Whether you’re an avid camera lover, part-time photographer, or just a lover of all things vintage, collecting vintage cameras can be a fun and rewarding hobby. And you don’t need to be an expert on cameras or spend hundreds of dollars to begin a collection.
Photography became popular in the late 1800’s so there’s now a huge variety of cameras to choose from. Begin by defining a personal style for your collection by asking yourself some questions. Are you drawn to specific time period such as the turn of the century or the 1950’s? They both qualify as vintage! Do you want to collect a certain manufacturer or type of camera? Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to these questions right away. Take some time to browse through online auctions and see what you’re drawn to. Begin with one camera that you’re attracted to and start from there.
Vintage cameras aren’t hard to locate. EBay is the easiest place to find vintage cameras of all kinds. Browsing the listings on a regular basis will give you a good idea of what’s available and at what cost. Flea markets and antique stores also have old cameras, but it can be a bit hit and miss. Many cameras can be found closer to home. Let your family and friend’s know that you collect vintage cameras and just see what they pull out of the closet for you! Pieces with a personal history will have a valued place in any collection.
If you can’t get a camera for free then be sure you get one at a fair price. Buy a pricing guide if you’re worried about overpaying, or just search the “completed listings” on eBay. Collectible cameras can be found in any price range. Ten dollars can buy you an 80-year-old Kodak box camera that looks great on a bookshelf. Spend $25 or more and the choices expand greatly. Some old cameras are still operational, which can add to their value. But most are headed for a life on display in the home of a collector.
Many collectors who begin with vintage cameras expand to other photographic items. Vintage tripods are a fitting way to display your best cameras. The oldest tripods have wooden legs while the newer ones are typically metal. Darkroom supplies, old film plates, vintage rolls of film and stereoscopes also fit in well with any camera collection. The fun of finding an unexpected item for your collection keeps many a collector going!
How far you take your collection is up to you. Some people stop at five special cameras while others are constantly on the lookout for their next piece. The most dedicated collectors may join collector’s groups and travel to camera shows to pursue their passion. Whatever your level of enthusiasm, collecting vintage cameras is a fun and fulfilling hobby that’s open to anyone who appreciates the beauty and history of vintage cameras.