Vintage Binoculars comprise a pair of mirror-symmetrical telescopes that allow the viewer, or operator, to use both eyes to view distant objects.
History & Description
The identical telescopes are positioned side-by-side and aligned to point precisely in one direction and are commonly held using both hands. Unlike the singular telescope, known as a monocular, the dual telescopes of binoculars give the user a three-dimensional image.
Although the concept of mounting two identical telescopes side-by-side had been explored since the invention of the telescope in the seventeenth century, the recognisable profile of binoculars was not designed until 1854 by the Italian optician Ignazio Porr. This profile was later refined by companies like Carl Zeiss in the 1890s.
Guide for collectors
Vintage binoculars are frequently sold at both national and international auction houses. However, prices can vary considerably and are determined by a number of factors.
First and foremost is the binoculars' condition as any dents or broken optics can significantly decrease the item’s price. The brand of binocular is also important. The most desirable brands of vintage binoculars include Carl Zeiss, Negretti & Zambra and Barr & Stroud.
Another factor collectors need to consider is the binoculars' previous owner as prices can increase dramatically if the item is connected with royalty or a celebrity. For example, on September 16th 2004, Johnny Cash’s personal binoculars were sold through Sotheby’s for a realised price of $840.
Notable auction sales
On March 26th 2011 at Capo Auction in Long Island City, New York, a selection of three vintage Carl Zeiss binoculars realised a price of $1,100.
On December 18th 2011 at William J. Jenack Auctioneers in Chester, New York, a vintage chrome steel and brass military binoculars with stand realised a price of $3,100.
On March 14th 2010 at Burley Auction Group in New Braunfels, Texas, a selection of eight vintage Carl Zeiss and Bausch & Lomb binoculars realised a price of $500.
On June 14th 2006 at Christie’s in London, a pair of binoculars and monocular that were once owned by Princess Margaret, made by Negretti & Zambra, realised a price of £6,600.
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