The shop I work in has a second-hand dealer’s license.
This is no small thing – in a world beset by drug-fuelled thievery there is an enormous problem with photographer’s gear being stolen from houses, cars, workplaces, and whilst in transit. This is generally sold off by the thieves and the second-hand dealer’s laws are designed to prevent some of this. Of course nowadays there is the internet and a number of cheap or free sites that might be turned to service to fence stolen goods.
Back in the real world, we have to see several bona-fide forms of identification before we can consider goods for a trade-in or sale. The goods themselves are quarantined for a period of time and details are sent to the police department. No money is paid out for a fortnight. Occasionally this procedure – and it is a legal requirement of the license – turns up something hot and the rozzers can swing into action. It’s 50% exciting and 50% bureaucratic nonsense – and 50% bad arithmetic.
But it all means that we get to see a lot of used gear. Much of it is rejected for purchase or trade as it has no resale value. We’re frank about this to the clients – they can go try their luck at photographic yard sales or the internet. Or toss it at passers-by. But some of it is unique and we take a punt on it.
I often wonder, however, if people turn in their dreams and creativity when the trade in the cameras – a case in point is one set of 4 x 5 Toyo field camera gear that arrived. It will only go to another such as the previous owner, but these are few and far between. Their vision of the countryside is sometimes clichéd but if they would turn the same gear to use in a studio or with people wonders could happen…
Can the leopards change spots? Or spotlights? Or at least learn to use Photoshop and not have to do as much spotting? We hope so but we fear not. We are resigned to sending out the latest camera to someone who will try to do whatever has been featured in the glossy photo magazine in the news stand…when what they really should do is what they have always done. Just better.