Sunday, February 25, 2007

You Can't Take It With You

Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

A long-time camera enthusiast passed away in late October, and the fellow, in his 80s, had been a founding member of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society. He owned this house for a long time, and used it mostly as a place to store his hoard of accumulated cameras. According to his nephew, who has the task of emptying the house for sale, it was wall to wall with stuff with little aisles to walk through the 1500 square ft home with a finished basement. The old man had spent many years accumulating this stuff, and it had taken over his life to the point of being a sickness. The irony of it all, is that he had a card on the wall, stating he was taking it all with him when he died.

So what happened is that the nephew has to sell the house of course, and the Michigan Photographic Society is doing the work of sorting, identifying, pricing, and arranging to get this massive amount of photograhic material into the hands of others to make some money for the estate. The society gets a 20 percent cut, which is pretty fair.

I spent 7 hours there yesterday, sorting, identifying and pricing cameras. I handled hundreds and hundreds of cameras. We found many gems among the stones, and even the pebbles were interesting.
We found some pricey items like a Canon rangefinder - a beauty of a camera similar to a Leica, Leicas, Contaxes, more Nikon Fs than anyone should have, a pallet of Polaroids, obscure little French cameras, Graphlexes, mounds of crappy caameras, Dianas and a phalanx of clones, SLRS by the boxful, box cameras by the boatload, armies of Arguses... do you get the picture? I have never in my life seen such a house filled with stuff like this.

The sad part of it all is that this guy would shlep stuff to sell at the camera show and never sell anything because he always, always had it marked too high. Rarely did I buy anything from his table, as he evidently thought the book value was the going rate. Sure it is, for highly desirable items. But he never had those out. In the end, we'll be able to buy it for pennies on the dollar in some cases.

This also points out a few things. When we collect, we should be discerning in what we collect. To merely accumulate a houseful of EVERYTHING photographic isn't collecting, it's accumulating and hoarding. Nobody benefits. The guy picked his stuff up at garage sales, estate sales, and wherever he could get a bargain. He rarely passed the stuff on to anyone as far as I know. If you wanted a Diana, by God, you were going to pay $50, because that is what they sold for on ebay -- never mind that he had somewhere around 50 of them, and they were in a box...somewhere.

So, yes, collect and enjoy your treasures. But if they are sitting in boxes and bags all over your basement and around your house, it ain't a collection. It's a tragedy.

The sale announcement is here.


Erich Zechar said...

well said, Mark.

ronin1516 said...

Mark - where will his collection of Nikon F series cameras be sold and when?
BTW,I'll stop by and visit with you one of these days.

*becky said...

Wow, interesting story indeed. I wondered about it since seeing it at your Flickr and the thousands of cameras and such. Tragic really. A legacy left behind. As if any of us would need another camera...well, we do because that is who we are...most. I only dream of finding loot like this and I imagine the time spent sorting was a chore, but enjoyable. Again, good luck with the sale and wish I could attend.

Hello, Mark. Thought I'd stop and say hi..though I wish I could of sent regards via my Flickr...but...I um, nuked my account. Pah. Just one of those things I guess. I'll have to step in now and then to see what you are up to here at your blog. You do the same ifn you want through my blog. Best to you!