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Camera sells for World record price at Christie's

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A new world record of 146,750 was set at Christie's South Kensington's Camera and Photographic Equipment auction on Tuesday 16 January with the sale of the Phantom photographic unit, designed by the eccentric British MP, Noel Pemberton Billing. This price smashed the previous record of 55,750 set by Christie's in 1995.

The unique Phantom camera, and associated processing accessories, was designed by former British MP Noel Pemberton Billing in 1946, but never entered production. A packed saleroom saw two determined bidders take the price well beyond its estimate of 8,000-12,000 before it was successfully bought by a private photographic museum. Billing was also the designer of the Compass camera of 1937, which was made by Swiss watchmakers Le Coultre.

Disguised and subminiature cameras also performed well in this 95% sold sale. A Japanese Doryu-16 gun camera, designed to look exactly like a pistol, sold for 16,450, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of 4,000-6,000, while a British focal-plane Ticka camera (estimate: 3,000-4,000), disguised as a gentleman's pocket watch, and dating from 1910, sold for 21,150 to an anonymous bidder.

Michael Pritchard, Director of Christie's South Kensington, commented after the sale: 'The overall success of the sale highlights a number of trends apparent in the current market with rarities and cameras in original condition selling very strongly. It was gratifying that two bidders recognised the worth of the Phantom camera. Such pieces coming to the market are increasingly rare and collectors are determined to secure such cameras for their collections. Christie's pre-eminent position in the photographic collecting field is further strengthened by the results of the sale.'

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