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Old binoculars and collecting

Updated on August 14, 2012

Collecting Old Binoculars

For anyone interested in collecting old binoculars then follow me and lets see what we can discover.

Binoculars have been around and in general useand good quantity since the 1800s. They are the bygone instruments which have been widely used for a long time now, and are still being produced today. Indeed today's instruments are as easily recognizable as those produced many years ago, especially in their design shape, although the technology regarding materials, prisms and lenses has taken great leaps forward. Having said that, even today's late 20th century binoculars are still using the 'ABBE-PORRO' principle of design first used in the late 1800s.

Now, as we have moved into the 21st century, it is still relatively easy to find such fascinating old instruments dating from the middle-late 1800s to the early-mid 1900s. And there is a fascinating history attached, as these instruments were used for pleasure and work, through peace and war. Don't forget, apart from the good times we have had two world wars and many minor wars since Queen Victoria reigned, and the military as well as the general public used these instruments in great numbers, and indeed still do.

So there you go!! Think about it as there is great scope for collecting.

The picture shows a pair of Zeiss WW11 6x50 binoculars.

Collecting Old Binoculars - Books on Old Binoculars

For anyone interested I have written several books on Collecting Old Binoculars (Self Published)

Collecting Old Binoculars

Collecting Old Ross Binoculars

Collecting Old German Binoculars

Collecting Old French Binoculars & Opera Glasses

Collecting Old North American Binoculars

You can find them on my publishers site - go direct to - http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/briseham

Standard German Army Issue 1908 - these are by Spindler Hoyer
Standard German Army Issue 1908 - these are by Spindler Hoyer

Old Binoculars - Wartime

During WW1 and WW11 all British binoculars that were used by the Armed Forces were stamped with the Ministry Broad Arrow.

At the time of WW1 there was a shortage of binoculars, so the military 'bought in' a lot of binoculars. These binoculars could have been French, German, or from private individuals ect, wherever they could find them.

WW1'bought in' binoculars were stamped as follows:-

S.1 High Grade Prismatic Binoculars

S.2 Second Grade Prismatic Binoculars

S.3 High Grade Galilean Binoculars

S.4 Second Grade Galilean Binoculars

S.5 Third Grade Binoculars Of Either Type

S.6 Unusual Design Binoculars

And of course they had the Ministry Broad Arrow.

Also we have the Brirish Army Markings for Prismatic Binoculars.

No 1 8 x 20 1907

No 2 Mk 1-111 6 x 30 1909

No 3 Mk 1-11 6 x 20 1911

No 4 Mk 1 6 x 30 1927

No 5 Mk 1-V 7 x 50 1935

No 6 Mk 1 4 x 24 1936

Again also marked with the Broad Arrow.

Another set of markings which are well worth mentioning are the German WW11 manufacturers codes.

The Germans decided during the war that they did not want the allies to know where their optics were manufactured ( to stop the bombing of the factories?) so they had the following codes put on their binoculars. This is just a list of some of the main codes as there were rather a lot, and they can be looked up on the internet.

Some German Manufacturers' Codes for WW11.

Beh Ernst Leitz - Wetzlar - Germany

Blc Carl Zeiss, Militarabteilung - Jena - Germany

Bmj Hensoldt & Sohne - Wetzlar - Germany

Bmt Steinheil & Sohne - Munich - Germany

Bpd Goerz - Vienna - Austria

Cag Swarovski - Wattens/Tirol - Austria

Cxn Emil Busch - Rathenow -Germany

Ddx Voigtlander & Sohne - Brunswick - Germany

Dkl Joseph Schneider - Kreutznach - Germany

Dzl Oigee - Berlin - Schoneberg - Germany

Eaw R. winkel - Gottingen - Germany

Eso G. Rodenstok - Munich - Germany

Esu Steinheil & Sohne - Munich - Germany

Eug Optische Prazisions Werke - Warsaw - Poland

Fvx Beck & Sohne - Kassel - Germany

Gwv Ernst Plank - Nurnberg - Germany

Jfp Dr Carl Leiss - Berlin - Germany

Nms Richard Holz - Berlin - Germany

Rin Carl Zeiss - Jena - Germany

The picture is of a standard pair of Galilean Binoculars issued to the German Army in 1908 - This pair is made by Spindler & Hoyer, but they were also produced by other factories - so they could be by Zeiss, Goerz etc. Many of these binoculars were used right through to WW11.

