My Camera Collection

The Spartus Co\Flash used 127 rollfilm

The Spartus Co\Flash

Since film cameras are becoming increasingly rare these days, I thought it might be interesting to start a blog about the cameras in my collection. I’ve been collecting old cameras since I was about 12 years old, so the collection is pretty sizable. It isn’t, however, very valuable, since most of my collection consists of American made cameras. I’m particularly fond of folding cameras and non-folders made of bakelite. Some of these have Art Deco designs that are particularly nice.

Starting today, I’ll be working my way through the collection, photographing and writing about them, either individually or in groups. I’ll also be adding a brief bit of history on some of them, since the story of camera manufacturing in this country is both fascinating and unsung. Please check out the page as I construct it, and PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS. I’d really like to hear from you, even if it’s only to tell me to shut up!

    Chicago and New York Camera Companies: Spartus, Utility, Herold
The Spartus Co\Flash packaging was a ringer for Kodak's!

The Spartus Co\Flash packaging was a ringer for Kodak's!

The Spartus, like all 127 rollfilm cameras, used a red window to advance the film to the next frame number

The Spartus, like all 127 rollfilm cameras, used a red window to advance the film to the next frame number

I’m starting with a few of my most recent acquisitions, since they’re close at hand. The first is a simple, Chicago made bakelite box camera called the Spartus CO/Flash Camera. It was sold around 1958-60, in a complete outfit containing camera, flashbulbs, batteries and film. The box points out that the camera “takes all 3” – black & white prints, color snapshots, and color slides. I like it when I can get a clean example of a camera in the original box, with instructions and other ephemera.

The Herold Products Company was owned by Harold Rubin, a former sales manager for Spartus Camera who purchased that company in 1956. Herold Products was in a death struggle with Eastman Kodak, who completely dominated the consumer photography market. They employed several interesting marketing techniques to try to steal market share from Kodak: 1) they sold a complete outfit – Kodak often sold camera, film, flash attachment, bulbs, etc., as separate items; 2) they very effectively imitated Kodak’s packaging – as you can see from the yellow, black and red colors and even similar fonts to those used by their competitors; 3) they offered free film for one year after purchase, provided the owner used their development service, at a cost of $1.00 for “jumbo sized prints.” I find the history of this competition fascinating, particularly in the days before the entry of Japanese and German makers into the fray. There were many other small companies in the camera business from around 1915 through the 1960’s. After that, even Kodak ceased to be a force among serious photographers, except in the photo paper and film business, which they dominated until the bitter end.

Herold Products eventually changed the name of the company back to Spartus, acknowledging the greater marketing power of the Spartus brand name. Spartus apparently acquired the Falcon Camera line at some point. Early Falcons are marked “Utility Mfg, New York”, whereas later ones display the name “Falcon Camera Company, Chicago, Ill.” I have quite a few Spartus, Falcon, and Utility cameras in my collection. Here are a few of them: 

Some of the cameras made by Spartus, Utility, and Herold Products

Some of the cameras made by Spartus, Utility, and Herold Products

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21 responses to “My Camera Collection

  1. Nice start to your blog, Dana. I would suggest getting a piece of cloth to use as a drape to put your cameras on when you’re photographing them. Choose a light color for your dark cameras, and a type of cloth that doesn’t have a shiny surface. Good luck!

  2. I just went through my parents things and found an AGFA PD16 Clipper camera. I don’t know if it works, I can open it and the view finder is intact, the little lever on the side operates the shutter I think. Can you tell me the value of it, or if anyone is interested in in

    I’m sorry to discourage you, but the Clipper was sold in huge quantities and has little to recommend it as a collectible. If yours is in near mint condition, preferably with the original box and papers, you may get $10-15 on eBay. On the other hand, you can still buy 120 film at most camera stores – why don’t you shoot a roll or two, just for fun? You may find a new hobby.
    Dana

  3. Hello,

    I am the owner of an old bellows camera. I understood that you are a collector of old cameras.
    I want to tell you that on the front lens it is wrote Spezial-Aplanat-1 : 11 – F = 135mm and on the back part is wrote Welta. A few pictures with my camera you can see at my blog: http://www.oldbellowscamera.blogspot.com
    Please, if you have some knowledgement about my camera regarding the history and the value of this, please contact me to
    e-mail: protopopescu.office@gmail.com

    Best regards,
    George

  4. To bad you haven’t posted in awhile. I really enjoyed your site. All the best.
    JJ

    • Don’t give up – I’m currently enrolled in some college classes that are taking up a great deal of my time, but I will be back!

