“Hey Eddie, you got a bug-eye?” a short man asked, picking through a display of Leica cameras and accessories.
“For you, $50,” Eddie, the man on the other side of the table, replied. “It’s worth more than that.”
No one was expected to take that claim at face value. Eddie Tillis wore his motto on his shirt pocket:
“I Buy. I Sell. I Trade.”
Eddie was an unrepentant wheeler-dealer.
So were several thousand other people who jammed into the Burbank International Assn. of Machinists’ hall all day Sunday for the fall antique and collectible show of the American Society of Camera Collectors.
Club members who had purchased booths were selling everything from antique candle-lighted movie projectors to a $4 plastic viewer with pictures of Sea World. Thousands of cameras were on sale, from a nondescript Ricoh priced at $15 to the $2,500 Leica MP, almost mint, on Eddie’s table.
Business in Aisles
The people who hadn’t bought booths did business in the aisles.
Several men had cardboard signs strung over their necks like sandwich boards to advertise their merchandise.
One middle-aged woman squeezed through the slow-moving line at the entrance and plunked her burden down among the elegant Leicas at the first table she came to.
“Sir, I have an old movie camera,” she announced stiffly to a man eating a deviled egg sandwich.
“Projector, you mean,” he said, correcting her and peeking inside her shopping bag. “Don’t take it out. Give it to the Salvation Army and take a write-off. Collectors don’t want projectors.”
“It still works,” she said.
He shook his head.
“It’s an antique,” she pleaded.
His head kept shaking.
The woman walked out with her bag.
Morton Gould, one of the men in sandwich boards, had a better day.
Three items were already scratched off his list of wares for sale when he came to Burton Tilley.
Gould unzipped one of his two camera bags and pulled out a wide-angle Rolleiflex.
Tilley put the camera close to his eyes and turned it ‘round and ‘round in his hands.
“There are two little wear spots on it,” he said cooly, pointing them out.
“That’s why I’m asking only $1,295 for it,” Gould said smoothly.
“I’m going to pass at $1,295,” Tilley said. “If you’ve got a little room?”
“I’m going to get out my calculator,” Tilley said.
“He’s converting it into yen,” Gould said to a spectator. “He takes them to Japan where the collectors are very avid, very meticulous.”
And very willing to pay for the right camera.
Tilley tapped at his calculator a few seconds. “The price I have in mind is $1,125,” he said at last.
“Let me think about it, OK, Burt?” Gould said.
Tilley asked what his lowest price would be.
“I think its going to be around $1,195,” Gould said.
“I’ll take it,” Tilley said. He held out his hand to close the deal with a handshake and then slid 12 new $100 bills out of a package that was in the briefcase.
“How about the black enamel M4?” Gould asked next.
“Perfect?” Tilley asked. “It’s not perfect,” Gould admitted. “No,” said Tilley.
Gould moved on through the crowd.