© 2014 Fourtoes Arcade

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing….

If you wander through Barton Arcade in Manchester City Centre and glance up at the fancy Victorian iron and glass architecture you might just glimpse something of further interest.

Two wooden studio cameras!

I’d noticed these before but never really done anything about it. Last week I emailed to ask about them and see if they were for sale.
The reply was a promising “We’ve never thought of selling but they can be, please call in and discuss”

So on Monday I went along to take a look. Its always a pleasant surprise to see a studio camera plus stand. Granted the stands were nicer than the cameras but still good to see them.

Both are whole plate, although the backs have been adapted to hinged rather than sliding. There are no plate holders, the bellows are on their last legs, lenses with fungus and broken apertures, although luckily for the wetplater they are stuck wide open. The stand had the winding mechanism in place that just needed a good clean but some of the woodwork will need repair.

These mobile snaps from Monday make them look a lot better than they are.



So taking all that into consideration…

New bellows from Custom Bellows £170 plus vat
New plate holders with GG assembly £285 plus vat

and then the need for a deep clean, wood repair and polish.

Now I hold my hand up to being a bit of a skinflint but I did say to them it would be a bargain basement price due to the work that needs doing. So I emailed my offer later that day and waited.
No replay after a couple of days so I popped back into the shop.

They apologised for not replying and I was introduced to another member of staff who “knew all about these sort of things”!

I asked what they thought of my offer… I guess I could see it coming, a quick look on the internet and people see money signs. “Add at least another 0 to your offer! We can get ££££ for these!”
“Good luck with that” was my reply.

I tried to explain about new bellows and plate holders but you can tell by the look on someones face when they think they know it all and “they’ve sold stuff like this for ££££ in the past”.

Funniest and most frustrating was “Ones got a Ross lens on it! I can get over £500 for that alone!” all I can think is “… whatever mate, its a fungus ridden, Ross Rapid Rectilinear with a broken aperture!. The other camera has a whopping big brass lens that looks like a Dallmeyer 5D on it but hey, you know best! You’ve been doing this for years!” (Although that had fungus problems and a broken aperture also).

I gave them some contact details for getting plate holders made but they really couldn’t have shown less interest if they’d fallen asleep.

I’m grateful for having been given the opportunity to take a look at them but… if your looking for some grossly over priced studio cameras in need of work, thats the place to go!

Its not the first time this sort of thing has frustrated me. At an antique fair once, there were several uncased Dags and Ambrotypes. When I asked the prices and why they were split the seller replied “‘Cos I can get more money for the case ‘cos people can put their photos inside!” So a quality Dag/Ambrotype for £5 or a battered empty case/frame £40! What was even more amazing was that inside the case hidden down the side were two lovely little Autotypes, the seller didn’t even know what he had for sale!! had he just came up with some crazy prices plucked out of mid air? The same items were still on his stall several months later.

Sorry, I don’t usually rant, on my blog, but it can be so frustrating. I’ve no problem people asking ££££ when they know exactly what it is they are selling! I’m sure we’ve all been in similar situations where all you can do is just shake you head and walk away in disbelief…



  1. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:04 PM | #

    It’s good to get it off your chest Tony. Out of interest what type of ridiculous offer did you make these people? I’d have given no more than £400 for the pair.

  2. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:09 PM | #

    My opening offer was a little less than that Sam, but I’m looking at these as getting them back to useable wet plate cameras. I think they must have done a quick google search and seen an auction house result for a mint condition one with all its accessories!!!! Add a “0” to my offer…. make me laugh why don’t you?

  3. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM | #

    I had a similar experience here in town, one of my sitters says to me “there is this large wood wet plate camera” in an antique shop uptown you have to see it. I went up and looked at it, no plate holder, bellows with big holes, the lens was also seized up and missing knobs, there was a nice stand with the unit, again probably nicer than the camera. I took pictures of it and asked what it would be worth in this condition, most guys on the bastards said about $400 in that condition, I do not even remember the details of the lens or anything, so I told the guy I was not interested in buying it but gave him all the details about the camera and lens that I was able to research and told him the camera would sell for $400-$500, he looked at me and said, I can get 10 times that amount. What? The camera still sits there collecting dust, I suppose in 200 years the camera may be worth 10 times that amount, but he also went online and thought he had a gem in the rough, when in fact he just had an older junk camera.

  4. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:28 PM | #

    Hi Shane,

    You’d think a business would want to complete a sale, not price themselves totally out of the market!
    It just doesn’t make any sense.

    Maybe I’ll go back each year and just offer less each time…… 😉

    Best wishes,


  5. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:53 PM | #

    I agree with Robert O’Callaghan’s comment on this via FB, sometime these sellers just pluck the first highest price what they viewed online of what they think is similar to the item they’re selling, regardless of the condition. Damn Dr. Google.

  6. Posted August 20, 2014 at 2:59 PM | #

    Hi K. Ismail

    I would like to think its the Google effect in this case otherwise its just deluded smugness.

    Cheers and best wishes,


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