An old pair of Cox-Devonport binoculars c.1850
An old pair of Cox-Devonport binoculars c.1850

British Makers of Binoculars (A Few Old Names)

Here are a few British makers to look for - these are probably the most well known.

If you look into the history of some of these makers, you will find that many of them started out in the Optical business such as Opticians and lense makers.

Many of them would have also produced Cameras, Microscopes etc.

J.H. Steward London

Dolland London

Dolland & Aitchison London - From 1927

John Browning London

Ross London - Army - Navy

Kershaw Leeds - Army

Taylor-Hobson Leicester - Army

Watson London - Army

Wray London - Air Ministry

Barr & Stroud Glasgow - Royay Navy

Aitchison London - Leeds

Cox Devonport - Plymouth

Coombes Devonport - Plymouth

Hughes Liverpool

Here are some notes on other Binocular Marks:-

You may find engraved the Letters 'KO' (with the K on top of the O). This means that the instrument was tested at - The Kew Observatory.

The 'KO' should be followed by a number, which is the number of the Test Certificate.

This ran from - C.1878 to 1912.

Other letters you may find are 'NPL' which is the National Physical Laboratory.

The letter 'N' is followed by 'P' over 'L' and a number, for instance - '43', which would mean it was tested in 1943. C.192 - .

Then there is also the Broad Arrow.

This Arrow was used buy the British Government & Military to mark ownership.

The sign was also used as a mark of testing, so a full Broad Arrow meant the instrument was up to standard.

Searching for Old Binoculars

This is me in my search for old binoculars at an Antiques Fair.

It was done just to show people what is out there on the market - enjoy with all its faults.

There are many places you can buy Old Binoculars.

The video was at a large AntiquesFair but also you can look at :-

Ebay or other Online Auctions, Antique shops, Car Boots, Auction Houses or even Charity Shops

Ross Binoculars - marked with the Broad Arrow
Ross Binoculars - marked with the Broad Arrow

Old Ross Binoculars

Ross were one of the great British Binocular Makers.

Andrew Ross was the man who started it all. Born in 1798 - Died in 1859.

He eventually became an Optician and started his own business in 1830 at Wigmore Street, London.

From around 1837 - 1841 they were trading as Andrew Ross & Co.

In 1859 they were trading as - Ross & Co. The company name changed to Ross Ltd in 1897.

Around 1949 they became Barnet Ensign Ross Ltd, and soon after they changed to Ross Ensign.

Ross closed in 1975.

Their main factory in the 1900s was - The Optical Works, Clapham Common, London, SW4.

Ross continuosly manufactured binoculars from the 1830s, and over the years very many were produced for the military with WW1 & WW11 being a very good collecting area.

A very nice pair of painted French Opera Glasses
A very nice pair of painted French Opera Glasses

Old French Binoculars & Opera Glasses

Old French binoculars are of course another collectable area, but when it comes to WW1 & WW11 then I think they become even more interesting.

During WW11 the Germans started coding all their binoculars to hide their place of manufacture.

Anyway, during WW11 France was 'occupied' and so Binoculars made in France for Germany were given a code which was stamped on the binocular.

Hence:-

Iww. Huet et Cie, Paris France.

Iwx. Optique et Precision de Levallois, Paris France.

Lwy. Societe Optique et Mecanique de Haute Precision, Paris France.

Also during WW1 when there was a huge shortage of binoculars, the British 'bought in' Binoculars from all sorts of places including France.

So you may well come across a pair of British Army Binoculars which are actually French.

Bought in binoculars were stamped by the British Military, so you may have a pair of French Binoculars marked like this - for example

Name. Huet - Paris

Mark. Ministry Broad Arrow

Mark. S.1 (high grade prismatic binoculars)

Mark. MG ( French - Ministere de la Guerre) (Ministry of War)

Good fun looking for these binoculars and also they are easy to date.

Now this is where I think the French came into their own - Opera Glasses.

A lot of Opera Glasses were produced in the 1800s and early 1900s, but I don't think anyone made such beautiful glasses as the French.

Depending on the level of decoration and condition, some of these Opera Glasses can be quite ex[pensive.

