Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pentax Spotmatic, the race to offer it for free began yesterday

Quite often, I get an extra film camera or two thrown in on an auction or flea-market sale. The seller tries to sweeten the pot and it always works with me. Something for nothing. I think nothing of it at the time. I do now.

The Spotmatic offered ground-breaking technology in 1964
That's how I came to have a very nice Pentax Spotmatic with an equally nice Super Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens. It came with a camera that I was really after. The seller reached down and offered the Spotmatic as a deal-maker. It worked. The Asahi offered was without a case, caps or battery. In fact, the battery door is dinged so badly that the electrical contacts for the meter are severed. No matter, this old guy will work without a battery. I had to have it only because it was "free" to me.

The Spotmatic is one of the legendary "first" type cameras for some very familiar technology. The lens is stellar and always proved to be sharper than the film that was available, then or now.

But I turns out I don't need to own two Spotmatics. I have another, purchased on its own, that is in slightly better shape and has the same exact lens. Clones so to speak, of each other. So I decided to sell one on a major online free bulletin board. Has a guy's first name listed in the domain name. No big deal, done this many times before.

As I didn't really pay a lot for it (OK, free), I thought asking for $20 would be a fine low price to generate a quick sale. In that way, I would pass forward a great vintage camera, cover my time marketing it, and get some cash for a nice lunch somewhere.

Nope.

Even at a sawbuck, the only folks that were interested wanted to score on a pristine model and at an even lower price. Some wanted me to cut the price by half and drive the goods over to their house. A couple folks really only wanted the lens and thought it should go for less than the price of the complete set. I got emails asking about tiny aspects of condition and operation.  I was waiting for someone to have me place the lens in a petri dish to test and see if any mold grew.

Hey, it's only 20-bucks! It costs less than some stupid Blu-Ray vampire DVD at Wal-Mart. Is that a lot of money nowadays? I guess for excellent vintage camera equipment, it's becoming that way.

I shouldn't, I can't get mad, though. I've caught myself getting all giddy scoring on someone else's old camera for a few dollars. I've been the predator, too.

So, I've learned two things I'll apply to my collecting: first, don't accept any camera you don't want to live with forever, even if its free; second, when you and your fellow collectors are helping to actively drive down the price of scarce vintage pieces, it's time to carefully re-evaluate your base reasons to participate in collecting and the motives of your fellow collectors. The word "hoarding" is beginning to rear its ugly head with some of us. That scares me to the bone.

I won't sell this camera for less than what I've got it listed at. If no takers, it goes to Goodwill with my blessing. Farewell little Asahi. Go, be free, be free!

3 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for this piece of wisdom.

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  2. If this Asahi need to find a good new home for free, mine is always open for her :)

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  3. Your words of warning to be prepared for keeping a camera forever resonate with me. I bought a Konica Autoreflex TC a few years ago and ran a few rolls of film through it for fun. When the novelty wore of I shelved it. After it collected dust for a couple years I decided it was time to give it a new home. My sister offered to take it in, and after a year of uselessness in her home she gave it back to me. I put it on ebay and it barely sold. The money I made wasn't worth the trouble of shipping it, but at least it's out of the house. Lesson learned.

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