Vintage spy cameras star in Bonhams Hong Kong sale

Lense Flare

Lense Flare

2015-11-26 11:59:41

A forthcoming Bonhams sale in Hong Kong will feature a selection of intriguing spy cameras.

The most fascinating lot is a Lucky strike spy camera, designed during the Cold War to be concealed inside a packet of cigarettes.

Featuring a five-element f/2.7 17.5mm Sonnar-type lens, four-speed shutter B, 00, 25, 5, four-position aperture and film advance, the camera was initially developed by the Mast Development Corp for the U.S. Signal Corps circa 1949-1950.

Just two examples were ever made, with the other now owned by the Signal Corps Museum at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. The design was never adopted by the U.S military, and this sole privately-owned example – offered along with a selenium light meter disguised as a box of matches – is expected to sell for HK$320,000-500,000 (US$41,000-65,000).

The auction will also feature a 'Concealed Vest' camera, designed to be worn on the chest inside a jacket with the lens poking out through a buttonhole. First patented in 1886, these cameras were later marketed successfully by German company C.P. Stirn and this example, still contained in its original mahogany box, comes with an estimate of HK$45,000-65,000 (US$5,800-8,400).

Further unusual designs will include an ABC wristwatch camera, designed in Germany circa 1940s, estimated at HK$12,000-18,000 (US$1,500-2,300); a GF81 ring camera made by Italian manufacturer Gian Paulo Ferro, estimated at HK$24,000-38,000 (US$3,100-$4,900); and a Doryu 2-16 gun camera, shaped like a pistol and designed in the 1950s for use by Japanese police officers, estimated at HK$140,000-200,000 (US$18,000-26,000).

The Bonhams Important and rare Cameras sale takes place in Hong Kong on December 3.

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