Cinema Antiques Buyers Guide

How to Buy Real Cinema Equipment Antiques and Not Junk – 52 Point Buyers Guide

Investment Grade Antiques

    1. Real collectible, investment grade antiques will be expensive and not easy to find, so decide if this is the level you want to pursue.
    2. If you are looking for investment grade antiques, find a qualified dealer with your specific category experience and a good reputation.
    3. Price is a unique issue with each item considered. RARITY is a key factor and as rarity increases, the price will increase and that is to be expected.
    4. The online auction sites like eBay are often NOT reliable as these are often populated by pickers and garage salers who have no clue what they are selling. These sellers also are known for “cobbling” together garage sale finds and making false claims of authenticity and correctness.
    5. Make sure, for these high-level purchases, that you are offered a bona fide, signed Certificate of Authenticity or Letter of Authenticity from the seller.
    6. The key factor in making a fair purchase of an investment grade cinema equipment antique is to buy from a proven and reputable source, like who can offer proper authentication for that item and who has the knowledge and concern to offer a proper, original and fully disclosed antique.
    7. Provenance should also be addressed and to be of value needs to be guaranteed in writing. Here-say provenance is usually worthless, but depending on the reputation of the selling dealer, may be a helpful insight into the history of the antique.
    8. Use common sense. If the piece looks rare and special, and the top tier dealer offers his opinion that it is rare and special and you love the piece, then you must decide if it is right for you.
      Any written authentication and photos of the cinema antique in use, all go to superior authentication of actual use and provenance.

Authenticated Grade Antiques

    1. A qualified dealer should be able to offer a Letter or Certificate of Authentication for most of what he offers and sells. Make sure you get this with ANY purchase.
    2. The Certificate should reference: Brand; Era; Description; Operating condition; Serial Number if a numbered item; Possible usage history and should be on dealers letterhead; signed and dated.
    3. Any photos offered of the item should match exactly to the item you receive.
    4. Make sure you have a written money back approval warranty so if the item does not match what was offered, you are protected.
    5. A common trick used by some online sellers is to show a photo with some desirable accessories but to not include these. Often there are fine print weasel words stating that these accessories are not included, but be very careful you know exactly what you are buying.
    6. Insist that the selling dealer give you a detailed list of the items included with your purchase.
    7. Be aware of mildew issues as these can affect the performance and value of lenses & antiques and in many cases can have a horrible odor that will live with the antique in your home. Ask about this issue and try to reject mildewed items as correcting this issue is very costly and usually does not work.
    8. Any written authentication is only as valid as the selling dealer. If you are dealing with an unknown party online, his COA [certificate of authentication] is pretty much worthless.
    9. So much of this comes down to dealing with someone reputable who has intimate knowledge of these cinema equipment antiques and who can offer you their expertise along with ANY purchase.
    10. If you need an antique camera or other equipment to perform correctly, you will need to have this verified in writing by the selling dealer or hire an independent consultant to verify this for you. This may have to be done at the buyers expense, unless a reputable dealer offers this service and you can trust it to be accurate and valid.
    11. Always verify the physical size of the antique item before you buy. Often photos are off scale and it is hard to know how much space the item will take up in your display.
    12. Verify the physical weight of the item so you can prepare for proper shipping costs and your ability to move it into your display. Some old cameras can be very heavy.
    13. Original labels and markings are very important as far as an authentic antique’s value and look.
    14. Original paint and patina are also critically important.
    15. Some dealers like to use touch up paint on some edges and this is often acceptable but should be done in moderation and with skill.
    16. Patina enhancement is often done by dealers and this is a non-permanent gentle cleaning and shining up of the item. This should also be done skillfully and with no harm to the piece as we do here at Cinema Antiques.
    17. In our Cinema Antiques dealership we enhance original patina to make for an impressive display but we rarely will ever fully repaint an item unless the buyer insists.
    18. In the case of antique studio lighting, we either enhance original patina or repaint the fixture with original style paint and finishes. These processes should ALWAYS be discussed with a buyer BEFORE any sale.

