Two weekends ago I probably made the best find in my life, so far. I was browsing through the Swedish eqvivalent of ebay, tradera, and saw someone selling three wooden boxes full of old photography gear. The seller was not that specific in the auction description and there was only one photo for the entire lot. However, in that one picture I saw the top part of a camera that has been on my wish list for a long time. In that photo I saw the unmistakable top part of a Voigtländer Bessa II.
The starting price was set to 1sek (US$0.12) and the auction was due to end in a couple of days. In the mean time all I could do was to hope that the collectors would not find this auction, because if they did, we would be looking at collector prices, which sometimes can be completely insane.
The Bessa II came in three variants and the variation was in the optics. We have the the Color-Skopar lens that was in the budget variant, the Color-Heliar lens that was in the mid range variant and then we have the mythical Apo-Lanthar lens, made with the radioactive rare earth element Lanthanum, which was the high-end variant. Only a couple of thousand were made of the Apo-Lanthar version, and it is now a rare collectors item, with prices fetching as high as US$14,000. The Color-Skopar variant goes for around US$500 and the Color-Heliar variant for about US$1,300. This is for mint condition cameras.
In the auction photo you could not make out which model we were dealing with, since the camera was folded and due to low resolution one could not read the markings and lettering on the top. With that in mind I decided to set a max bid of US$200, which is about what a fairly used and worn Color-Skopar variant goes for. Having lost a couple of auctions for a Bessa II in the past, I decided to play it cool and wait until the last second before entering my bid. With 10 seconds left and the highest bid at US$25 I entered my bid. To my surprise I actually won the auction, and the best of all was that I got it for US$35.
Since the postage for the three boxes would cost more that the winning bid, I decided to go on a little day trip with my wife, to collect the stuff in person. It turns out that the seller was an old photographer moving from his now rather large house, to a smaller apartment, due to not having the energy to keep up the house, and thus he had to part with a lot of his photography equipment.
The three boxes contained two pre 1940 folders, a bunch of filters, a Metz 45 “potato masher” flash, a Sekonic flash meter, a couple of expired rolls of 135 and 120 film, a variety of mechanical shutter release cables, various retouching stuff for sheet film and lots of other film related stuff. Oh, and did I mention a Voigtländer Bessa II Color-Heliar.