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National Press Coverage!!


My camera collection was featured in the August 2003 issue of Country Living magazine.  Unfortunately, the original article is no longer available online, but I have reproduced the original complete text below.

As the daughter of two devoted antiques collectors, Marti Jones was already familiar with the joys of scouring flea markets and antiques shops long before the camera-collecting bug bit during her senior year of college. "I was taking a photography class and one day the professor brought in a 19th-century daguerreotype to display," she recalls. "I remember looking at that image and picturing how nice the wooden-case camera that took it would look on a harvest table alongside an old photo album."

Jones's regular antiquing trips soon involved scooping up every camera she spotted, but over the years she narrowed her search. "Forgive the pun, but I began to focus on a few areas that I loved," she says. Today her collection--some 600 cameras in all--fills an entire room in her New Hampshire home and includes styles with colorful bodies, toy and novelty designs, and commemoratives such as World's Fair and Boy and Girl Scouts cameras, all dating from the 1920s through the 1960s. "There is so much variety in this field that even though I've been collecting for more than 20 years, I still see designs that are new to me from time to time," she says.

Variety is one of the main reasons that collectors are drawn to antique and vintage cameras. Ever since the first camera was patented in 1839 by French physicist Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre and his partner Alphonse Giroux, manufacturers have competed with one another to introduce designs that are easier to use, lighter in weight, and less expensive than earlier models. Nearly two centuries of innovation have created a deep well into which today's camera collectors may dip. Because the choices are so varied, most enthusiasts tend to specialize in a particular area, as Marti Jones did. Some choose a single time period-pre-1900, for example, or the Art Deco era. Others are intrigued by the scientific aspect of photography, looking only for cameras that were milestones in their day, such as the first model to use roll film, or the first to incorporate a flash. Still other collectors find a favorite maker--Kodak or Leica, for example--and confine their search to that brand.

In today's antiques marketplace, cameras are a frequent sight. While the most desirable models can easily reach into the thousands, the majority of styles found on flea-market tables and in antiques-mall booths date from the early to mid-20th century and range in price from about $20 to $50 on the low end to several hundred dollars apiece. A number of factors affect a camera's value. Rarity is perhaps the most important consideration; colors or styles made only for a limited time are prized even when the condition is less than perfect, if the camera is no longer functioning, or if the proper film is no longer being made. (Common designs that don't work but still have a great look can often be purchased for far less than a usable example.) An original box and complete accessories will also raise a camera's value. For instance, Marti Jones's rose-colored Kodak Ensemble (pictured in the top right corner of the previous page) has the original box and all the accessories intact, putting its market value at about $ 1,300 to $2,000. If one or more of the accessories were missing, its value would drop to about $800 to $1,200. To get a sense of current prices, historical data, and details that affect the value of specific models, collectors in the know consult McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras (Watson-Guptill Pub.; 11th edition, 2001; $125), edited by James and Joan McKeown.

More than two decades after her quest began, Marti Jones's collection is still growing. Weekends often find her perusing local flea markets and antiques shops with her 13-year-old daughter, Bethany. "I usually set a goal for myself at the beginning of the year of one or two styles I'd like to find," Jones says. After all these years, she adds, her collecting philosophy has not changed: "First the bills get paid, then I buy cameras.

RELATED ARTICLE; on-line sources

EBAY.COM The auction site is one of Marti Jones's favorite sources for vintage cameras. For safety, always check a seller's feedback, read item descriptions carefully, and research before you bid. (Of the 1930s Kodak Beau Brownies pictured below, for example, the rose model is worth three times more than the blue ones because the color was only made for three months.)

MARTIJONES.COM See more of Marti Jones's prize possessions--including toy and novelty designs and camera-themed accessories--and learn how to contact the collector through her Web site.

anatomy lesson

Condition and rarity affect a cameras value. In the case of the 1930s Univex Model AF shown here, if the FACEPLATE is scratch-free, the LENS clear, and the movement of the STAND and LAZY TONGS smooth, the value would be $30 to $50. If the faceplate bore one of several specially ordered promotional inscriptions, such as the 1936 GE Toppers Club Convention, value could rise to $250 to $350.

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