Collecting VPK cameras.
Specialist camera shops, flea markets and bric-a-brac shops were once the only places to find these cameras, but no more! The internet, especially Ebay, now places a continual trickle of cameras before the
collector. Much of what is offered is overpriced junk. Mutilated, abused and neglected examples can be
paraded that they are 'old - rare - collectors items'! Paradoxically such cameras can be listed alongside
identical cameras in much better condition, with clearer photographs, more honest descriptions and cheaper!
Buying on the Internet.
There is no substitute for handling a camera before buying and the internet has this very big disadvantage.
Despite this some indicators can be looked for. Even with poor quality photographs of the camera, the black painted viewfinder lens ring is usually visible since it protrudes from the front plate of the camera. The better the visual condition of this ring, (i.e. the smallest paint loss) often better is the overall quality of the surface finish. Cameras for sale in carrying cases can be in better condition too.
Most cameras have a shiny black paint-work finish which is easily scratched. Especially vulnerable are the edges of the side plates which almost invariably show some paint loss so is to be expected. Most durable is the Japan crystal crackle finish which is more scratch resistant. Aluminium body parts can sometimes suffer an oxidation corrosion which breaks through the paint and looks awful. Morocco leather was easily the most elegant covering but when neglected looks really terrible.
If the vendor provides a inexpert description of what he is selling, this can be good sign. Screw losses from the lens plate is a common problem but such losses can usually be seen. If the camera is described as having a non-working shutter or inoperative aperture control - take care! Perhaps the seller has already "had a go" at repairs and has ruined everything. The autographic metal stylus should be in its holder. Missing styli are almost impossible to replace.
Knowing that 'if it can fall-off it will' the parts that can be lost are the stylus in autographic cameras, fixing screws and removable side plates in that order. Not much can be done about missing styli but non-standard screws are sometimes substituted and crackle finished side plates can be fitted to black painted cameras. Buyer beware!
Kodak ball-bearing shutters are almost indestructible and can work in even neglected cameras Faulty shutters however seem to resist all attempts to revive them; complicated, they defy even the most skilful screwdriver. Because they are in front of the lens in standard VPK cameras, shutter and aperture parts are exposed to the elements. Consequently these parts are invariably tarnished so is expected. Shutters behind lenses in VPK Special cameras however should always appear bright, clean and tarnish free.