Giveaway camera found readily for sale
By Terry Maurer, What's it worth
Merchandise giveaways have become pretty common in modern business. There are two-for-one specials at department stores and after-purchase rebates on everything from cell phones to wine.
Sometimes you can even get things free.
We may think of these marketing tactics as modern, but they're not.
In today's What's it Worth, a reader asks about her camera, part of one of the first huge promotions of this kind in 1930.
Q. My father gave me this camera a few months ago. He said on Kodak's 50th anniversary, the company gave a camera to 12-year-olds throughout the country and this is the camera they gave him. It appears to be in good shape. The shutter works well, but the viewing glass is cloudy. It has a gold seal on the side depicting Kodak's 50th anniversary. My father did not say much more about it. I don't know if it is worth much, but it is priceless to me.
-- Jane in Richland
A. Kodak is, of course, one of the most famous names in American business. Founded in the late 1800s by a buggy whip salesman and a bank clerk, the company's innovative products soon made it an international photography phenomenon. Producing cameras, film, accessories, lenses and just about anything you'd want or need to make pictures, Kodak had production plants all over the world. Each location made its own cameras for its own market, so collectors find all kinds of variations.
In 1930, Kodak celebrated 50 years in business in a big way. They decided to give a free camera to every 12-year-old in the United States and Canada. Kodak was going to give away 550,000 special cameras -- complete kits with box camera, film, instruction manual and a note from company leader George Eastman.
The widely advertised promotion that was featured in the company's magazine "Kodakery" and announced by first lady Grace Coolidge had two purposes. One was to celebrate the golden anniversary. The other was to get huge numbers of youngsters interested in photography. Kodak always believed they'd make much more money selling roll after roll of film than they would selling cameras.
All a family had to do to get their camera was stop in at a Kodak retailer and ask for one, demonstrating the child was or would be 12 years of age in 1930. The promotion started May 1 and it seems all the more than half-million cameras were gone within about a week.
The camera is a special edition of the "Rainbow Hawkeye" model, with that gold seal on the side. This was a stripped-down version, with one lens, using 120 film. In good condition, they still take pictures today and the film is readily available.
As a collectible, these are of interest to camera fans and there are lots of them for sale in shops and on the Internet. What's rare is that Jane doesn't seem to have the original box. The camera and the other giveaway parts were packaged in an Art Deco-design cardboard box that's seldom found today.
The camera itself ranges in price from $25 upwards and we have seen one offered by a Seattle camera shop for more than $100. Add about 50 percent to any price if the box is still there.
Q. I hope you can give me some information on a serving tray that has a glass top and print underneath. I haven't been able to find out about the print, which shows a family group in fancy dress in an outdoor setting. We think my mother bought the tray at a thrift shop in Winnemucca, Nev., years ago. Thanks.
-- Candyce in Dayton
A. We were able to examine this white tray in person and found the print to be just that, something produced on a printing press. It may have been cut to size to fit the oval opening in the matt. The gilded decoration is uneven and was applied by hand -- perhaps as a craft project.
The print is quite attractive but we don't know which original work of art is the basis for the scene. From the clothing, the family dates from the 1700s or early 1800s. But the tray itself was probably made in the 1920s or 1930s.
There'll be some interest in this, especially among those who like to decorate in the "shabby chic" style. The value isn't high -- in the $25 to $35 range.
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