An extraordinary collection of spy cameras has just been auctioned.
'Willie Feinberg was not a spy as far as we know," says Charles Leski of Mossgreen Auctions, "but he certainly understood their tradecraft."
Evidence of this is his extraordinary collection of 225 miniature cameras, many designed especially for spying and espionage. These went on sale through Mossgreen in Melbourne on April 13, and sold well, fetching a total of $75,847 (including buyer's premiums, IBP). The average result was 10 per cent above estimates.
Leski says there were about 50 people in the rooms and another 150 participating by phone, on the web and through prior bids. Foreign interest came from Germany, China and the United States.
There was strong interest in Feinberg's spy cameras, with some having the joke-shop quality of Get Smart.
The most obvious example is the camera disguised as a pack of JPS cigarettes, made circa 1970 by Kiev-Arsenal in Ukraine. The cigarettes protruding from the top of the pack are the camera controls; the lens is hidden along the side of the pack. Estimates were $300 to $400, and it sold for $701.50 IBP.
Minox, the former Latvian, now German, manufacturer of sub-miniature cameras, was especially well-represented in the collection. Its spy cameras were used by both sides in the Cold War and featured in the earlier James Bond movies. Among the 50 or so examples listed were some made when Latvia was under Soviet control. One from 1940, in original brown leather case and engraved ''Made in USSR'', sold for $1708 IBP.