Updated: Mar 27, 2020
It appears that Paul Simon’s 1973 lyrics, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away” from his hit song, Kodachrome, may have new life, despite the fact that Kodak officially retired the color film in 2009 to make way for the digital revolution. Or maybe you are more of a "Shake it like a Polaroid" person. Either way, if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, you missed out on a great era…it was a time when cameras were considered to be like status symbols. If Nikon, Canon, and Olympus were Cadillacs, precision cameras, like Hasselblad and Leica, were in an elite class, like Lamborghinis and Ferraris.
Passionate photographers stood behind their brands and would debate which was better. It wasn’t that much different from what was happening with audio. As a former musician, I used to demand the best quality musical instruments, microphones, amplifiers, speakers and sound systems. Same thing for photographers, only it was all about the optics.
Back then, once you committed to a brand, you were stuck because all of the manufacturer mounts were different. Some of you may be able to relate to buying three bodies, five lenses and yet another new lens would come out six months later, and there you were, sacrificing whatever you had in order to pay for
Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when a lot of photographers saw how technology was changing. Some – and many to this day – frowned upon the idea of a digital camera, again, similar to audiophiles. Many of the purists and hobbyists gave it up. And the cameras, lenses, tripods, light tables, and other gear got stored away.
Today, many of these vintage cameras are hitting the secondary market. Recently, I witnessed bidders here in Arizona fighting over a Leica M6 case that went for $2,640 with buyer’s premium. No surprise to the serious collectors.
The hammer price on a Reid III Rangefinder Camera w/ Anastigmat 2/50mm lens at that same auction was $1,200. Still quite collectible and a good buy for the lucky collector who won the bid. They have sold on eBay in the $1500 to $2,500 range.
At another recent auction, the hammer price was $450 for a Nikon S3 Rangefinder camera outfit with all its accessories and case. Granted, the consignor probably spent significantly more on this and other photographic equipment during that time, but selling it now for a few hundred dollars is better than letting it sit in a closet collecting dust.
I’m always fascinated when we see these old cameras come into the auction house. From the 19th century wood cameras and box cameras to rangefinders, 35 mm, Polaroids and more, these treasures from our past were instrumental in capturing the story of our lives. Whether people are collecting them now for décor or other reasons, it’s nice to see a renewed interest and respect for them.
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