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The World's most expensive camera

Christie's set a new world record price for a camera in their January 2001 sale when a prototype Phantom photographic outfit sold for 146,750 with commission, breaking the previous record, also held by Christie's at 55,750 set in 1995. Words & picture Tim Goldsmith, Phantom image Christie's

| Collecting
The World's most expensive camera: Phantom camera

The unique Phantom camera and its associated processing accessories were designed by former MP Noel Pemberton Billing in 1946, but the camera never entered production. Billing was also the designer of the famous minature Compass camera of 1937 which was made by Swiss watchmakers Le Coultre. The packed salesroom saw two determined bidders, one in the room, the other on the telephone take the price way beyond its estimate of 8000 - 12,000. The telephone bidder dropped out at 120,000 leaving the room bidder successful. The camera has been bought by a private photographic museum.

Other cameras in the auction also saw much competition in what was a strong sale. Several disguised and subminiature cameras were especially sort after with a Doryu 16 gun camera, looking like a pistol, selling for 16,450. Made in Japan in the mid-1950s the camera both looks and feels like a revolver and has film designed like bullets. The camera is loaded just as you would a real gun!

A British focal-plane Ticka camera, looking like a pocket watch and dating from 1910 sold for 21,150 to an anonymous bidder. I happen to know the owner of this camera and he was particularly pleased with this unexpectedly high price, especially as he told me how much he actually paid for it!

Speaking of the sale Michael Pritchard, Director of Christie's South Kensington, stated: '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 infrequent 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.'

For more details of Christie's camera sales and other acutions visit


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