Unverified Grade Antiques

    1. These are often found at garage sales and on some of the ‘catch all’ online auction and garage sale sites.
    2. These cannot be authenticated unless you have a third party appraise them.
    3. These are not usually collectible as they are unverified for rarity, history, condition, originality and other criteria that makes an item a correct antique.
    4. If you find something you like there, be prepared to buy it with zero assurance that it is a valuable antique but it may have a cool display look you are after. The odds are that an item of this type will rarely if ever have significant value as an antique but it may have value to you for a display.
    5. In these cases, you are on your own unless you have a reputable professional appraise the item for you BEFORE you buy. Cinema Antiques does these appraisals.
    6. We offer online appraisal services where one can obtain a quick appraisal of antique status via paypal payment and an emailed verification.
    7. Basically, if an old cinema equipment item is not verified, it cannot be judged or considered as an antique or valuable, so again you are on your own.<
    8. A basic rule on any of these old cinema equipment items is to trust a reputable dealer like Cinema Antiques. A proper dealer will only carry authentic items that he screens and carefully curates before stocking them in his gallery. Even if an item is unverified, but sold by a dealer that is reputable, it will still be a real item with a bit of generic history.
    9. Non-reputable or garage sale type sellers do not have the ability or expertise to verify or authenticate ANYTHING, so beware of these sellers if you are looking for a real cinema equipment antique.

Rip-Off pseudo Antiques

    1. The goal of buying real cinema antiques is to own something that was really used in the cinema industry and can be displayed in a proper and correct manner.
    2. Antique or modern cinema production light fixtures were and are NEVER used on wood tripods.
    3. These type of setups are bogus and offered all the time by sellers. These are usually cheap fake reproduction lights on cheesy fake reproduction wood tripods. These fakes often come from India.
    4. Professional light fixtures used in cinema production are supported by metal light stands with extension risers, made by the lighting manufacturers.
    5. Old cinema cameras should never be fully repainted with Home Depot paint as that takes away a good part of their value in most cases. Correct historical paint and a correct historical re finish technique may be another matter but a quick respray with the wrong finish is a very bad sign. BEWARE.
    6. Camera items are often offered with wrong lenses and wrong accessories. These haphazard add ons incorrectly make a camera look complete but degrade the value significantly. BEWARE.
    7. Lighting fixtures are sometimes offered with wrong accessories or wrong finish and this degrades both the look and value of the fixture. BEWARE.
    8. Antique model lights that have been sandblasted down to bare metal and then polished to remove ALL original paint and patina may look cool, but the antique nature of the light fixture is damaged and devalued. No real working cinema light fixture was EVER polished to a shiny brass or chrome look. Too much light reflection risk on the set. BEWARE!
    9. Unsubstantiated claims on the history of a cinema equipment antique is meaningless. Unless a seller can stand behind these claims in writing, with proof, consider them bogus. BEWARE.
    10. Pricing of cinema equipment antiques is always a complicated issue. There is no “blue book” on these rare items so pricing is either put forth based on what a reputable dealer pays for the item, plus a reasonable profit or what an antique owner believes it is worth.
    11. Because an item shows up online for $100.00 and a reputable dealer offers something ‘similar’ for $1,000.00, does not mean the $100.00 is a steal and the $1,000.00 price is a rip off. ‘SIMILAR’ is often not even a close comparison. Low pricing is rarely a good deal. Quite the contrary.

Final Comments on Buying Cinema Antiques

    1. If one wants to invest in a correct and authentic cinema equipment antique, the added value of a reputable dealer’s certification of authenticity, the fact that the dealer knows the history and correctness of the piece and can also verify that it is in fact a true antique, is very valuable. Call on for assistance with these issues.
    2. Often the ‘cheap’ below market selling price is tell tale evidence that the seller is not offering a value but rather a fake or unverified or cobbled together piece that is worth LESS and certainly no more than his asking price.
    3. In the long run you will get what you pay for and if a reputable dealer is priced higher for a similar item, there is usually a good reason. Talk to the dealer and ask why his piece is more costly than the one you found online or in someone’s garage. He should be able to share that information with you and often photos of the two pieces compared will give you the answer.
    4. Often reputable dealers will be happy to consider your offer for an antique as long as it is made in a reasonable way.
    5. The good thing about buying from an antique dealer who is reputable, like, is that he will stand behind the item, offer accessories to enhance the item, can offer restoration if desired, can offer more background history on the item’s usage, can certify the authenticity in writing and can be there to support you for display correctness and with future searches for other true Cinema Antiques.
    6. Be smart, trust only reputable dealers and enjoy the thrill of owning a real piece of the motion picture industry. The Golden Age of Hollywood will never come again nor will the equipment used to make the films we all love and cherish.

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