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How Much Was the First Polaroid Camera?

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By Christian Roemer

Sometimes it’s fun to hop into our imaginary time machine and travel a few decades in the past.

In this case, we’re time-skipping to try and answer a pretty simple question: how much did the first polaroid camera cost?

According to MentalFloss, the first Polaroid camera cost $89.75 way back in 1942. If we adjust that amount to December 2021 dollars, it would equal around $1,530. That’s right: a brand new Polaroid camera would have cost about the same as a premium model iPhone.


The first Polaroid camera was called the Land Camera Model 95A (really creative, Polaroid!), and it was available exclusively at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston. Let’s deconstruct this sentence.


When the first Polaroid camera was available for purchase, it wasn’t even called a Polaroid camera. Instead, it was called a Land Camera. Eventually, Polaroid would rebrand their cameras to Polaroid, because it’s obviously a better brand name. Additionally, it was only available at a store brand that doesn’t exist anymore. That means, if you went back in time to purchase the first Polaroid camera, you’d be purchasing an item manufactured by a company that would eventually go out of business. You’d also be purchasing the camera in a store that would eventually go out of business.


I guess Polaroid and Jordan Marsh had a rough go of it.


Personally, I find the price tag completely insane. Even though inflation and modern manufacturing have made most things comparatively cheaper today than in the mid 1900s, that $1500 price tag is eye popping! Even worse, how many times have I heard my parents complain about buying a new cell phone and balking at the price tag? And to think, Polaroid was posting those prices before my dad was even close to being born.


Wild!


I do have to say, the image of a bunch of 1940s hipsters lining up outside of Jordan Marsh to get the latest model Polaroid camera is pretty funny. The comparison is apropos, because many have compared the early Polaroid Company to Apple, because it was so dang innovative! The idea of an instant camera was mind blowing at the time, and the idea proved to be amazing. Polaroid Company would be worth billions at the height of its popularity. Eventually, as we’ve learned, it went out of business. But it did shine brightly for a magnificent, short period of time.


Next time you’re out of conversation topics at dinner and you want to jump start some chatting, just drop this casual bomb: when the first Polaroid Camera was released, it was comparatively more expensive than an iPhone. I’m sure everyone will have an opinion about that!

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