Look out for decorations in :-

Tortoiseshell, Gold, Silver, Mother of Pearl, Bone, Ivory, Enamel etc.

Great stuff.

Look out for these French names.

Huet Paris. Lumiere Paris. Iris Paris. Bardou Paris. Chevalier Paris. Colmont Paris. Marchand Paris.

Wartime Posters - Help!! Loan us your Binoculars

Wartime Poster - loan us your binoculars
Wartime Poster - loan us your binoculars

Love these posters.

During the war there were of course many posters warning about the enemy etc.

The ones I love of course are about loaning your Binoculars to the government.

There are a few of these posters about ( mainly repro!!), but they may make your collecting more interesting.

Old Adverts help with collecting

This is fun!!

Trawl around for old adverts.

Look on Ebay - search the internet - look at old publications.

It's amazing how many old adverts there are, and you will find them for very many binocular makers and sellers - British, French, German, American, etc

These adverts also help with dating the binoculars.

Maybe you have a pair of old binoculars they are advertising??

This picture is an old advert - late 1800s - for the French company Lemaire. (Very collectable Opera Glasses)

Reply to H Geddes. HI, I don't actually know anyone in London who does repairs. I hope these will help. www.opticalrepairs.com -

www.actionoptics.co.uk - www.quicktest.co.uk - www.intrasights.co.uk

Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens, a good early morning read and thank you for the visit to my telescope lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have my grandfather's Ross Stereo Prism Binocular No 67558 and one of the eye pieces has come loose. Can you recommend someone in London to repair them?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for th e info - I have a pair of old, very heavy Navy binoculars from an old family firiend who was in ww2, and I wanted to identify them. They are Prismatic no2 Herwood and co. London 1918. I want to give them to my son with some knowledge so I was thrilled to read your article. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i have recently purchased a pair of opera glasses they are Kershaw mainly bakerlite very well made no. 363227 could you tell me anything about them,

      the no. is directly below british patent.Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hello,

      I recently found these binoculars from Finnish recycling center (cost me 15â¬). I'm not sure if they are military item or not, because the Finnis Army "SA" is missing. Although they have the pont scale in right hand eyepiece.

      I was hoping if someone could identify these binoculars, and give some information. Pictures can be foun in here

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/55696035@N00/

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My father in law has these binoculars from his late father.

      We are trying to identify them.

      They are in a case and on the inside of the case are the words

      Walter Kirberg and Solingen. We think they are German WW2

      And according to the article above Walter is the code

      Can you tell me who made them?

      Reply to me at colin@lavinweston.com

      Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have 3 ww11 London newspapers. 1939 and

      1940. Would like to sell them. Where could I

      Market them. Please advise if u can. Tks. Brenda duff

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i have a perken, sons & co ltd small bino - excellent lens quality and it's brass. Is there a website where I can check when it was made please?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      in desperate search on any new on Saunders - High Street - Oxford: I own a prototpie porro prism binocular (similar to Goerz Pagor 6x)...

      please help

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I hope someone can help in identifying a pair of compact binoculars that came to me new as a gift around 1985 (?) and i would like to find out more about them.

      They are branded "10x25 DiaLUX T" with the code "0087 GKA" and are of quality construction. Web research shows that DiaLUX is a Leitz brand associated with microscopes, but i can't find out anything else about them.

      I would appreciate any useful help or info in identifying them better.

      thank you in advance

      Mike

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hello, I have rear type of binoculars named by ross london.. they are rear and

      I cannot even find a picture online. an someone tell me where I can find some answers. I can send a picture..

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi i have a pair of old german made toy binoculars, they are a simple looking copy of a ww2 field binocular. it has no sigular eye balance focus but focuses well using the central winder. need to date them for interest only

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      hi i am in need of help with an ol set of binoculars. I want to know what they are worth if anythin? They are from the Tor Optical Co. Made in Tokyo occupied Japan. Luminax no. 12344. PLEASE ANYONE CAN YOU HELP ME! THANK YOU jolene

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi, I have old binoculars with "AUTOCRAT PARIS " stamped in the top of each eye socket. Can you tell me any of the history? Look to be from WW1 time frame.

      Thanks

      Chris

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have opera binoculars with one eyepiece lens missing. The marking on the eyepiece says PARIS OPTICAL CO. Does anyone know where I could get one?