  5. I have 2 Cameras which i do not know much about or the value of each. Perhaps you could help me.
    Camera #1 is a Brownie Hawkeye Flash Camera. The camera is in excellent condition.
    Camera # 2 is a Spartus Full View (Chicago,Ill). I also have the case,Flash Attachment and Instruction Books. This outfit is also in very good condition. The Case is a little worn.

    • Anthony and Susan,
      The Kodak Brownie Flash Model needs to be in perfect condition, and complete with box, manual, case, and flash to be salable. There seem to be millions of these on the market. However, a new one with all the above AND the original price tag recently sold on ebay for $25. Without the tag, $15 would have been a stretch.
      The Spartus Full-Vue was sold from 1948 to 1960. Made in Chicago, IL, the Spartus cameras were primarily bakelite-bodied with art deco designs silk-screened to their aluminum front plates. The Full-Vue was made with at least three different front plate designs, the least common of which appears to be the one with red lettering and logos. Collectors of bakelite cameras may wish to collect all variants. There is little information available on this company, other than that it was eventually purchased and renamed Herold Manufacturing Company. Herold changed its name back to Spartus in 1960 and continued to make cameras throughout the decade, as far as I know. Realistically, the camera is only worth about $5-10, but the box and instruction manual should bring the total to $25-30 or more for the right buyer.

  6. I have two (2) antique cameras but I am not sure about the year they were mfg. and the value of each. Listed below are the particulars:
    Brownie Hawkeye camera Flash Model. It is in almost perfect condition. No scrapes, dents or any other damage.
    Next is a Spartus Full-View (Made in Chicago) I have the complete set.
    The Flash, the Case and Instruction Booklets. This camera is also in perfect condition. If you would be so kind to give me some info. on the value Some History I would appreciate it.

  7. Dennis Steele

    I have a Mercury II Model CX 35mm 1/2 frame camera in excellent/mint condition. I am trying to find out the worth it could sell for on the open market. It does have the leather case, also in excellent condition. Can you help”

    • I suggest you do a completed auction search on Ebay for the Mercury II. Values have bounced around a bit lately, but, as always, condition is the biggest determinant of value.

  8. Interesting, nice collection and good Univex info. Well worth the visit. I’m “Just Plain Curt”, “Canuck Curt” or “wierdcollector” depending on which camera forum we cross paths. Take care.

  9. i like your article. I have a falcon deluxe miniature w the leather case. is there any value to this camera? thank you

  10. I have a question about the Spartus Co Flash Camera, Im about to buy one and the lady said the silver thing on the camera is chipped off. I was wondering is the camera usable and how much would it cost to repair it? Thanks

  11. Hi
    I was doing a search on spartus cameras and ran across your blog. While on a trip last week I stopped at a yard sale and found this awesome old oak and glass store counter camera display case. It has Spartus across the top of the front and curved glass with mirrored shelves. It has a rear door for the stocking I guess. I was searching to find a value for the case. Would you happen to have any idea where I might find something like that?
    Thanks

  12. Hoping this site is still active. I bought a camera yesterday at a junk store and i am wondering its history and worth, if any. It is a Falcon miniature, Chicago. Never used, still in original box with instructions.

  13. hey I am just picking up a spartus 127 film camera with a flash attatchment…what kind of small bulbs do those take so I can look on ebay for them???love your site..filled with alot of info…I am buying these cameras and shooting photos for art shows with them…thanks

  14. Great blog! I would like to link this log to my own blog. I am doing something similar with vintage cameras so far all work but one of my falcons needs some adjusting.

  15. Rick DeKostic

    Dana,
    I left a comment/question a few days ago about the approx. value of a Universal Minute 16 with many accessories. Did you receive it?
    Rick

  16. Your presentation and information are a joy to me.
    thank you

  17. Can you give me any information on a Universal MInute 16 camera. It’s very small, approximately 1 3/4″h x 2 1/4″l x 1″w. I also have the flash attachment with the box it came in with a price of $4.95 as well as a box of film. Any information would be helpful. Thank You!

  18. I have mercury ll universal 2.7 Tricor F=35mm. Made in USA No: 50088
    I want to no more about, so if someone could give me some information please, Thank you Charles

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