View Full Version : Antique lenses and condition (or any antiques)

1-Nov-2014, 18:32
The early Voigtlander petzval thread was deleted by Ralph Barker, but I wanted to complete my thought on antiques that have been altered. Do collectors want mint, unaltered condition antiques? Yes. Do they pass on rare items, because there was an alteration? No, at least I don't. It would be nice if everything a collector buys was in perfect condition, just like the day it was made. But for early 1840s lenses, that's pretty hard to attain. Most lenses were used by generations of photographers, and as each new technology came about, they were sometimes altered to match the needs of the new medium.

Many lenses were cut for waterhouse slots in the transition from daguerreotypes to wetplate collodion. I don't prefer cut lenses, but if there is a early American daguerreotype lens sitting in a shop I'm not going to pass it by if the price is right. And the prices should reflect alterations. I agree with that. So a cut lens is worth less than an uncut one. And and uncut one is quite rare, because photographers in the 1860s would commonly cut them for wetplates, rather than buying another lens with the slot. Remember, a large Petzval in the 1840s through the 1860s was a professional piece of business equipment, costing close to a year's salary. They weren't just cheap items to discard. I kind of like some of my early lenses that are cut - I know they were good enough for photographers, a hundred years before "collectors" were born.

Tin Can
1-Nov-2014, 19:09
I might add to your excellent post, that not all collectors demand the finest. I also see museums with museum quality?, that is often an object I would never buy, as it is in really poor condition and unusable. It's a pile of dust.

I collect and use. I always have demanded my collector pieces be usable by me, maybe others cannot use it, but I can and will.

Today I got an old large lens and it is darn good and exquisitely usable, but no it is is not perfect.

If it was perfect, I couldn't use it as I would too worried about it to use it. I sell perfect objects to others to fondle. I prefer user grade. Good user grade...:)

1-Nov-2014, 19:27
user grade (aka keh bargain grade) is what I'm most comfortable with. As long as the iris works right if it has one and it's not super cloudy glass, I'll enjoy using it.

1-Nov-2014, 19:33
... Remember, a 'large' Petzval in the 1840s through the 1860s was...


Garrett... Agreed in full 110% with many of your points... :)
However, the lens that was cited in the original thread... Is definitely not a 'Large' Petzval.
I agree with what Dan originally said...

I could be wrong, but I *think* that 'Cows will jump over the Moon' in the next 29 Days... Before the 'lens in question' -- Sells for the BIN price!
Best regards,


1-Nov-2014, 23:35
Your post , in my opinion, is quite defensive because I don't agree with you. You even appear to ridicule "collectors" as if you are more enlightened.

Antique furniture with a leg replaced or is refinished, a classic car without matching numbers, a painting that has been touched up by future generations- for example - are all priced lower than something untouched. That is the markets response to these items- the market (collectors or not) says they are worth less and have less demand. Even your post admits that a price reduction is in order.

And as a "collector" I don't want a "mint" or "perfect" piece as you would have others believe but I would like original as possible. Hardly any of my collection is close to perfect or mint. I have a different view than you, different data points and it should be ok we don't agree.


alex from holland
1-Nov-2014, 23:43
Yep, something fully original, no mather what, is just worth more money than something which is repaired in any way.
As Dan says, no matter if it's something antique,a car,a lens, etc....

2-Nov-2014, 05:38
My comments are my thoughts only. I wanted to reiterate I am a collector myself, and a user of antiques of all sorts. In many of my other antique collecting hobbies, people are starting to gravitate towards collecting only mint, unused items. That's fine, they are the rareist of the rare. My point is that there can be all levels of collectors, and it's OK if some look for the bargain grade items, if they cannot afford the mint items. An antique is an antique. In guns, I'm happy to have a WWI Colt in 95% condition I got for $300 years ago, because a 99% condition one is $5,000 and I won't buy that high. I'm happy to own a rare 1860s Dallmeyer telescope that is missing one eyepiece, because I've never seen another. Etc. Yes, the lens in question is overpriced, I never commented on it's price. (And I believe the price has been increased hugely since we've been discussing it). But it's still a worthy collector item, if someone could get it cheap enough.

People do have to pay attention to condition and originality as they determine price, no argument there. But items this rare don't show up but once a year or so, so I understand why some people buy damaged first generation daguerreotype petzvals, Pinkham and Smiths, and so on.

