I bet every one of you who is reading this has at least one old camera at home. The fact is that our grandparents and parents were the first generations that normalized owning a camera for personal use.
We all know how back in the day things were built differently – they were made to last. You all know what this means, right? This means that many collectors are willing to pay a lot of money to get their hands on your rare and unique vintage camera.
However, before you make any big plans, let’s do thorough research together and learn as much as possible about real antique camera value and how to determine one. So ready; set; action!
Let’s Talk About Some History Facts
Did you know that the first camera was released in the 1830s? Well, now you know. However, most of the antique models we know nowadays mainly appeared in the 20th and 21st centuries. If you are lucky enough to come across some of these cameras in your old home, you might be able to sell them for a small fortune.
Mainly the price depends on the brand of camera you have, the condition, the type, and the demand for this camera. In fact, besides the condition (it is crucial that your camera is still working) the type of camera is a factor you need to take into consideration.
Let’s see what types of antique cameras are there.
By far the most abundant cameras are consumer-level cameras. The Kodak Brownie was introduced in 1900 and this was one of the first consumer-level cameras. These cameras provided a fairly good quality picture for that time. However, naturally, some were terrible as well.
A wide variety of cameras that were produced in the 1930s seem like they should be worth a lot of money nowadays. But unfortunately, there are too many of them on the market so they aren’t so unique and rare. Even though these cameras are great they have bellows, an aperture ring, and a shutter speed control, and all of them use medium-format film.
Keep in mind that there is an odd thing about Kodak cameras. This manufacturer makes a habit of producing cameras that require specific film sizes since the spools are different. So if you want to use a regular 120mm film you need to modify it to 616mm and 620mm. Since most companies stopped making these types of films many years ago, a lot of vintage cameras won’t be able to work without you modifying the film.
If you are looking for a vintage camera that you will really use and not hang it on the wall as decor look for ones that use films such as 35 mm, 120, and 220.
In case you come across a vintage professional camera that carries the name such as Nikon, Leica, Olympus, Kodak, Pentac, canon, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex, Mamiya, Bronica, or Contax, you may hit the jackpot! The may is because they are valuable only in case they actually work. These cameras will bring you from a few hundred up to a few thousand dollars.
These cameras are sought-after so if they are in good shape and light-tight with no lens problems you can fetch a handy amount of money.
Today we can say that cameras made in the early 1950s are antique considering how much time passed since their production. However, in this section antique generally means cameras that originate from the 19th or early 20th century. These cameras were used by professionals.
If you have or you found a camera from this era, you need to know that condition is the only thing that matters in this case. Make sure you check for light leaks and rotten bottoms, especially if you have a view camera that produces 4-by-5, 5-by-7, or 8-by-10 single negatives.
The good thing is that even if they are not working properly, or at all, these cameras can still sell for more than $500. The ones that are in almost perfect condition will sell for at least a thousand.
Instant cameras were massively produced in the 1950s to 1960s mainly by Polaroid and Kodak. However, these cameras have little value because the film for them has become unavailable. Some of the older Polaroid models can be sold for above a few hundred dollars as a collector’s item but only if the model is very rare.
The most popular Polaroid models are the One Step model and the Swinger model. Unfortunately, they are very common so even in perfect condition their price is pretty low. Kodak instant cameras weren’t produced in such big quantities yet they still aren’t so valuable.
What Features Make Antique Cameras Valuable?
There are several features that you need to take into consideration when buying or selling your antique camera. These will greatly affect the value of your item so make sure you know as much as you can about each factor before making any final decision.
Naturally the most important are age and condition, as well as its rarity and demand. However, some antique cameras are considered very valuable because they have unique designs or technological innovations. Also, don’t forget that some models are in demand because they have been featured in some popular movies.
The following factors will determine the real value of your antique camera:
- Type of film format
- Cameras construction and features
- Rarity and demand
What should be the first thing to check in an antique camera is the film format that the camera uses. The thing is that a lot of films have been discontinued and haven’t been in production for decades. So what’s the point of investing in a camera that was made to shoot films that do not exist for the past 50 years? These cameras became unusable, but they are a great collectible item.
You should know that cameras that take 35mm film and 120mm films are the most popular ones. The 120mm medium format cameras are very valuable and they are considered professional ones. This is the main reason why Kodak and some Japanese and German film producers continue making this type of film.
The most popular film formats that are still in production are:
Discontinued film formats:
The brand is a factor that always dictates the value no matter which collectible item we talk about. When we talk about classic vintage cameras brands like Leica, Nikon, Canon, Rolleiflex, and Hasselblad are among the most valuable. Leica and Rolleiflex hold a high collector’s value for over a century so these will bring you a nice amount of money no matter the condition and functionality.