      I appreciate any suggestions.

      Armand

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have two sets of old precious binoculars which were made at the time 1818 which were made by East Indian Company. I want to sell them. I can provide their images if needed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Bekir Sengul

      I have a binocular 7X50 ''NOCTOREX -vergütete optic and blick winkel 7.1' nr.40475

      pls ı have to know made by whom and how old.

      thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      hello, I have an old pair of binoculars and can't seem to find a pair exactly like them on the internet. They were made by chevalier optien paris (written around each lens), are brass and functional. I can send you a pic if you tell me how!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hello I hope you can help me I cleaned out an old house today and found an old leather case with a compus on the top or flip lid and in it seems to be and old military style binocular this is what I can read on it signal corps u.s.army serial no EE 100708 30 mm prism stered I think and made by Bausch & Lomb optical co. The leather case seems very old as do the binoculars do I have something of value plZ help

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi we have acquired an old pair of binoculars in a leather case with buckle. on the binoculars has writing 'Hertz & Richter' coated optics 10x50 282ft. at 1000yds No.14665??? in the case is an original guarantee dating 19/4/1975!!

      can anyone help us to the value of these please?? Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a pair of Bausch & Lomb binoculars in original leather case serial # 200750 they were a gift from my uncle. I would like to know how to find out what they are worth. not for selling but just to know how old they are and possible insuring ourposes. any help would be appreciated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      @anonymous: If you live anywhere near Charlottesville, VA, Ken Farmer, noted appraiser of Antiques Roadshow, is now having a once-a-month FREE appraisal fair at his auction house Quinn-Farmer. Check it out on their website. Worth the trip.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi!...can anybody tell me something about Kershaw sportsman binoculars?....I jus bought it in Ebay... very nice! but I'd like to know something about it´s history......thanks! regards from Cancun--

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      hi, ive got a pair of binoculars..i don't have a clue what they are? on the left it says bino prism n0 5 mark IV x7 on the right it says graticules R with an L underneath.......any ideas? i was told they were ww2?...am i sitting on a fortune? lol

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a pair of spotter Japanese binoculars from WWII used at Guadal canal. Commander Aeneus Salisbury brought these back to Australia on the HMAS Hobart Any idea how to sell these? They used to work but now only the left glass half works.

    • Socialpro54 LM profile image

      Socialpro54 LM 4 years ago

      Great lens! I have a pair of binoculars, actually my dad bought that for me :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a pair of SarD 6x42 wide range with eye guards, case and strap. All are in very good condition. Can you tell me what their approximate worth is?

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I have. Pair of Ross ww2 signal glasses I think but it says Lorrainr parts? Any comments ? Guess on wh,at they are worth?

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I think I have. Pair of WW 1 Ross binoculars. It says day/ night signal glasses and engraved in the optical/ eyepiece it says Lorraine parts? Any idea what I have and what they are worth ?

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Does anyone know of a company Thurman Robertson & Co who might have manufactured or sold opera glasses in the 1800s. I have photographed an advertisement with that name across the bottom showing a lady looking through binoculars and the notation on bottom Liberty, VA. (Now Bedford, VA.) This advertisement was inside the lid of a chest which the owner believes is a spool chest which has a lift up lid and four drawers with wooden knobs. The whole package is a mystery. Can anyone help? I particularly want to know if the Liberty, VA reference is the location of the company called Thurman Robertson & Co.

    • profile image

      Dan 2 years ago

      I have a pair of what I think are Civil War field glasses. They are all brass and the eyepieces say Word & Works Paris France. Does anyone know if they are really Civil War glasses? My mother told me they have been in the family since the Civil War ( we had several family members who served in both the civil war and revolutionary war. )

    • profile image

      P.C. 2 years ago

      Hi, We have a huge collection of prism binoculars and I can advise that if you want to know about an old bino you have, try Ebay. There you can look for Vintage Bino's as well as newer, and if you want to sell you can get a clue by following an auction to the end.

