among the most excellent instruments made in Germany.” By the 1880’s, additional refinements were made when Dr. Ernest Abbe, partnered with Zeiss in revolutionizing lens manufacture.

The Carl Zeiss company went on to manufacture telescopes in the late 19th century similar to the one being evaluated by Thom Pattie.

“The main thing about (this telescope kit) is that you have the original box, and it includes all the lenses. I only see one spot where one a lens is missing. The tripod is in it, the adjustments for adjusting the focus, both the rods are still. Everything is really complete,” Pattie says of the kit.

Finding a telescope with a complete set of attachments is exceedingly rare, Pattie says, adding that he would have to search through additional auction records to determine a more accurate value. “But, I’m going to guess the value of the kit is in excess of $5,000. It could be tremendously more than that. But the fact that you have the original duck tail case, and, I would say 99 percent of the attachments, is the most important thing, and would certainly add at least 100 percent of the value.,” he says.

Pattie says The fact that an antique or collectible such as this can retain its high value is because it is complete, or as close to it as possible, as in the case of this Zeiss telescope. All of the original parts must be intact, regardless of its condition. Even one small missing piece will negatively affect its final value.

Innovations in the art of lens manufacture, as first discovered by Carl Zeiss, continue to be further refined by Carl Zeiss AG, the company currently based in Germany. If one were to look at a Yashica, Nikon, or Leica camera, don’t be surprised to see the world as Carl Zeiss intended.

A video showing Thom Pattie discussing this Zeiss telescope can be viewed here .
WorthPoint: Get the Most from Your Antiques and Collectibles

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