The prototype of a Leica M with a square-image format from 1954 stole the show at last Saturday’s fourth auction at Wetzlar Camera Auctions. The final price of €687,500, including the buyer’s premium, represented the highest price achieved at the auction.
Our own William Fagan offered some preliminary information when he selected the highlights to go under the hammer last Saturday. Read his predictions here.
A 1959 military Leica IIIg rocketed from a starting price of just €8,000 to an astounding €582,500. With a NATO olive-green body cover, the IIIg came from the former inventory of the German Bundeswehr. A Leica If Betriebskamera (factory camera) from the estate of a former Leitz designer was sold for €175,000.
A total of 256 lots were auctioned last Saturday, the majority associated with Leica. There had been keen anticipation up to the start of the auction, and up to eight telephone bidders were simultaneously connected to the floor when individual top pieces came up for auction.
Participation from worldwide online bidders was also exceptionally high. In total, more than 500 customers were connected this way alone, a huge challenge for auctioneer Anne-Katrin Hoffmann and the entire WCA team.
“The market for collectables remains extremely strong. Historical cameras also benefit from this, especially those from the traditional Wetzlar manufacturer Leica,” emphasised WCA co-owner Lars Netopil before the start of the auction.
Spectacular results were also achieved for rare Leica copies and Leica-mount lenses from third-party manufacturers. An extremely rare Italian San Giorgio Janua camera prototype from around 1947 was sold for €75,000.
A Dallmeyer Super-Six Anastigmat lens from 1952 fetched a whopping €56,250, while a 5 cm Macro Plasmat f/2.7 by Hugo Meyer Görlitz from the 1930s achieved a similar price. Another example of this lens with a bayonet mount for the Contax camera fetched twice the estimate at €75,000.
A particularly interesting section of this year’s auction catalogue was the rare black-painted versions of the early Leica M models M3, MP and M2 from the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, these cameras and the associated black-painted lenses were reserved for press photographers and unavailable in the regular sales program.
An extremely rare black-painted Leica MP from 1957 was sold for €625,000, and the similar rare black-lacquer Leica IIIf camera from the former inventory of the Swedish Military found a new owner for an amazing €162,500.
The Leica MDa NASA version on offer was the second example of this type known anywhere in the world. The bidding was correspondingly strong from several interested parties who joined the auction by telephone. Despite this international interest, the lot was snapped up by one bidder in the auction room at a price €625,000. Finally, a unit of the Soviet Salyut 1 V medium-format space camera from 1968 achieved a hammer price of €93,750 from a starting price of €30,000.
WCA co-owner Jo Geier said, “space has always held a special fascination, not least for camera collectors. In addition, the corresponding cameras were only manufactured in small series or sometimes even as one-offs. Accordingly, such pieces are rarely offered on the market. On the demand side, rare space cameras are at the top of many collectors’ wish lists. This explains the exceptionally high prices sometimes achieved in this field”.
High prices all round
Wetzlar Camera Auctions now has a reputation for achieving high prices not only for Leica cameras and lenses. This was demonstrated in Saturday’s auction when a particularly impressive result was achieved for an ultra-fast 58 mm f/1.0 Nikon lens from the 1970s. Two telephone customers engaged in a fierce bidding war, resulting in an incredible price of €187,500. This is the world’s highest-ever price for a Nikon lens at auction.