Magic lantern slides on Ebay


For those of us who collect antique stuff that most people have never heard of, you can find ‘it’ on Ebay, whatever ‘it’ is, if you wait long enough. I’m still looking for a Victorian thaumatrope and phenakistoscope (rare optical toys) but they’ll turn up eventually.

With regard to magic lantern slides, there are currently about 20,000 lots on Ebay UK and 28,000 worldwide. Are they all interesting? No. Will they all sell? No. Can you find a bargain? Yes, occasionally.

To build my collection before Ebay existed, I placed wanted advertisements in national magazines and then drove hundreds of miles to buy collections. Often, on arrival, the ‘find’ would prove to be very disappointing. Prices are much higher now but you don’t have to buy several hundred slides, as I did, in the hope of discovering something interesting.


So, what’s driving the current level of activity on Ebay? The slides that fetch the highest prices, often far beyond my budget, are photographs of social history interest. They might be of villages, ships, trams, farming or industrial scenes and are usually one hundred or more years old. If you’re interested in local history or perhaps researching your family history, a contemporary photograph brings the story to life. You can see where your great grandfather lived or the ship he served on or the factory he worked in.

In the past, the main source of such images was postcards, the prices of which have been sky high for many years. It’s only recently that collectors seem to have discovered that lantern slides offer similar photographs but are much higher resolution. Prices are still lower than equivalent postcards though. A word of warning ….. most lantern slides are awful …. poor contrast, boring subjects, faded and broken but the best ten percent are magnificent.


So, can you pick up a bargain? Today’s pictures are of three lantern slides from a group of ten, telling a slightly quirky version of the story of Robinson Crusoe that I bought recently on Ebay. They probably date from the 1870s, are beautifully hand coloured and in original mahogany frames. They are one hundred and forty year old works of art. The price for all ten ….. £15 plus £4 postage!

If you found this interesting, please share it with your family and friends. If you’re not reading it on my ‘Magic Lantern World‘ website, then please visit. There are over one hundred illustrated articles about Victorian slide projection and links to my historical photo-booklets on Amazon, my Ebay shop for magic lantern slides and Etsy store for historical photo greetings cards with a twist. You can read about my authentic Victorian magic lantern shows and talks on ‘Optical entertainments before the movies’ and lots more!

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