Find the value of vintage cameras

You’ve found a really cool-looking old camera up in the grandparents’ attic. Or, scrounging around in the back of a closet, you came across that cute little Instamatic, your faithful companion on your first trip to Europe – it still seems to work! But honestly, your smartphone takes all the snaps you need nowadays. Could these vintage cameras capture something other than a photo? Our Savvy Specialists can put you in the picture regarding their worth.


It always helps to give us a camera’s serial number and model name or number (if you have them), along with close-ups of any other markings and distinctive features. Once we've identified the camera’s manufacturer, age, model, and condition, our Savvy Specialists complete a Quick Appraisal which includes research, stories and special features about your piece. We can also tell you more about the specific model, including a valuation analysis that includes what similar cameras have sold for.

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The history of the camera is one of an object getting progressively smaller and easier to use, even as it advanced technologically. The earliest box cameras (that created the concept of the snapshot as we know it today) date from the mid-1800s, and used a metal or glass plate to capture images. Then, in the 1880s, George Eastman (founder of Kodak) invented film, and subsequently, transparent, roll-style film – and the modern camera came into its own, as a portable object that ordinary people could use.

What makes a camera worth much? It depends usually on the brand you have, what the original quality was and how it has held up, and the demand for that particular model. In terms of re-use, the market for older cameras is relatively small because film is getting harder to get and there just aren’t that many people who want to use it. So that leaves the collectors’ market.

From the historical significance of 19th-century box cameras (made of great expanses of polished wood, their exteriors often covered in fine leather, set with brass hardware) to the fine optics of classic 1940s Leicas, antique and vintage cameras are valued by collectors for many reasons. Some go for types: wood cameras (and not only the cameras but their accessories and actual plates and images taken with them) or 35mm-film cameras, twin-lens reflex (TLR) or even movie cameras. Others go for brands. Along with Leica, Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad and Polaroid are the big names in camera collecting, as is Bolex in movie cameras.

Basically, there are two key reasons a camera is prized: It was particularly good in its day, or it is particularly rare today. That means that most consumer-level cameras (like the type produced by Kodak and Polaroid) aren’t worth a fortune – they’re just too abundant. Brownie box cameras are old – Kodak introduced them at the start of the 20th century – but since they were mass-made for 70 years, thousands exist. Of course, if you have one of the originals from 1900, it’s a different story. For the same reason, don’t expect much out of instant cameras (the ones that spit out a photo that develops immediately), either.

The main exception: Polaroid’s SX-70 OneStep Land Camera, introduced in 1970 and adored both for its design and its technology. Professional-level cameras tend to fetch more: Brands like Hasselblad, Nikon, Rolleiflex and Leica that were used by photographers for journalism, fashion or some other industry. Antique cameras, ones that are at least 100 years old, are of interest – but with these, condition is everything. 


Does everything on the camera work? How does it look? Is it missing key pieces or accessories? Does it have special or rare extras? All these can and do affect value. The good news is, because they are utilitarian objects, cameras don’t have to be treated like glass. They can be displayed, if kept out of direct sunlight. It might be worth cleaning glass lenses, especially if they seem to have fungus around the rim (it looks like frost on a window pane). Cameras that are over 100 years old may have dry leather on the exterior that could use some moisturizing. But don't polish the brass fixtures: Collectors like that vintage, tarnished look.


StuffSavvy can match you with Online Partners to get you the most value for the coins you'd like to sell. This is a good option once you know the value you want to sell the item for.


StuffSavvy can also match you with Local Consignment Shops and Auction Houses. This is the best option if you want to work with additional Specialists to maximize the resale value of your coins.


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