Polaroid cameras are back in the game for the past few years since the company began to produce films again. Some estimation says that there are over 300 million Polaroid cameras only in the USA. This is not great news since there is a massive concentration of cameras there so their collectible value is pretty low.
Still, you should know that the three most valuable Polaroid models are the SX-70, SX-70 Sonar, and SLR 680. You can sell these models for a few hundred dollars if they are in working condition.
Construction of the camera and features
Camera construction is a crucial factor, the heavier and sturdier the camera is the higher the value. The features like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO will determine the final price of your camera. In terms of money, the best combination is a sturdy metal camera that has a wide range of shutter speeds.
Did you know that in most cases lenses are worth more than the whole camera? This means that the final price is mainly dictated by the quality of the lenses so keep an eye on that fact.
In fact, if the body of your camera is damaged but the lenses are still intact and high quality you can sell them separately. A great example is a Leica Leitz Thambar portrait lens that was sold for over $3,000.
Rarity and demand
The rarity and demand will make or break your collectible item. Rare and popular cameras such as black pain Leicas will reach high price tags easily. While models that were mass-produced and made from lower quality material will have low to almost no value.
Condition and functionality
The condition of any collectible item is a major factor if your camera is rare but it is not in the function the price tag will logically drop significantly. The better condition, the greater the value is. Besides if your camera has all the manuals, cases, straps, boxes, lens covers, and accessories that originally come with it the value of your camera will jump. Also, keep in mind that you should measure shutter speeds and aperture movements. If you don’t know how to do it yourself take your camera to a professional that will do this instead of you.
Most Valuable Antique Cameras
This isn’t shocking but the most valuable and sought-after cameras are those that are very rare and unique for some reason. Of course, brand name plays a prominent role here so cameras that were produced by well-known manufacturers during the early years of camera production are in demand.
In this section, we will talk about some of the most sought-after antique camera brands and their most valuable models.
Leica is one of the oldest and most popular brands of vintage cameras among collectors. Leica has been producing high-quality cameras for many years so naturally, their vintage cameras are very valuable in terms of price.
For instance one of the most valuable antique camera models is the Leica 0-series no.105 and it was sold for over $15 million! Only 31 pieces of this model were manufactured so this model is very rare and unique. Previously to this, Leica 0-series no. 122 was sold for $3 million.
Here are some of the most valuable and sought-after Leica models on the market:
- Leica I Model A Camera Elmax 50/3.5 Yr.1925 Extreme RARE up to Museum Standard currently selling for $23,700
- 75 LEICA M6 LIMITED MINT PLATINUM SUMMILUX 1.4/50mm LENS RARE SNAKE SKIN sold for $9,999
- LEICA MP 35mm SLR CAMERA Black w 085 Viewfinder w Original BOX sold for $4,252
- Leica M6 silber, OVP mit Box, mit Elmar 2,8 + Zubehör sold for $4,009
- LEICA M 7 35mm SLR RANGEFINDER CAMERA Black w 072 Viewfinder sold for $3,252
- Leica M 3 – 990 826 Camera with Summicron f=5cm 1:2 – 1020734 + Ta. 1R4365 sold for $2,867
- Leica Leicaflex Black Paint 35mm SLR With 50mm f/2 Summicron R 1966 sold for $2,495
Nikon is a brand that originated in Japan. The company was founded in 1917 by three former optical engineers so you can be sure that these cameras, no matter how old they are, are very high quality.
Nikon is still the leading manufacturer of modern camera equipment, DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, and even some vintage models. If you are looking to buy a vintage Nikon look for the D series, the Coolpix line, and the Nikkormat series. The most valuable Nikon model was Nikon 1 sold for over $400,000!
These are the most valuable Nikon models on the market nowadays:
- Nikon F3 NASA 250 sold for $95,000
- NIKON NIPPON KOGAKU MODEL H FIELD MICROSCOPE +10X EYEPIECE +LEATHER CASE sold for $2,250
- Nikon F Photomic T Black Nippon Kogaku Mint- Box currently selling for $1,900
- Nippon Kogaku Tokyo Nikon S Occupied Japan rangefinder camera rare model currently selling for $1,800
- Nikon S-2, #6181755, Nikkor S-C 1.4/5, #369474 – Second Version currently selling for $1,500
- NIKON 35TI Vintage currently selling for $1,057
- Nikon Rangefinder Camera Model No. S2 currently selling for $941
Everyone knows about Kodak company. That is only natural considering this company originated in 1888. It was founded by George Eastman, and it is still one of the leading camera brands worldwide.
