The world's first commercially-made camera model from 1839 is to be auctioned in May in Vienna, the Westlicht auction house announced Wednesday, expecting a new record price above 576,000 euros ($812,000).
Only ten of these Paris-made wooden boxes from the earliest stage of photography had so far been known to still exist in museums.
The current owner of the newly discovered camera is a German optician who lives near Braunschweig and who received it in the 1970s from his father.
The man kept the old Daguerreotype-type apparatus in his living room as a decorative object, said Westlicht's owner Peter Coeln. “He had no idea what it was worth.”
Westlicht sold a similar Daguerreotype made by the Paris company Susse Freres as the world's oldest in 2007 for 576,000 euros, a price that set the record for the world's most expensive camera, according to the auction house.
But researchers have recently established that the model by Alphonse Giroux which goes on sale May 29 was advertised a few days earlier in the summer of 1839.
Coeln said the camera was in surprisingly good, original condition and cited the included user manual as one element that proved its authenticity.
Invented by French chemist Louis Daguerre, a daguerreotype is an early type of photograph. It produces a direct image on a polished silver surface coated with light-sensitive silver halide particles.
As there was no negative original like in modern photography, no copies of pictures could be made.
The starting bid for the camera is 200,000 euros.