Collector's Corner: Collectible Cameras & Harry Potter
By Douglas St. Denny
The online auction scene for collectible cameras has seen a slow but sure decline in prices for most common cameras over the past year. What I consider "ordinary" collectible cameras have increased in availability and declined in final selling price across the board. While many prices have dropped 20-30%, a few cameras are now receiving winning bids of half of what they received 24 month ago. Unusual and rare items and cameras in exceptional condition are still holding strong, and will, I expect, for at least the middle term.
But something has happened that stands out as a unique example of how a minor segment of the market can change in the blink of an eye.
In two recent auctions for an Argus C3 Matchmatic 35mm camera, one auction ended with a winning bid of $10, the other ended at over $90. The cameras were exactly the same model, and appeared to be in about the same condition. Any knowledgeable camera collector would tell you that the C3 Matchmatic is not rare, not by a long shot. Nor is it even remotely considered valuable, despite its smart two-tone finish. Its monochrome brother, the Argus C3 is still more common. Both cameras share the same clunky operating controls and rectangular body style. As a matter of fact, they are both so rectangular in appearance that any C3 is known simply as the "Brick" in camera collecting circles.
Why, you might ask, could two auctions for essentially the same camera have such different results? It all boils down to marketing. One seller paid attention on a recent trip to the movies, and used common sense in writing his auction description.
Two words, "Harry Potter," were all it took to sell an otherwise mundane collectible camera for a more-than-ordinary price. You see, the Argus C3 Matchmatic has a very visible a role in the second Harry Potter movie. Harry's friend Colin Creevy uses it in several scenes. Because of its easily recognized colors scheme and shape, you can't miss it when it's on the big screen. It has become an instant movie collectible, thereby crossing over the invisible but distinct barrier separating camera collectors and movie memorabilia fans.
One might say that "The race is on" so to speak. Some sellers are even trying to get in on the game by offering the all black C3 as a Harry Potter camera look-a-like.
How far will the craze go and how long will it last? I don't know, but you can bet I'll be watching all the way.
Argus Matchmatic camera in Colin's
Harry Potter camera on offer on eBay:
Harry Potter camera sold for $91:
Argus Matchmatic without "Harry Potter" mentioned:
Argus C3 "Brick" being touted as a "Harry Potter" camera:
About the author:
Douglas St. Denny is an American now living in Bordeaux, France, with his French wife and three bilingual daughters. He has been involved in camera collecting since 1977, and is past president of the American Photographic Historical Society, based in New York City. He edited three consecutive editions of the "Blue Book Price Guide to Collectable Cameras" and is the author of "Cameras of the People's Republic of China" and co-author with Michael Pritchard of Christies Auctions, London of "Spy Cameras" You can take a look at some exerpts from "Spy Cameras" and read an older interview with him at: http://www.indexstock.com/pages/stdenny.htm Douglas conceived of Camprice.com, the Online Camera Price Guide in 1999 while living in Hong Kong. The Camprice database holds more than 23,500 cameras, all available to subscribers for an annual subscription of $29.95. "AuctionBytes" subscribers qualify for 18 months subscription instead of 12 simply by mentioning that they receive the "AuctionBytes" newsletter when they sign-up. http://www.camprice.com You can reach him with your camera related questions at: auctionbytes @ camprice.com or on ICQ at: 31063255 on Yahoo Instant Messenger at: hasselblad.rm and on AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name : dougstdenny His eBay nickname is www.camprice.com.
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