2-Nov-2014, 11:04

My issue is that:

You keep subtly changing the conversation to defend your posts in my opinion...for example, it started with altered antiques (lenses) and now you are moving it to a more general discussion of condition... related, but not the same exact topic. Of course there are collectors and users of all levels that buy what they like and can afford. Some arent bothered by alterations and/or poor condition. My issue is that I felt you made a broad sweeping statement that people wouldnt hesitate to buy that Voigtlander lens with its altered WH stop because its old/rare. I disagree. I personally would hesitate as would many fellow collectors that I know. If you want a Daguerreian lens for collecting purposes, I, and others I know, would hesitate or flat refuse to buy it because its not in its original state. I just felt you were representing an entire group of collectors and I have evidence to the contrary and you certainly dont speak or represent me or fellow collectors that I know well.

I, for one, who collects pre-civil war camera equipment and images, like to collect items in original condition - that doesnt mean "mint" or "perfect" as you would have everyone believe.. In fact, I dont appreciate unused or mint equipment..I like the history and would much rather have a Dag camera or lens that was USED, but also in its ORIGINAL state.

Your posts also seem to dance between your personal beliefs - which of course you are well entitled to - versus representing or speaking for an entire market. For example, you write:"Do collectors want mint, unaltered condition antiques? Yes. Do they pass on rare items, because there was an alteration? No, at least I don't.

I disagree on both counts. In many cases I wont pay a premium of an untouched example of a camera or lens, but be perfectly happy with a "used" but original item. I appreciate the fact you dont pass on them (altered/lower condiion items), but please dont state what the entire market wants or doesnt want. The actual marketplace states that items that are altered are worth less in almost every single hobby/antique category. Items that are in poorer condition are also worth less of course. Their lower values are a reflection of buyers demand - a fact you cant dispute. In fact, many view altered antiques/collectibles as being far worse than items in poor but original condition. I am one of them !

By throwing in "...at least I dont" it feels like you are trying to cover yourself as if its a personal statement, but before that you write, "do collectors want....Yes" *and "do they pass on rare items...No"

Again, IMHO, a dance among your personal view and projecting your thoughts on an entire market.

This is not meant as a personal attack, but I do bristle when people make sweeping statements representing entire markets.


2-Nov-2014, 11:10
I'm not sure this needs a lot of discussion. Everyone can collect any way they want. Maybe I was sounding like I was speaking for all collectors, but that's the opposite of what I was trying to say - that there is a class of people who for their personal reasons still "collect" but buy items that are in less perfect condition. I'm not going to try to categorize all collectors either way, either too discriminating, nor too uncaring about originality. Anyway, let's drop it, I don't have that much of a care what anyone else does.

2-Nov-2014, 11:32
I never wanted to be a collector, but through the years I've stumbled upon a few pieces of equipment in very good condition and because I do not really need them, they occupy space in the safe, unused. I cannot be a real collector because I do not know the history of equipment to understand what is important beyond condition, and condition is not everything is it?

Those here who use so-called ratty old equipment are dearest to my heart because they show us what can be done well in the hands of an experienced photographer.

Speaking of modified lenses, for example, do they not reveal the history of the field and have value in that respect? I often wonder about two unbelievably clean, probably unused lenses I have. One was wrapped in an old cotton cloth in an antique dresser my mate found. How in the world did they come to no use? Were there two photographers 140 years ago as foolish as I am?

Mark Sawyer
2-Nov-2014, 13:13
Everyone will have their standards, so we won't resolve much here. But it's interesting and clarifying to discuss it...

I can't help but be reminded of Jim Galli's current thread Pictures from a battered Pinkham. Not much collector value in the condition it's in, but excellent as a "user" lens. And something fairly low in collector value (which can pretty much be defined in dollar value) can still have important historical value. To a lot of us, that's more important than dollar signs. "Yes, it's old and scruffy-looking, but listen to its history, and look at these images I just made with it!" How much value is there in that?

One of the best things about this forum is that it connects a small community of people who not only collect the old lenses, but appreciate their past and still use them make wonderful images.

Steven Tribe
6-Nov-2014, 03:32
I am certainly not going to enter the "as original"" versus "but still very early, originally" debate. Everyone is correct.

The real problem I have is with the phrase "Museum Quality" - meaning as near new old stock (NOS) as possible.

A museum full of pristine examples is, to me, a rather anti-septic, "dead" thing.

A lens is its original condition is interesting, but a lens which has been modified, for example, with a WH Slot, does tell more about the history of early photographic development.
And a Studio Camera which shows signs of modifications to the back and format changes does say a lot about the evolution of negative material, changing clientel at Studios and the general economic climate.

Jim's P&S tells the story of how pictorial lenses fell out of fashion, lost their original cases and were relegated to dusty attics and damp cellars