The original* Polaroid Corporation – the iconic, distinctly American brand that was synonymous with instant film photography for 60 years - recently slipped slowly and quietly into history after several unsuccessful attempts to compete against and then with the exploding digital photography market. All of the camera and film manufacturing plants around the world were shuttered, one-by-one and, save for the contents of one film factory in the Netherlands (which became the home base of the Impossible Project), all the machinery was sent to scrap. What remains of the venerable old Polaroid company are the rapidly dwindling supplies of instant film and the estimated tens of millions of old Polaroid cameras most of which sit neglected in attics, closets and on the shelves of thrift stores around the world. With the final cessation of all Polaroid film production in 2009, one would assume these quaint old relics of another century are now only good for shelf display.
But that would be a wrong assumption. There is even today, enough stock of unsold Polaroid integral film (for 600, SX-70 and Spectra cameras) and pack film (peel-away film) to satisfy an active collectors market on eBay. (If properly stored in a cool dark place, Polaroid film can safely last for a few years past its stated expiration date). Fujii continues to manufacture instant pack film compatible with all of the old Polaroid pack film cameras (more below). And with the advent of the Impossible Project, brand new integral film compatible with many old Polaroid cameras is once again in production. Those millions of old forgotten Polaroid cameras may have a second life in what is turning out to be an booming collectibles niche market on eBay. Just a few years ago, an original vintage 1972 SX-70 in good working condition would typically bring about $10-$20 (Polaroid ceased mass production of SX-70 film in 2005). Today, that same camera can sell on eBay for around $100 with prices for the choicest examples reaching as high as $1,000 and beyond (depending on age, condition, packaging and included accessories).
As with all collectibles, there’s a wide range in value and demand among old Polaroids. Here are some examples of the most popular Polaroid cameras on eBay.
For Polaroid cameras that used integral film (film that develops without the need to peel off a protective layer), look for the venerable old SX-70 folding camera in its many versions. The original 1972 – 1977 model SX-70 and later variations like the SX-70 Alpha 1, 2 and Model 3, can command high prices on eBay.
Non folding SX-70 cameras (One Step, Pronto, etc) are also popular and tend to be less expensive as the original folding SX-70. Look for those in mint condition, especially in its original packaging. As in all areas of collecting, New in Box Polaroids of any model tend to excite the most collecter and enthusaist interest.
The Image Pro 1200 Spectra camera has brought between $200 to $500 (if in the original box) on eBay.
The last integral film camera made by Polaroid, the One600, if new in the box, has sold for over $150 on eBay.
Other highly desirable old Polaroid cameras include the later, high-quality models that take pack film (the peel off type). These include the models 180, 190, 195, and the super-rare model 185. A model 195 in good condition can bring as much as $1000 on eBay and version of the 195 by NPC sold recently for $2000! The highest price for a Polaroid camera on eBay may very well be this super rare Model 185 which sold for $3537.00.
Also keep an eye out for any of the numerous specialty or limited run versions of any of the cameras produced by Polaroid. For example, limited edition co-branded or special color models like the Rossa, etc.
Finally, Polaroid made a special pack film camera for professionals called the 600 SE. This built-like-a-tank camera can sell for anywhere between $500 and $1200 dollars on eBay, depending on the included lens (3 available, all made by Mamiya), accessories and condition.
All of the above are still serviceable as cameras but can also be excellent collectible items for display as well.
Common but Serviceable Models
This includes any other Polaroid camera that takes pack film or integral film and is in working condition. These cameras can still be used today with either what’s left of the old Polaroid film, Fuji’s film for pack cameras or the new integral film for SX-70, 600 and Spectra cameras produced by The Impossible Project. Except for some of the earlier pack film models, the bulk of these cameras were made post 1972 and have sold recently on eBay for $10 – $50.
The original Polaroid cameras (made from 1948 – 1970) used a type of instant roll film which has not been available for nearly 20 years (and will probably never be reproduced). Except for two models, these old roll film land cameras are only of moderate collecting interest as shelf pieces (there were many of them produced and sold in their day. Most are not rare.). Roll film cameras include the models 20, 80, 95, 100, 110, 120, 150, 160, 700, 800, 850, 900, most of the Swinger line, and the J33.
Three more recent vintages that are now obsolete are the Captiva (Joycam) and the iZone cameras produced in the late 90′s. These require special-sized film which has not been produced in several years. Any existing stock of old film tends to be extremely expensive and of dubious quality given the time since expiration.
Two important exceptions from the Roll Film group: Keep an eye out for roll film models 110A and 110B . These two are sought after by camera enthusiasts since their high precision optics and solid build quality make them good candidates for custom conversion to pack film. Unconverted 110 models usually bring about $100. Converted they can sell for several hundred dollars.
In brief: If you are looking the the cameras most valued by Polaroid enthusiasts and collectors, keep a treasure-hunter eye out for these:
- SX-70 (the original folding integral film camera models)
- Spectra 1200 Image Pro
- One600 in original, unopened box
- Pack film model s 180, 190, 195 and the elusive 185
- 600 SE (body and lenses)
- Limited edition specialty or co branded cameras of any model
- Roll film models (Pathfinder) 110A and 110B
What about Old Polaroid Film?
If you come across a packet or even a big cache of old Polaroid film and you are considering buying it for use or resale on eBay, check the expiration date! Anything older than three years past the date of expiration may be too big a gamble at all but the lowest prices. At that age, most instant film have degraded chemically and the resulting images could be of low or unacceptable quality (or even completely blank.) My advice: Assume old film was not stored in a cool or cold, dry, dark space and don’t gamble on film with an expiration date older than 2008 (as of the date of this posting).
Other Resources for researching value and indentification:
Search eBay’s Camera & Photo > Film Cameras > Instant/Polaroid for a specific model and numberThe Polaroid brand has recently re-emerged offering a limited line new speciality digital imaging/printing products unrelated to the old and true instant analog film of yore.