Five years ago, my wife and I attended a camera show and purchased our first vintage camera that started our collection. Since then, we have been camera hunting at various locations such as the camera conventions held by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada
, antique shops on our road trips throughout Canada and the US, and online sellers such as eBay, Kijiji, and for the rare camera treasures we go to JapanCameraHunter.com
Every vintage camera we purchase has a story. When we visit antique barns or shops, I find pleasure in sorting through dusty cameras in search of a vintage treasure. Each piece is tested and we rarely buy a camera that isn’t in working condition. I take great pride in having a collection that holds photographic history and when I’m lucky – there is exposed film still in the camera. I develop these never before seen images that someone once captured. During our road trip stops at these antique shops, our children gain knowledge about the past and experience the joy of antique camera hunting all at once.
As a camera collector, I’m always reading about vintage cameras and the exclusive models that are hard to find. With a little bit of research before every hunt, I prepare myself for what I may come across. I am no expert in one particular camera. That is when the PHSC camera shows are my best bet for knowledge and expertise on a quality camera. They have a few film camera shows, and two camera auctions that we look forward to every year. The PHSC members sell at booths, where you can see their camera preferences based on the common cameras set up on the table. This allows us to navigate through the many items for sale. However, the members are aware of the market price, so you must be willing to pay top dollar. With knowledgeable sellers, this would be my recommendation as a great first step into antique camera collecting. This is not always the case with antique shops or online sellers. On eBay or Kijiji, you may get a good deal but not a lot of information. You may have to do the research yourself before hand and trust that the seller is being genuine and honest about the item. When we’re searching for a specific camera, we contact Japan Camera Hunter. He is an online seller, but he sells luxury camera items at a reasonable price and can provide you with full details about your purchase. At a higher price point, you want to make sure that you are spending the money on a camera that is in pristine working condition. Japan Camera Hunter is the person to go to for that assurance.
Our top 5 vintage camera finds:
On a trip through Niagara-on-the-lake, I came across a Verascope 3D stereo camera from an antique dealer. I was fortunate to purchase the 1914 Verascope from World War I which was previously owned by the French Army. The original glass slides were also included. Our Verascope has been featured in the press from Petapixel
and Canadian Geographic
. It has gained much attention from photography lovers to history enthusiasts from around the world.
We own several Rolleiflex cameras but Grace’s Rolleiflex is a personal favourite. Grace purchased her beloved camera from a retired photographer, who was selling his cameras upon closing his Toronto studio. The gentleman shared his story about his father’s camera and how he wanted it to go to a good home. The camera has been by her side ever since and it is shot with daily.
Three years ago, we saw a beautiful wooden large format camera for sale by an online seller. However, they would only sell this antique camera locally in Pennsylvania. Upon contacting the seller, we agreed to pick it up ourselves. That same day, we rented a van and drove from Toronto to Pennsylvania and met with the antique seller. The large format camera was from 1899, with an original brass Holmes, Booth & Hayden lens. We traveled the distance to own a piece of civil war history. Not only is it the largest camera displayed at A Nerd’s World, but it is the oldest camera in our vintage camera collection.
Our limited edition Polaroid 600 collection was all purchased through eBay. Every once in awhile, a hard to find Polaroid camera would go up for auction and we’d gain a new colourful piece for our camera wall. Our limited edition Polaroid collection includes the Lego, Barbie, Smirnoff, Hello Kitty, State Farm, McDonald’s, Norton, and the vibrant Cool Cams.
Sometimes we don’t need to go far for a rare camera. There was a time when we met with another antique camera collector in Toronto who had two of the same rare historic cameras. He decided to sell us one, since he admired the fact that we were collectors as well. It was that day that we were the new owners of the 35 mm Rokuoh-Sha type 89 Japanese aerial machine gun camera from WWII. The Rokuoh-Sha was made by Konishoruko Manufacturer Company, later known as Konica. The camera was used for training purposes, to test a gunners accuracy by shooting the film on the plane and processed to view their photographed targets. This is a camera that is frequently asked about during visits at the store, for its unique form and history.
When we opened A Nerd’s World, we started out with 20 vintage cameras displayed on the wall. Four years later, we have two locations, two featured walls, and over 400 vintage cameras
in our collection. Our Toronto camera collection has been in the Metro newspaper
, Inner Space show
, Storage Wars Canada
, Canadian Geographic
, and the Toronto Star
to name a few. Yes, our camera collection is growing but we don’t have plans of stopping anytime soon. We enjoy going on the road with our family in search for a camera we’ve never seen and saving another film camera to add to our collection. We are honoured when film enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to visit our store at 986 Bathurst street.
Chris A. Hughes