Private passion saves secret history of the spy camera
Thursday 02 January 1997
But an unusual auction sale later this month reveals that spy cameras, at least, have been around for more than a century and come in an extraordinary variety of secret guises.
The examples to go on sale at Christie's, South Kensington, in west London, were gathered by an anonymous French collector, whose quirk was to find as many examples as possible, dating from the Victorians, of the trend for concealed cameras.
These were designed for both men and women - erring husbands may well have been at the wrong end of their concealed lenses - and now command prices up to tens of thousands of pounds.
A popular type was the camera gun. Many of these models, which started in the 1850s, were unconvincing in terms of disguise - Christie's is selling an Erac gun camera consisting merely of a grip without the barrel - but they did have the advantage of reducing blurring.
One of the better varieties is included in the sale on 17 January: the Japanese Toko Kogaku, which offers a sight and dummy magazine and is estimated at pounds 400 to pounds 600. If a gun seems a little crude, aspiring spies should consider the watch camera. Christie's is offering the Steineck ABC made in 1948 by Dr R Steiner, a prolific German inventor who was a notoriously bad businessman when it came to marketing his designs.
His Steineck ABC - estimated at up to pounds 1,200 with its original box - is considered one of the best of its kind although only the unobservant would have been fooled. A small lens pokes out where the XII should be, while a button at six o' clock activates the camera.
Women might prefer the photo-vanity set from Ansco Photo Products of Binghampton, New York. Estimated at up to pounds 1,400, this black vanity case is fitted with a hidden camera, comb, mirror and make-up set. It takes snaps through a small opening under the carry-strap.
Other gadgets include the notebook camera complete with pen (up to pounds 140), the cigarette box camera (four "brands" including Marlboro; up to pounds 140), or the lighter camera, with its Zippo-style case (up to pounds 150).
Last but not least is Bloch's remarkably unconvincing 1890 photo-cravat camera, the size of a spectacle case. Designed to fit inside a cravat with its lens poking from the position usually taken by the pin, this will command the highest price of all, likely to be as much as pounds 18,000.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
AirAsia QZ8501: Black box reveals warning alarms 'screamed' before crash, as more bodies recovered from near fuselage of jet
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...