    • profile image

      baz 2 years ago

      I have an old pair or Russian binoculars they are metal I think the markings 6nb1 7x50 made in ussr on the right side says 30m3 looks like just wondered any idea what they worth got a case with to sets of extra lenses one set orange and other very dark

    • profile image

      M.A. 22 months ago

      I have a pair of binoculars with case, printed Pentax Heiland prism Asahi optical co. Japan #196593 w/coated optics. 6x30 field 75*...Any info on the worth and year of these would be appreciated. Thanks

    • profile image

      Patricia from Long Island 20 months ago

      I have a pair of binocuilar that were my father's and would appreciate any information you can offer. They are marked Colmont, Paris with the numbers 2675 marked by both lens. The main body of the binoculars are wrapped in leather. My email is patricia5431@optimum.net and thank you for any assistance you can offer.

    • profile image

      Patricia from Long Island 20 months ago

      I have a pair of binocuilar that were my father's and would appreciate any information you can offer. They are marked Colmont, Paris with the numbers 2675 marked by both lens. The main body of the binoculars are wrapped in leather. My email is patricia5431@optimum.net and thank you for any assistance you can offer.

    • profile image

      J. & A. Bosch 18 months ago

      I am in receipt of a pair of binoculars, (I think) nickel over brass, brown leather wrapped with brown leather case lined in blue satin. All still work including the snap lock and top strap. Binoculars in need of professional cleaning. Trying to find maker. The case is stamped J. & A. Bosch mechaniker & optiker Strassburg i.E.

      The only info I have found in them is they had a catalogue and sold/designed seismic and geology equipment and that was in the very early 1900's. They passed in early 1920's and 30's. The brothers were born in the mid 1800's.

      I would greatly appreciate any info! Email to: onesmily1@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Bo 15 months ago

      Hello,

      I have a pair of Super Fuji binoculars Tokyo Coated Lens 8 x 30. Can you tell me more about this binocular? aleph7220@gmail.com

      Thanks you. -Bo

    • profile image

      Gabriele 13 months ago

      I have a pair of h. Falk opera glasses from Berlin ww2 in the case good condition wanting to know the value

    • profile image

      TimK 11 months ago

      hi i have a pair of colmont binoculars but they also have the word metropole on them i was wondering if you knew what that meant. and if i could send you some pictures to date them because i cant find anything on them.

    • profile image

      Mike 10 months ago

      Hello, I have a pair marked "Compass Royale Made in France". Does anyone know about this company, when they made binoculars, and how old their products may be? Email: mhalasi@msn.com

    • profile image

      Ed C 10 months ago

      I have a Marsept 7 x 50 pair of binoculars with S/N 476126 ELeitz Wetzlar and would appreciate assistance in identifying the age and approximate value. I also have a black hard case with the binoculars.

    • profile image

      Christin Taggart 8 months ago

      Hello hoping you can help, and will see this. I found an old pair of Lemaire Fact Paris binoculars in my father in laws old stuff. From what I've seen and read they appear to be from the Civil War era!!! Is there any way to authenticate these? Who could help me to determine a price? I have an Etsy shop, would that be an appropriate venue to sell these, or would I be better off going elsewhere?? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

      Sorry, not sure how to post a photo (assuming I could?) Many thanks!

      Christin Taggart

    • profile image

      Christin Taggart 8 months ago

      Hello again, I just sent a question about the Lemarie Fabt Paris binoculars. I forgot to include my email address : Teddydog1979@gmail.com

      Wanted to add that this pair looks exactly like the pair pictured on the left in the old ad you posted of Lemarie's. On the eyepieces they both read, "Lemarie Fabt" but the t is shorter than the other letters in "Fabt" and has a line under it. They also have two little bee emblems on both sides of the word Paris. They're adjustable, and one side has leather on it. Would these be opera or military? Any information I'd really appreciate. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Tamie 3 months ago

      I am trying to identify a pair of old binoculars. I believe they were my great-grandfather's.

      The markings are: "MADE IN FRANCE"; "CRYSTAL" and "PRISMOID" on the shafts beneath either eyepiece; and "6" and "= L" on the bridge between the eyepieces.

      All information I've read (and photos seen) tell me they are WWI Lumiere binoculars. However, I have not found any information on "CRYSTAL", only "RADIUM".

      Any information (or guidance) would be gratefully appreciated! I am looking for history :)

    • profile image

      Joyce 8 weeks ago

      I have searched and searched to find information on binoculars that were my Dad's (he was born in 1914 and served in WWII). They are part aluminum(?) and black and the only marking in Metropole, Made in USA. Any thoughts/

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