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Old Vintage 35mm Camera Collecting - A Buyers Guide

Updated on March 23, 2019
Kodak Boyscout Vest Camera circa 1929
Kodak Boyscout Vest Camera circa 1929

Where to Begin - Buyer Beware

If you love collecting vintage cameras, you may already know that the value of an old camera depends on its rarity and possibly its condition. Vintage camera collectors have a variety of choices when collecting old cameras. Old camera enthusiasts collect box cameras, 8 mm film cameras, 35 mm cameras, video cameras, digital cameras and they may collect by brand only. Brands like Poloroid, Argus, Century, Canon or Kodak cameras are collected and cameras produced in limited edition for the World's Fair, advertising or created in the guise of a comic book characters are highly sought after. As you can see, vintage cameras are a really broad area in the world of collecting. Add to the variety the amount of time that cameras have been produced and you have an awfully large venue.

Cameras have been in use and produced since the 1800's. When buying and collecting vintage camera equipment it helps to know how to tell the condition of the camera and what to look for when collecting. You need a strong guide to point you in the right direction when shopping for vintage cameras in order to avoid over paying for an item or getting a camera of inferior quality. The best book to use as a source guide was put together by James and Joan McKeown. Mckeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras "is the best all in one camera identification and price guide, bar none. It has been expanded each new edition and this one is no exception. It has many new photos and a ton of improved ones as well. Well worth the money if you have a collection to sell or you want to start one. It will pay for itself for sure." according to Amazon customer, G. Rhodes.

Another way to protect yourself after a camera purchase is to seek the help of an antiques appraiser who specializes in camera appraisals. An appraiser will ofter advice and estimate the worth of a camera in exchange for a payment. An ethical appraiser would never offer to buy your camera from you, he is getting paid to help you and point you in the right direction. A buyer or antiques dealer who sells cameras will buy your collectible camera. He is in the market to make money so his appraised value of your camera is not a retail appraisal. A buyers price assessment is an offer that will allow him to make money off your camera and should never be used for insurance value or retail listing value.

Start a Collection - Own a Vintage Camera For $5

You can start a vintage camera collection for as little as $5. Older box cameras in good condition will sell online for this price and a box camera can be a good place to start. A common box camera like an Agfa may have little initial value but if the camera includes the original box, the price may quadruple. Leica cameras are highly valued and some cameras by Leica have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Believe it or not the box housing for a Leica camera is more rare for the camera and if you find a Leica box free of mildew and damage, it may be worth more than the Leica camera itself. The Brownie camera, a popular camera by Kodak also has boxes that have more value than some of the cameras produced under that name.

In the 1920s Leica revolutionized the role of the camera and its ease of use by introducing the 35 mm camera. Camera sizes became smaller and were highly in demand. Again, prices vary and by keeping yourself up to date and informed about collecting vintage cameras, you have a better chance of buying a camera that will hold or increase in value.

When quickly sizing up a camera look at its condition. Mold, mildew, ripped bellows, broken wood and dirt affect value. Check out the lens. Hold the lens up to the light and look for cobwebs, fungus or spots, and insure the lens is still strongly intact by observing the edges and how it is secured or cemented to the camera. There should be no rips or holes when looking at the shutter. Shutter speeds vary and the speed does not necessitate value. Try to set up a chance to test up a roll of film before investing in one. Accessories add value to a camera. If the camera you are considering comes with accessories always examine their functionality and condition. Boxes should have little or no wear and cases should be clean. Always do your homework then have some fun collecting vintage cameras!.


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    • cabmgmnt profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Thanks Jsasson,

      It is cool that you search them out. It is fun to collect something that has a history.

    • jsasson profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      Hi great article, I was given a small collection of two. A Voigtlander Vitessa T from 1959 and a spy camera made by Mamiya in 'occupied japan' in 1949. Incredible pieces of history - just haven't figured out how to even get the Mamiya open yet. Now, I stop at garage sales, "Any old cameras?"

    • cabmgmnt profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Thanks Dawg56,

      I would look on ebay and contact vintage camera shop owners from there, many own their own websites and they are super knowledgeable.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very informative! I am a recipient of a "passed down" camera, but it seems to be an oddball among collectors, and I'm not finding sights that include vintage cameras such as my Levy Process camera. Can anyone kindly direct me? Thank you!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      9 years ago from Indiana

      Vintage items like cameras are very cool - it's a great way to connect with the past!

    • cabmgmnt profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Thanks again Arlene. I was curious about cameras since I had two gifted to me recently. The Boyscout model that I show photographs of in my hub runs in the $100 range while an old Argus flash camera is about $30. It helps to know what you have. Vintage cameras can be fun just to display and others just take really fantastic pictures. Even though my cameras are not of great monetary value, they will be fun to pass on to a future generation.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      9 years ago

      Very nice. I love the look of old cameras and had a chance to use an older box camera while in photography class. Last night, I noticed some older cameras at a friend's house, but after showing them to me, he explained that they were old, but not of any value. It doesn't hurt to know what you've got. Voted up and all that.


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