Collectible Antique & Vintage Cameras

Above Photo: The Daguerreotype, built in 1839 sold for 391,000 British Pounds in 2007, through the Vienna Gallery and Auction House, becoming the highest price paid for a camera. Photo from Gizmodo

Paintings often recorded events happening at the time, but once the camera was developed, it took the place of paintings in many ways. Because their realistic paintings could no longer compete with the camera for recording events, Artists began to change their methods of painting in order to hold the public interest. They began using styles to catch the attention of their audience. Impressionism, Modernism, Surrealism, and Pop Art became a means the artist could earn a living.

Photography started in the early 1800s and by 1854 had become very popular with the public. By 1866 cabinet cards came on the scene and everyone wanted their picture made. The cabinet cards were 4 ¼ by 6 ½ inches in size making them large enough to display in picture frames. But I wanted to talk abut cameras.

The prices for cameras today can go through the roof especially if they are the earlier varieties. The Blair no. 3 folding plate from the late nineteenth century can bring several thousand dollars, but you don’t have to go back that far to find a treasure. Kodak Ektra 35mm Rangefinder may well bring you over $1,500 today, and it was from the 1940’s. The Pignons Alpa 11E, made in Switzerland, in the 70’s, in mint shape might command $2,000. Nikon Fish-eye, from 1962, is another camera that you should keep in mind while you’re out on the hunt.

I have shared this next story in my book, “31 Steps to Your Millions in Antiques & Collectibles,” but I think now is the time to repeat it. My partner Warner and I had been searching for treasure together for a few years when I received a call to look at some items. After looking at the items offered, I called Warner and asked if he could look them over, because all I saw that could possibly be of interest was some old camera equipment. He agreed to look. He decided we should buy the camera equipment. Although he didn’t know much about camera equipment, he thought they could be a bargain.

Although I was not comfortable with the idea of buying this camera equipment, I asked Warner what they wanted for it. They were asking $900. Warner thought this was still a bargain, and asked what I thought we should counter offer. “Offer $750,” I said, secretly hoping it would be refused. I just didn’t know enough about camera equipment to be offering that kind of money. In a few minutes Warner called me back. I figured he’d been refused, but it turned out we were the new owners of this camera equipment.

The camera was made in the early 1900s by Deardorff, a Chicago company. It was the Rolls Royce of cameras. Warner put the camera and equipment on eBay, and it sold for $6,400. I thanked Warner for that one, and afterwards I ate a lot of crow over my hesitancy.

When you run across cameras at a sale, you might very well find several in a box. I’d suggest you not pick one out of the box and ask the price because that will show it might be special. Always ask the price for the whole box and might get a wonderful treasure. If you find that special camera, it will make you a wonderful picture, as you smile holding that rather large check.

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