View Full Version : How to figure out how much to pay for a trunk full of old cameras & stuff?

Raymond Bleesz
2-May-2016, 18:55
The other day I had asked a question re: the value an old Victor camera, its value, and forum moderators deleted it which is ok by me as I am still learning the ethics of the forum. But let me poses this question in perhaps a more diplomatic way.

I have come across a trunk at an country estate sale, and I mean "real country" high up here in the mountains of Colorado where there is nothing but cattle & barb wire, which has in it, the truck "antique" turn of the century photo cameras " & stuff which only a real hard core collector would salivate for (perhaps) (maybe)---the gear is definitely odd, certainly one for the history books & in sad shape. A collector from the city would be pressed to attend this country estate auction.

I do not believe there will be hordes of collectors seeking out this auction as it is very remote, and the ranching family could certainly use the money garnered from an auction as all the stuff (and I mean stuff of all sorts) is just sitting collecting more dust & occupying space.

I do not expect to find a Bonanza photographic find,--- more stuff to add to my already stuffed household as my wife would say, but, this trunk could be the start of "my photo collection" and as my wife would say, I do not need it. With that in mind, and to be fair & upfront with the ranching family, if you were in my position, what would be a fair offering. Have you been in a likewise position? What has been your experience? Was its worth it? Esoteric questions!


Peter De Smidt
2-May-2016, 18:57
Raymond, we don't know what is in the trunk. Some old camera stuff could be collectible, or usable, but it could also be a pile of junk. Without specifics, there's no way to tell.

2-May-2016, 19:04
In situations like this, when you don't know what you're buying, don't spend more than you can afford to lose.

2-May-2016, 19:06
I agree with Peter. Just because it's old doesn't mean it's valuable or even interesting. I recently inspected a collection that a person had accumulated over many years and now was looking to sell. It turned out to be all consumer cameras - box cameras, Argus C3s, Instamatics. Hundreds of them. These cameras are so common that they really have no value in the larger market. This person valued their collection highly, but it was of no value to me.

If you are looking for decorative cameras to put on the shelf, pay whatever you want. If you are looking to collect cameras that have value and significance to the large photographic community, you need to find out exactly what is for sale and do some research.

Kevin Crisp
2-May-2016, 19:50
Funny, the first thing that crossed my mind was an Argus C3.

3-May-2016, 05:42
It sounds like they are wooden cameras? Or leather covered wood? If any look complete and usable, they might be worth having to use. If you don't like the looks of them and therefore think you wouldn't want to use them, probably no one else would either. Then you have to know if any are rare collectibles, like a daguerreotype camera or a good Rochester. When I buy a lot, I will only do so if the price of each item is about half of what they commonly sell for on eBay. Sellers like to price at exactly what the highest asking price is on ebay. There is a considerable difference.

Also, when buying a lot, you are saving the sellers a lot of trouble. They are having a one-day estate sale, with few people there. Their chance of selling for ANY price is slim, compared to putting each item on ebay with thousands of viewers and buyers competing. You are saving them from having to take good pictures, learn about each item and describe, answer questions, and pay ebay and paypal fees. You are coming up with a "lot" of money, and buying all the items in one fell swoop. That is extremely good for a seller and saves them months of work and uncertainty. Some sellers will tediously research every item, talley up the Buy it Now asking price on Ebay, and say "We want $2758 for the lot!" Yeah, go sell it on ebay yourself, let me know a year from now if you got that much. I won't even buy any or all of it from people like this, unless there is a really good item I'm really hot for. Then I'd just try to buy that, and leave all their junk for them to sell. Sure, I do the same thing, talley up the lot value in my head. Because I know the value of items I buy, I can do that. I don't need to call up ebay and start dreaming of what I might make in a perfect sale. I look at the same pile and think, "there is about $700 worth of stuff there if every item sold, and sold for the typical price. I might be wrong on a few, and the market may drop on others, and it may actually only be worth 75% of that....I'll offer $350, that way if I resell it I'll at least break even, and maybe make a couple hundred profit for my trouble (driving there....having the cash, etc).

Another tactic I use is to offer a price that is what just the one most valuable item is worth. Say it's a pile of junk, broken cheap shutters, cracked wood folding cameras, torn bellows, hazed tiny lenses, and one Dallmeyer 3D. I know a 3D is a decent lens, and they probably will have googled it too. Now they'll think it's value is the same as those multi thousand dollar 3B models, but you'll have to explain it's not, if they bring it up. A 3D to me is worth about $300, maybe $500 on a very good day. I'd want to buy the whole lot for that range. That will probably be 100 dollars more than they thought their whole pile was worth, and will happily take it. I get a lens for the retail price, but have some other "free" items that I can just display or give away one day.

I went to an estate sale last weekend that had some Leicas advertised, but it didn't say which models or lenses. I got up at 5AM, was standing there in line at 6AM, and finally got to go look at 7AM when they let people in. The "estate sale" ended up being just in the garage, just some high end art and Navajo rugs for $4,000 to $7,000, etc. The camera table was loaded full of Nikons and a Leica M6, the guy was a photographer. The problem was they had done the usual, assumed they know the market better than a buyer that walks up. The "camera expert" started briefing me on how the Leica 90mm Elmarit was the type used in Hollywood, and worth more than their $1200 asking price. It's a $300 lens. The M6 they had priced at absolute top dollar for what one sells for on ebay, guaranteed to work with a recent CLA. Every item the guy would pop up ebay and say "well, here is one for $1800, we want $1800 for this..." I held up the M6 and said "what is the best you can do for this?" after he saw I was not getting convinced. He turned to ANOTHER guy, buying a bunch of Nikons, and asked HIM "what did you say this was worth to you?" I thought, ok, now a live competition. The guy said "on B&H in mint condition, about $1500" (he wasn't buying, just their instant appraiser, instead of listening to me). They answered "1500". I said this isn't in mint condition, do you even know if it works? The meter? etc? They knew nothing...I walked off and didn't buy a thing.

If you just want to be a philanthropist and help a random family, you can pay whatever you want. But going in and buying without knowing what is valuable, or even what you personally like, is a way to spend money for no reason. Other than helping a seller make more money than they should have.

Drew Bedo
3-May-2016, 07:00
Get it cheap.

Post pics here for help with ID.

3-May-2016, 07:15
A. Figure out how much you think you should pay for the trunk.
B. Ask them how much they think is a fair price for the trunk.

If A is greater than B, pay them B plus another $10.
If B is greater than A, offer them A plus 1/2 of B minus A.

3-May-2016, 09:46
Buy what you want.
Leave the rest.

3-May-2016, 10:11
Good plan usually. But some sellers have an all or nothing policy. Auctions and estate sales I got to also sell by lots, on a pallet or in a box. You bid on the entire lot, and get it all, empty boxes of flashbulbs and all.

3-May-2016, 10:32
300 bucks

3-May-2016, 13:39
Funny, the first thing that crossed my mind was an Argus C3.

They are like cockroaches.

Alan Gales
3-May-2016, 16:09
Get it cheap.

Post pics here for help with ID.


You can check Ebay finished sales for what an item is worth.

Don't feel bad about getting it cheap. The owners would have to take time out to list the items on Ebay and package and ship it all. There are Ebay fees, PayPal fees, packaging costs. All this eats away at profit.

3-May-2016, 19:12
I would give about two dollars a pound if no wooden cameras, and three dollars a pound if there are wooden ones.

Kent in SD