Australian photograhic history a great auction chance for camera buffs

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 5th December, 2023

Camera buffs once more will have the chance of obtaining a piece of Melbourne’s photographic history when Part II of the Michael family camera museum collection goes under the hammer from 12pm Tuesday December 12 at 727-729 High Street, Armadale.

Some 16 months since the first sale, this auction has a comprehensive range of almost 700 cameras dating back to the early days of photography.

Situated on the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets in Melbourne’s CBD, Michaels Cameras housed the world’s largest private camera museum with more than 3000 items.

The adverse economic impact of COVID-19 forced its closure in 2021 after more than 100 years of trading, originally as a pawnbroker and gunsmith business, before morphing into a chemist shop that also sold photographic equipment.

By the late 1970s, Michaels was taking unusual and interesting cameras as trade-ins for newer and more sophisticated equipment.

A realisation that the business was becoming a repository of photographic history – not adequately preserved in Australia – led to the establishment of the museum, given a major boost when a die-hard German-manufactured Leica camera collector approached Michaels to take on his entire collection.

Part II of the collection offers many interesting insights into photographic history with a Hasselblad Space Camera 553ELS (lot 154), originally delivered in 1991 to the National Aeronautical Space Agency for astronauts to use for photo training and one of only 18 units made available to collectors some eight years later, the auction pick at a catalogue estimate of $25,000-$35,000.

There are many other Hasselblad cameras on offer including a 1985 2000FC/M “100 Years of Photography” limited black and gold edition (lot 152), that is number 227 of 1500 made.

A couple of Franke & Heidecke commemorative Rolleiflex models (lots 134 and 135) – one from 1983 and the other the following year – should appeal to genuine collectors with respective catalogue estimates of $3000-$4000 and $4000-$6000.

Others date from the 1930s, like the two Coronet Midget sub-miniature Bakelite box cameras (lots 58 and 59) in red and an even rarer blue colour.

Quite intriguing is the circa 1927 Agfa special edition “Official Boy Scout” Memo half-frame camera (lot 1) with a Cinemat f6.3 lens with a modest catalogue estimate of $350-$450, while a circa 1923 Debrie Sept I spring motor drive camera (lot 60) is another worthwhile photographic relic.


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