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08-28-2017, 11:01 PM - 1 Like   #1
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A Spotmatic oddity

A newly acquired piece with an interesting history. It's a Spotmatic SP which is absolutely normal apart from two features which have everything to do with avoiding tax.



The little E.P stamped on the rewind lever shows that it was sold in Japan for export only, i.e. it could not be sold to Japanese civilians, and consequently there was no tax on it and it was substantially cheaper. As far as I can tell these were probably sold in the PX (Post Exchange?) on US military bases to US serviceman. However there was one issue with that, which brings us to the second photo:



At that time Honeywell had the exclusive license to sell Pentax cameras in the US and that extended to cameras bought by private citizens. As a US citizen you could not bring an Asahi Pentax camera into the US unless you first defaced the Pentax logo so that it could not be resold (as new). Presumably tourists were free to bring in their own cameras as they would normally leave the country again when the tourist returned home. So whichever poor soldier bought this bargain Spottie originally had to then watch it be devalued in the name of enforcing a corporate agreement aimed at stamping out the gray market.

When it was listed on eBay there was a little metal strip covering the damaged Pentax logo, which was in turn engraved with Pentax to try and restore some of its value. I much prefer the full story so carefully removed it to show the work of US Customs.

08-28-2017, 11:42 PM   #2
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Some nasty disfiguring of a beautiful camera, but an interesting story.
08-29-2017, 12:07 AM   #3
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I saw that listing and didn't bid as the covering plate looked really odd, nice pickup and thanks for the information on the history
08-29-2017, 12:59 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I bought a Spotmatic in a US Navy exchange in Japan around 1970 which has the export stamp on the film advance lever but the face still reads Asahi Pentax. Seemingly there were exceptions to the defacement requirement for items sold to US servicemen at that time or the requirement had lapsed by then..

08-29-2017, 06:06 AM   #5
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A shame about the Honeywell licensing...the Asahi logotype and logo just look so much more interesting.

---------- Post added 08-29-17 at 09:07 AM ----------

How does the SP compare to SP500 and SP1000?
08-29-2017, 06:35 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by baldeagle21b Quote
I bought a Spotmatic in a US Navy exchange in Japan around 1970 which has the export stamp on the film advance lever but the face still reads Asahi Pentax. Seemingly there were exceptions to the defacement requirement for items sold to US servicemen at that time or the requirement had lapsed by then..
They were also sold in the military exchanges (PX, Navy Exchange) in Viet Nam. A couple of guys in my unit brought back Spotmatics that weren't defaced, and were cleared through customs without any questions. The were purchased at the Navy Exchange in Danang
08-29-2017, 07:16 AM   #7
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I purchased an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic from the Navy exchange in Rota, Spain in 1969 - no 'extra' markings or defacing on it.
08-29-2017, 08:02 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by timw4mail Quote
How does the SP compare to SP500 and SP1000?
They're fairly similar, as the SP1000 is effectively just an SP with the self-timer removed. (And the SP500 is just the SP1000 with the 1/1000 shutter speed marking removed from the dial. )

08-29-2017, 09:11 AM   #9
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<EP> mark is ambiguous. Some suggest that it indicates post exchange goods and others that it indicates goods for export. Neither would have affected import duty into the U.S., though there is some indication that they might have been exempt from internal taxation in Japan. The mark disappeared in the early 1970s and as noted above, was not universal even for PX cameras. I have several pre-1970, post-WWII Japanese cameras and only my Pentax SV and one of my Spotmatics has the <EP> mark.

The defaced front is a different phenomenon. Legend is that returning soldiers would deface the camera in an attempt to avoid import duty. Why they would have stopped at "Pentax" on the front is hard to say. Others suggest that the cameras were "seconds" and were not intended for sale. Who knows for sure except that neither is an indication of value except for diehard collectors. I have heard the Honeywell story before, though I find it hard to believe that U.S. customs would enforce an exclusive importer contract. However, I can imagine a gray market importer intentionally defacing a pallet of cameras with intent to avoid lawsuit.

Edit: I did find a reference to a April 1966 Modern Photography article claiming that customs at that time blocked import of many name brand items if not imported by the trademark holder for the name. It still sounds fishy to me, but what do I know...https://www.photo.net/discuss/threads/why-would-someone-have-etched-leitz-off-a-lens.427491/

Edit...edit: Found the law in question (part of the Lanham Act of 1946, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1124, section 1125 is pertinent too). The provision is for intentional import for sale rather than casual transport as personal property with customs being responsible to deny entry with the rational being trademark dilution. Removal of or obscuring the offending mark would allow entry.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 08-29-2017 at 02:12 PM.
08-29-2017, 04:53 PM - 1 Like   #10
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This camera wiki entry on the EP mark shows a few more variations. Although most of the sources I could find talk about how rare it is to see an item marked this way I'd agree with Steve that it doesn't make it valuable. There is desirable rarity and there is obscure rarity.
08-29-2017, 05:53 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by g026r Quote
... the SP1000 is effectively just an SP with the self-timer removed.

Like second-generation K1000 cameras AP assembled most (all?) SP1000 bodies in Hong Kong.
AFAIK all Spotmatic SP bodies were made entirely in Japan.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/8-pentax-film-slr-discussion/263019-sp1000-manufacturing.html

Chris
01-29-2018, 05:41 PM   #12
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Me two!

In the last few weeks I've received two Pentax SVs -- one stamped "NO TAX" and the other with the little "E.P". Neither was defaced.
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01-29-2018, 07:07 PM   #13
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I recall being told in the 1960s that trademarked cameras MAILED back to the US would require defacing the trademarks before the post office would release them. I've seen several cameras from that era with the trademarks just roughly ground off. Perhaps carrying in when returning in uniform avoided that issue.
01-29-2018, 09:41 PM   #14
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Apparently this defacement extended to "Takumar" and "Asahi" on lenses too. Of course not on the Honeywell label on the camera.



The only blemish on an otherwise very fine performing fisheye lens.
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