1940’s Spy Camera
Certificate Of Authenticity
Hundreds of thousands of Mini-Cameras similar this little gem were produced by various manufacturers over the years. Arrow and Crown were the major importers and distributors of miniature cameras from various sources. Many Mini-Cameras produced by different manufacturer were marketed with the Arrow and Crown private label.
Of course, the professional spy used high quality miniature cameras like the Minox. We are told the inexpensive Mini-Camera has been the fallback of the lower-level secret agents and the underground, as it could easily be concealed in the hand or in a cigarette pack. For the cost of a single Minox one could buy hundreds of these Mini-Cameras that produced a good quality photo under good lighting conditions. The Arrow Mini-Camera's only real short coming was the lack close-up features.
Imagine… near the end of World War II, metal of all types was very scarce. These popular “Spy” Mini-Cameras were not unavailable because the high cost of materials.
This sample run of WW II Mini-Cameras were manufactured from low-grade scrap metal, in fact, they were probably made from American beer cans. Another interesting note…although the place of origin is printed as “Made In Hong Kong,” these WW II Cameras were probably made in China. China had an extremely poor quality rating in the U.S. and Hong Kong sounded exotic. Countries of origin were not closely checked in those days. They were, probably brokered through Hong Kong, then shipped to the U.S.
An expert told us this little camera could have been made in “Occupied Japan” and packaged with the Hong Kong origin lable. This would make them even more valuable.
Another interesting tidbit of WW II import tax history. The “Non Halation Fine Grain High Speed Panchromatic Film” was marked “Specialized for Toy Camera.” This defined the “film” not as film but as a toy, which had a cheaper import tax rate.
Suddenly the war ended and scrap metal became available, so a much better quality Mini-Camera model went into production. The newer “Peace Time” models were rushed to the States and arrived only a couple of months after the sample run of Mini-Camera WW II models had reached the warehouses near Canal Street in New York City. The records are not available to determine the number of these WW II Mini-Cameras that were sold, however, due to the low quality, we understand the return rate must have been huge. The entire shipment of these Min-Cameras were believed to be totally destroyed.
In the 1960’s, Circle Magic’s retail store at 52nd Street and Broadway, Manhattan, New York, and their national mail order business became a major marketer of the little Spy Camera. What happened was, a few small cases of these WW II Cameras and film in their original six-pack mini-carton were discovered when the original distributor was cleaning out their warehouse. They offered the lot to Circle Magic at a “special price” as the film was years out of date.
They were shipped to the Circle Magic warehouse at 52nd Street and Broadway. Circle Magic replaced the old film with new fresh film when the WW II Mini-Cameras were shipped to their customers, but again, the return rate was high. Circle Magic ceased to market this specific model and went back to selling similar but higher quality Mini-Cameras made in Japan.
Again, the remaining WW II Mini-Cameras were forgotten in a corner of the Circle Magic warehouse. In this batch of goods were also a few of the better quality Mini-Cameras made in what was then called Occupied Japan. They are marked “Japan” not “Occupied Japan.”
When Circle Magic’s warehouse was moved to Long Island in the 1980’s, the moving company transferred the cameras and film and they were again stored away at the rear of the warehouse.
In 1998, while clearing the Circle Magic warehouse to increase much needed space, these WW II Cameras and original film were again discovered. And now, these Mini-Cameras are indeed a find, as only a few of this original WW II Mini-Camera model exists today and no others, that we can find, are in “mint” condition. Note… there is not a spot of rust on these 50-year-old camera.
I personally verify that the Mini-Camera and film enclosed were shipped to Circle Magic during the time specified and remained in our possession until this date.
Yes! You can now own a little piece of history.
Because your 1940’s Spy Camera is in mint condition, in its original box and the six-pack of film is in its original carton, it makes a perfect display item for your collection. We have created a museum-type information card for your show case. This 1940's Spy Camera museum-type information card will be included with your order.
P.S. If you are going to display the tiny spy camera, we have a few mini-cartons of the original 50-year old original film (6 rolls per carton). This will make a great showcase item.
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