Coeln Vintage Cameras : Mission Statement
Peter Coeln on the fascination of old camera technologies and why he has decided to launch coelncameras.com, a new collector platform where the value of hand-picked vintage models counts more than their price.
When I began collecting old cameras in the 1980s, I had no idea where it would lead. My collection grew, and in 1991, I decided to open the world’s first Leica Shop in Vienna. It was a small shop exploring the history of the Leica brand. In 1993—the internet was still in its infancy—our first website for vintage cameras went online. The same year, I founded the Rare Camera Company in London and opened a second shop near the British Museum. I was and still am driven by my unfaltering passion for cameras, the beauty of well-conceived designs, the technical brilliance, and the sheer inventiveness that made the fascinating world of photography possible in the first place.
At the same time, I operated a studio for advertising and fashion photography on Westbahnstraße in Vienna. I always felt a strong connection to all things analog, and as photography was increasingly becoming digitized at the turn of the millennium, I closed the studio and inaugurated WestLicht, a showroom for photography and camera museum, at the same location. Today, WestLicht ranks among the most renowned photography museums in Europe. With exhibits like the famous Susse Frères Daguerréotype from 1839, the world’s first commercially produced camera, we are proud to be able to show the evolution of camera technologies end-to-end, from its beginnings to the first digital camera.
Our Leica Shop, selling vintage models of all brands, quickly became a large-scale operation. From 2002 on, we’ve hosted biannual camera auctions whose items fetch record prices time and again. With winning bids in the seven figures (in euros), particularly the Leica models have made global headlines.
On the one hand, this was good news—for one, because it helped ensure the continued operation of WestLicht, where my team and I could get people, especially young people, excited about photography in all its facets. On the other hand, however, I found it more and more regrettable that during this price explosion, cameras by other manufacturers of similar photo-historical significance were traded below their value.
With this online shop I therefore want to tread new paths, after my withdrawal from the Leica Shops and the affiliated auction house. At coelncameras.com we offer a deliberately small, very exclusive selection of special camera models. Placed at center stage are not their prices but qualities that, more than thirty years ago, prompted me to start collecting: objects with a history that stand out from the rest with their design, their visionary technology, and their creators’ power of innovation.
I look forward to presenting you the most fascinating discoveries. We will give you regular updates on new additions in our newsletter. Our blog will introduce you to individual extraordinary models and their stories, thus creating a platform to discuss a historical technology that revolutionized our perception of the world.