Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vintage Cameras: Collection or Decorating Element?

When guests walk into our home for the first time, it's not the abundance of vintage knotty pine woodwork and paneling that elicits comment (maybe they're just being polite). Nor is it my extensive collections of vintage Thermos, flower frogs or our books. Not even our Hoosier cabinet, antique wooden ice box or Stickley postal table. The oohs and aahs frequently are directed at my collection of more than 150 antique and vintage cameras.

"How many do you have?" people generally ask.

"More than 150," I always say, not quite sure of the number anymore.

Years ago I started a haphazard inventory of my cameras, but I didn't keep it current. So, I lost track of how many total cameras I have and how many are duplicates.

That's about to change. My husband gave me McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras for Christmas. It has more than 1,200 pages of photographs, descriptions and current values of cameras. It's the bible of camera collectors.

Cataloging my collection is one of my goals for the new year.

I've acquired most of my cameras at estates sales, but my own Brownie Flashfun (left), which I received for my 11th birthday, and my mother's Vigilant Junior Six-20 (right), which she received as a high school graduation gift, formed the basis of my collection.

Increasingly, I see vintage collectible cameras integrated into home decor. Indeed, they can make a nice addition in almost any setting.

In recent years--at least in my neck of the woods--I've been disappointed to see that estate sale proprietors, as well as many flea market and antique dealers, have grossly inflated the price of collectible cameras they offer--often up to five or six times the actual value of the camera. That means the casual collector or the young couple who just wants to pick up a camera or two to add interest to their decorating are paying much more than market value.

If you're interested in adding a few vintage cameras to your home decor or collecting for yourself or a young hobbyist, you'll discover that they're not difficult to find. Collecting vintage cameras such as the Kodak Brownies, many of the Ansco, Argus and Agfa models and several of the simple pocket type cameras that have come on the market since the early 1900s can be very affordable. The brightly colored models from the early 1960s, such as those seen above, are still in circulation and won't dent your pocketbook too badly.

Most of the Kodak Brownie models--and there are well over 50 Brownie types--have a market value of $20 or less. Many are in the $10 and under range. A good number of folding cameras from a variety of makers can still be purchased for $20 or less. Box cameras come in many shapes and sizes and often at a reasonable cost.

That said, as I noted, these same cameras can also carry price tags that are heftier than those mentioned above. To be fair to dealers and vendors who come across vintage cameras infrequently, finding reliable values that can be used in pricing is not as easy as it is with glassware, kitchenware and other more common antique and vintage items. The McKeown guide my hubby gave me is one of few--and, I believe, the most reliable--price guides on the market. It's expensive and not easy to find, other than on-line.

As you can tell, I have a love affair with antique and vintage cameras. I'm absolutely not an expert on them. But, I'm happy to share my camera hunting experiences or assist--if I can--if you have a curiosity about collecting cameras or a specific camera you'd like to find out more about. Feel free to leave me a comment below and I'll get back to you.

Make it a great day!
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  1. I like how you displayed your cameras. I've always loved the really old cameras but I always used they were much to expensive to buy. Yours are fabulous!

  2. I am in love with your camera collection! It is awesome

  3. What a stunning collection, pure magic!
    Happy 2013 and thanks for your visit!

  4. More than 150 antique cameras? AMAZING! I never knew so many models existed. I LOVE your collection. Happy New Year.

  5. What a great post and as someone who has never owned this style of camera they intrigue me. What an amazing collection :)thanks for visiting me as well! newest follower and can't wait to see what else you have going on!

  6. Those are so pretty! I've always been intrigued by old cameras, and we were lucky to pick up some really cheap ones last summer at an estate sale. They're pretty banged up, but for decor, they're perfect.

  7. I have a few vintage cameras too but only about 4 or 5, now touching your collection of 150! I wish I still had my first camera it was probably a Brownie but not one of the bright colors. Thanks for your nice comments on my holiday hutch, it is fun to put together. Hope you had a wonderful holiday. Laura

  8. I love all your vintage cameras,great colllection. I don't have any but need to look for some now as I love vintage :)Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us at Creative Mondays,new follower ,looking forward to reading more of your blog :)

    1. Featuring your post this week:) hope you can stop by again and link up with us ...

  9. wow! Your home sounds so interesting...I love visiting houses full with vintage loveliness! I do especially like the look of the Sixties looking blue green and red cameras! So fun! x

  10. I love your collection, especially the red one! Do you test the cameras, and does it increase the value if you can confirm it works? I have a few and have no idea how to tell if they work.

  11. Wow, I'm just blown away by your collection! They have such a great, industrial vibe. My parents have a couple old family cameras that they display on their bookshelves, and I've always thought they make GREAT accent pieces.

  12. I've had a lot of the more common cameras go through my hands over the years. They can still be found at the flea markets at reasonable prices, at least here in the Northeast. The funny thing is that I rarely sell them to collectors. I most often sell them to prop shoppers looking for the iconic camera for a certain era to stage a theater production or a photo shoot.

  13. Beautiful cameras Ann ! I'm a collector myselt here in Beirut, Lebanon with around 580 cameras. My joy is not only in collecting them but also USING them. It's very exciting and gratifying to see the great photos these old cameras produce that were trashed or discarded in some dusty attic. Keep it up!.

  14. Contact me if you like at :


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