The trouble is that since Impossible Film came out, those cameras have gone through the roof on eBay – gone are the days when you could pick them up for a tenner.
Every once in a while I do a quick sweep on eBay and see what’s on offer, usually disappointed about having to spend £100 or more, so I look over to my trusty Polaroid 600 I got for £2.50, the one that started my Polaroid Adventures Addiction. Much better I kept thinking.
A little while ago I came across an auction for a GOLD PLATED Polaroid SX-70. Only 500 were ever made to celebrate the tremendous success of the Edwin Land’s integral film and the easiest instant picture ever: The iconic square Polaroid.
Here’s a rare collector’s item that only comes up once in a blue moon. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this auction was put there for me, and that I was meant to get this camera.
I had some doubts though: how much would my final bid have to be to get competitors out of the way? The current bid was $450 and I expected this to go up by at least 50%. The listing was very well written with lots of detailed photos, showing the camera in pristine condition, so other nerds were bound to get easily hooked. Just like I did.
The Golden SX-70 was located in Reno, Nevada. That really spoke to me. Julia and I got married in Vegas, that’s in Nevada too. It feels like an old friend was waiting for me over there all these years 😉
Very touching I thought, but it’s mental mumbo jumbo said my brain. You’re buying an overpriced toy that takes bad overpriced pictures. Period.
Doubt ridden I contacted the seller and asked about the focussing screen. I’ve heard that the original silver SX-70 cameras don’t have a split focussing aid, which makes it really difficult to use them.
Patti was wonderful! She got back to me immediately, confirmed the focussing aid was present and said “I really hope you win this wonderful camera”. And so did I 😉 Check out her marvellous eBay store My Orphaned Items and grab a treasure or two.
I conferred with several colleagues and told them about this auction: should I bid or should I not? Is this a tremendous waste of money, or a real investment? We all figured that The Impossible Project will only get bigger and attract more followers over the next few years. Everyone encouraged me to bid, and Paul said I may even end up with a bargain.
The auction ended at 2am in the morning UK time, and despite an early start for me the next day, I set my alarm clock so I could watch the last 15 minutes live. I had my budget set aside, and I was going to bid with 3 minutes to go. But I also knew that if someone would outbid me with some extortionate amount I wouldn’t get into a war.
At the same time, I knew somehow that this auction was there for me and no one else. It sounds arrogant I know, but the situation reminded me of a short story by Franz Kafka called “Before the Law”. In it, the protagonist is being told by a guard: “Don’t walk through that door – it’ll be the worst decision you’ll ever make”. Plenty of time passes, and our hero is about to die. The guard walks over to him and says “this door was only there for you – I’m going to close it now”.
I wasn’t going to give in to that guard, nor the voices telling me this was too much money. This was a once in a lifetime chance, an opportunity, something I connected with the moment I saw it.
My bid was $507 with only 2 minutes to go. At this time of night, European audiences should be in bed, but I was prepared for bidding competition from the US and possibly Asia.
One minute to go. Nothing happened. I was still the highest bidder. Two previous parties had been battling in out in the early stages of this 10 day auction, I had expected one of them to come back. But they didn’t.
30 seconds to go. I know how sniping works, and if someone would place a bid now it would be impossible for me to come back with a higher bid. 10 seconds is the deadline for the final snipe, if you leave it longer than that your bid may not get through.
And there is was… 3… 2… 1… Ebay said: congratulations, you’ve won this item! I paid immediately and savoured the moment.
I didn’t know that Patti was watching too, and she sent me a lovely message saying that it’s so rare someone waits up this long, fully appreciating how late it must be where I am. There we were, buyer and seller, thousands of miles apart – Patti in Reno, me in London, both watching the same auction.
The next challenge was to ship the camera over to the UK. Patti promised me during the night that she would post it the next day. Thanks to USPS, I could track the progress of my package as it travels the globe. How exciting!
I received a prompt email with the tracking code from USPS in the afternoon, however one line of my address was missing. Royal Mail over here are fairly clever, but I didn’t want to take a chance so I contacted Patti and asked if she could add the missing information online somehow.
And guess what? She managed to speak to David, the clerk at the post office who handled the package originally. He then went and dug through a huge pile of parcels, found mine, opened the clear plastic and hand-write that missing part of my address on the label. I was thrilled! Thank you David 😉
The last hurdle was getting the camera to my door. I received a letter from the Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise department regarding Import Duty, which I duly paid and scheduled my delivery.
So now it’s here in London – and it’s an absolute beauty!
Thank you, Patty, for making this marvellous piece of photographic history available to me. Thank you David at the Reno Post Office, and thank you to all my friends and colleagues who have encouraged me to buy it.
Now let’s take a look if this puppy can take pictures 😉