What made Kodak cameras so popular and different is that they came pre-loaded with film in a lightproof container. This way photographers could easily shoot pictures without having to change their film or reload their cameras constantly. Kodak as well invented well-developed color film and digital cameras.
Here is the list of the most valuable Kodak cameras:
- KODAK 3A Special Antique Custom Converted 4×5 Bausch Lomb Lens currently selling for $3,500
- 1 Panoram Kodak (1900-1926) Antique Panoramic Camera Rare currently selling for $490
- The ORIGINAL FIRST version, 1934 Black Kodak Retina, model 117 currently selling for $425
- Vintage KODAK BROWN Pocket Six-20 – MODEL 0 – Very Rare currently selling for $350
- Vintage Kodak Retina IIa Camera With 47mm Ektar Lens Rangefinder Camera for 35mm Film With Case currently selling for $320
- Kodak Bantam Special Art Deco Rare Vintage Film Camera currently selling for $279
Pentax is a Japanese company founded in 1919 that mainly produced a wide variety of optical instruments. However, in the early 1950s, they started producing cameras as well. Their most notable model was an innovative 35mm SLR camera. Pentax also invented the first auto-exposure 35mm SLR camera in 1977.
Their most valuable models are:
- Pentax 67 II Professional 6×7 SLR film camera 4 lenses beautiful set currently selling for $4,499
- BLACK HEILAND PENTAX H2 CAMERA w/55mm F2 STORE DEMONSTRATOR RARE, BOXED currently selling for $1,599
- COLLECTORS RARE ASAHIFLEX PENTAX H2 w/RARE f/2.2 55MM AUTO-TAKUMAR MINTY currently selling for $795
- Asahi Pentax S SLR, 55mm f2.2 Takumar, the scarcest Pentax ever currently selling for $679
- RARE ASAHI PENTAX TOWER 26 CAMERA w/ VERY RARE f/2.4 58MM TAKUMAR LENS – MINTY currently selling for $529
- BLACK HEILAND HONEYWELL PENTAX H2 CAMERA wf/1.8 55MM AUTO – TAKUMAR LENS currently selling for $499
- Honeywell Heiland Pentax H1 SLR Camera Auto Takumar 1:2.2/55 Lens currently selling for $479
- RARE ASAHI PENTAX H2 CAMERA w/f/2 55mm AUTO TAKUMAR LENS – COLLECTORS ITEM currently selling for $359
- Pentax Asahi k1000 Camera SMC1:2 50mm;Extra Lens 1:3.5/28;Flash AF200S:Case:Film currently selling for $350
- RARE COLLECTORS ASAHI PENTAX SPOTMATIC SP CAMERA w/SMC f/1.8 55mm LENS – UNIQUE currently selling for $319
One of the oldest and most reliable camera brands in the world is Canon. The company was founded back in the early 1900s in Japan. Just like Nikon, Canon was a project of two former optical engineers from the Japanese Imperial Navy.
Canon quickly became known for its high-quality cameras and extra sharp lenses. Even today, over a century old Canon is still one of the top choices among many photography enthusiasts and professionals.
Their most valuable vintage models are:
- Canon Rangefinder RF SII with 5cm f3.5 Serenar Coll. #17730 Mint currently selling for $2,800
- Canon F1 Olympic edition Los Angeles 1984 SLR 35mm film camera rare currently selling for $1,599
- CANON F-1 SLR 35mm FILM CAMERA AE FINDER FN 1.4 S.S.C f=50mm CASE FILTER 1.4/50 currently selling for $999
- Canon EOS-1 V Body Mint currently selling for $899
- VINTAGE CANON 35 MM CAMERA RANGEFINDER NO.29894 SERENAR 50MM F:1.9 ESTATE LOT currently selling for $895
- CANON AE-1 CAMERA OUTFIT WITH CANON POWER WINDER A AND (5) VARIOUS TAMRON LENSES currently selling for $782
- NASA Owned Canon EOS-1 35mm SLR Camera BAG Lens 430EZ Speedlite Flash currently selling for $700
- Classic CANON WITH TRIGGER WIND BASE currently selling for $600
- CANON EOS 500 SLR 35MM FILM CAMERA + 100-300mm ULTRASONIC ZOOM LENS +Case Strap currently selling for $599
Rolleiflex is a German brand that was founded in 1928. The company’s first camera, the Rolleiflex 2.8D was a twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera that quickly became popular among professional photographers. It was first released in the early 1950s, and this was one of the most revered cameras in medium format photography.
