So, how much is a camera that’s gone into space worth? If it’s this particular Hasselblad 500, it’ll set you back 660,000 Euro, or around $910,000. That’s how much Terukazu Fujisawa, founder of the Yodobashi Camera retail chain in Japan, paid during the respectable WestLicht auction house’s 25th camera auction, held on March 21-22 in Austria. Plenty of cameras have gone into orbit and back, but what makes this particular unit unique is that it is the camera used by astronaut Jim Irwin, who was the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 15, NASA’s fourth moon landing. That means the camera not only went into space, but all the way to the moon. Or, did it?
When WestLicht announced in February that it had secured the camera for auction, it said that it’s the only one of 14 cameras that made it back to Earth, with the remaining 13 being abandoned on the moon. WestLicht also claims that it’s the only camera to have ever returned from the moon, which Irwin used to shoot about 299 photos during the mission.
But the claims were immediately questioned. As Pop Photo points out, Kishore Sawh of SLRLounge said two other cameras have gone to the moon and back, which disputes the WestLicht claim that it has the only camera to ever do so. Meanwhile, CollectSpace pondered if Camera No. 1038, the Irwin camera being auctioned, ever touched down on the moon at all. Based on the serial numbers, it seems the WestLicht camera had gone to auction before, in November 2012, at the RR Auction in New Hampshire; the camera was sold for $42,704. But that camera was described as having been in a lunar orbit during an Apollo mission, with no claim of it being used by Irwin on the moon.
Nonetheless, despite the controversy, the camera received a winning bid that’s much higher than WestLicht’s estimate of 200,000 Euro (the bidding started at 80,000 Euro). In a press release, WestLicht said that it was an extremely close bidding war. No one is denying that the camera went into space, and we doubt WestLicht, which has been auctioning rare cameras for some time, would make up claims out of thin air. But the disputes of its authenticity weren’t enough to deter Fujisawa and others to bid big money on it, obviously.
(Via Pop Photo; images via WestLicht)