The third Wetzlar Camera Auction on October 9 saw a total of 252 lots up for bidding. Most of them were Leica cameras but one rare Canon lens fetched €500,000, the highest price achieved at auction for a camera lens anywhere in the world.
The auction again took place at the charming Hotel Buergerhof, right in the heart of the historic old town of Wetzlar.
Many of the exhibits had resulted in considerable media attention prior to the event and there was strong international interest on the day. Up to seven telephone bidders were simultaneously connected to the auction room when individual top items were called up. Over 500 customers were connected by this route alone.
Lars Netopil, WCA co-owner said that the collectables market, in general, had become significantly stronger overall during the pandemic: “Historical cameras, especially those from the traditional Wetzlar manufacturer Leica, also benefited from this new interest.”
1932 Leica III
The prototype of a Leica III from 1932 was sold for an astonishing €375,000. The estimated price for this camera, designed by Leica inventor Oskar Barnack, was between €80,000 and €100,000, and this was exceeded many times over.
A particularly high result of €450,000 was achieved for a Leica M4 from the former inventory of the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). In NATO olive-green paint finish, this 1968 camera had started at just €60,000.
Some spectacular results were also achieved for rare Leica lenses. A prototype of the first Leitz Summilux 35 mm (engraved “Summarit 1:1.4/35”) from 1959 went for four times the estimated price at €187,500.
An original gold-plated version of the 50 mm Summicron lens for the Leica M from 1957 also achieved an astonishing €40,000.
The Leica copy
As in the previous year, Leica copies constituted a particularly interesting section of the auction catalogue. An extremely rare black-lacquered FED I from 1934 was hammered at €50,000. This camera is one of the earliest Soviet Leica copies. The Soviet GOI camera rifle from the World War II period found a new owner for a heady €250,000.
A prototype Rollei Kineidoscope 35 mm stereo camera from 1939 reached a hammer price of €87,500 from a starting price of €12,000.
Canon goes with a bang
A Canon telephoto lens EF 1200 mm f/5.6 from the 1990s achieved a particularly spectacular result. Only around 20 specimens of this lens were originally produced on special order. The original list price was a staggering $90,000. Two customers who were connected by telephone engaged in an exciting bidding war so that the lens was finally hammered at half a million euros. It is the highest price ever achieved at auction for a camera lens in the world.
WCA directors Lars Netopil and David Pitzer (both Wetzlar), and Jo Geier (Vienna) announced their next auction for October 8, 2022.