The most sought-after cameras from the Rolleiflex brand are:
- Rollei Rolleiflex 2.8GX Expression w/ Rollei-HFT Planar 80mm F/2.8c sold for $4,399
- Rolleiflex 2.8F TLR Twin Lens Reflex Camera w/Planar 80mm f2.8-F #650 sold for $2,140
- ROLLEIFLEX 6003 INTEGRAL 80MM F 2.8 MEDIUM FORMAT FILM CAMERA, MANUAL sold for $1,899
- VINTAGE ROLLIFLEX FRANKE AND HEIDECKE 2.8 E3 TWIN LENS CAMERA ZEISS 80MM LENS sold for $1,823
- Rolleiflex 3.5 F Model 3 mit Planar 7.5cm f/3.5 sold for $1,807
- Rolleiflex 3.5F 12×24 TLR Camera Planar Lens with Cap sold for $1,795
- Rolleiflex 2.8E Heidosmat 1:2.8/80 Zeiss Planar f=80mm Franke Heidecke Camera sold for $1,429
- Rolleiflex 2.8D Xenotar TLR Camera with Bright Maxwell Focus Screen sold for $1,400
What Are The Safest Place To Buy Antique Cameras?
Since antique cameras are very sought-after as well as valuable collectible items it is only natural that you want to buy them from reliable sources. This means that if someone claims that the camera is fully functional you’ll expect to receive a fully functional item.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will try to scam you, so the best thing you can do is get informed of where you should look for vintage cameras. You should pick out the seller according to your budget as well as the type of camera you are looking for.
The first option should be a professional auction house that specializes in vintage cameras and similar collectibles. This is the best option if you are trying to find a rare, unique, and very expensive vintage camera.
The second option is to thoroughly research all the local antique stores and pawn shops. You would be surprised to know how many valuable and rare items you can find there for very affordable prices.
The last option is to look for your item on some of the many online selling platforms such as Etsy, eBay, 1stDIBS, LiveAuctioneers, Collectiblend, or Vintage Camera Hut. Buying at these platforms can be very convenient and effortless we get that, however, be sure to do your research before purchasing from online retailers. You can easily end up buying a fake camera or a camera that isn’t working at all.
When shopping for an antique camera, it is always a good idea to talk to other collectors and experts to get their opinion. This way you will get their valuable insights and advice which will help you figure out the real value of your camera.
How does restoration affect the value of an antique camera?
Some vintage cameras need to go through the restoration process. The trick is that this process can affect the value of the camera. Of course, in most cases, the restoration will increase the value of a camera.
But if it is not done properly it can damage the original parts which will decrease the value of a camera. If your camera needs some cosmetic touchups but you are not sure if you should do it and risk the damage it is best to consult with an expert who will give you the best advice.
Where can you have your vintage camera appraised?
If the camera is rare and very valuable you should take it to a professional auction house that specializes in vintage cameras. The point is that only experts can assess its value and give you an exact price estimation.
If your camera is not so rare and valuable but you saw on the internet that you can sell it for a good amount of money then you have one option – a local antique store or pawn shop. Most employees who work there have some basic knowledge about vintage cameras so they can help you out. and ask them to take a look at it. At least, they can give you an estimate of its value based on the market and similar items they have sold in the past.
Lastly, you can choose some of the online appraisal services that are available nowadays. All you need to do is submit photos and information about your camera and they will assess it quickly. Keep in mind this is the cost-effective option so you won’t get a detailed appraisal.
One thing is crucial and that is you have to have realistic expectations about the value of your camera. No matter how unique and rare your item is it is valuable only as much as someone is willing to pay for it. In most cases, the final prices will be lower than the ones you get on appraisal.
How to maintain my vintage camera in good condition?
It is very important to know how to keep your antique camera in good condition. There is no point in buying a valuable vintage camera if you aren’t willing to maintain it properly. You’ll need to clean it regularly and never expose it to extreme temperatures or humidity.
To create optimal conditions make sure you store it in a safe place to avoid any possible physical damage. In case you have a very old and delicate vintage camera some special measurements might be required. Consult with the expert about this subject!
Are Antique Cameras Hold Any Worth Now?
This mainly depends on which brand and type of cameras you choose to collect. As I mentioned in this article vintage Polaroid cameras are very popular nowadays, however, they won’t bring you much money since they were mass-produced back in the day.
If you are serious about making an impressive and valuable antique camera collection make sure you do thorough research before making any investments. Look for models that are rare and unique and invest even in those that are in such a state that they need restoration. Don’t be afraid to risk a little bit, you’ll gain much more in return.
If you have any valuable information you’d like to share with us, please do so in the comment section below.