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Film Cameras
CREDIT: Fern Nuttall

Analogue Cameras Perform Well at Auction

Record setting prices for analogue cameras at several recent auctions

For a technology that has seen production significantly decrease or cease altogether, analogue cameras still hold a charm and importance for many all over the world, and that interest is reflected in the performance of several analogue cameras at auction this month, most notably a polaroid camera owned by Andy Warhol and a 1940s Nikon prototype.

The first sale came at the start of the month, on the 6th, hosted by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. The auction brought together a wealth of iconic photographs from highly-regarded photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Elliott Erwitt, but the showpiece turned out to be a Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera believed to have once belonged to pop-artist Andy Warhol. The lot comprised of the camera itself and a signed letter of authenticity from John Wilcock, a close friend of Warhol and co-founder of Interview magazine, who was bequeathed the camera. Heritage Auctions’ Director of Photography, Nigel Russel, explained that the camera is “an iconic piece of photographic and art history”.

In an auction of 253 lots, the camera was one of the top ten most expensive sales, eventually taking eleven bids to reach the hammer price of $13,750. Though the result isn’t particularly large by photography auction standards, it is believed to be one of the highest bids ever received for a Polaroid camera, almost certainly due to its connection to the famed artist.

Just a few days later a much higher hammer price was received for a 1940’s Nikon camera at the Second Annual Wetzlar Camera Auctions, which took place in Wetzlar, Germany. Taking place on 10th October, the auction specialised in historic cameras with 254 lots available. The prototype Nikon L Rangefinder with a Leica screw mount was the stand-out sale of the auction, setting a record for reaching a hammer price of $468,850 after an original estimate of $295,000 to $354,000, and out-performing other lots by nearly $360k. The camera was made in 1947 in Tokyo, as evidenced by its early ‘Nippon Kogaku’ engraving, which was later replaced by a logo on subsequent productions. According to the auction literature the L11004 number “suggests it is number four of the L1100 series, which dates back to the very early prototyping for a Nikon 35mm camera when the company was yet to decide to go with a Leica screw mount or the Contax bayonet mount.” The hammer price was eventually reached after an intense bidding war, selling for nearly $115,000 more than its top estimate. The camera is believed to be the earliest documented prototype with the unique Leica screw mount, contributing significantly to the sale’s price. 


View Andy Warhol’s Polaroid SX-70 auction listing on Heritage Auctions’ website here, and read more about the Nikon L Rangefinder and auction at the WCA’s website here. For more news and information about Analogue cameras and photography, visit the Analogue Group webpage here.