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Vintage Leica Camera Smashes Record

August 18, 2022
vintage camera from Leica Company

Leica prototype O-series serial no. 122

A vintage Leica camera smashed the auction record when it sold at the 40th Leitz Photographica auction. The Leitz Photographica auction takes place twice a year and is the world’s largest auction for vintage cameras and optical and photography lenses. The featured item was a Leica O-series (serial no. 105) camera, one of just 23 prototypes produced between 1923-24.

Leica is known as one of the most prestigious companies to make cameras. The company was founded in 1869 by Ernst Leitz and was taken over by his son, Ernst Leitz II, in 1920 when the senior Leitz passed away.  It was groundbreaking when Leitz developed the first 35 mm in the mid-1920s.  Leitz II, who trained as a mechanic at his father’s company, felt cameras were too bulky and big to carry around. Leitz thought a small portable camera with a lens he developed for microscopes could be used. He enlisted the help of an optical engineer, Oscar Barnack, who assisted him in developing the first prototype of the 35 mm camera shortly before WWI. The Leica vintage camera recently auctioned once belonged to Barnack.

Barnack gave the camera to his son around 1930, when he began using a Leica I Model C with interchangeable lenses.   It remained as a family heirloom until the 1960s when it was sold to a private collector in the United States.

Calumet 4 x 5 format camera

Could Be Yours!

The camera was estimated to make €2-3M as the last one that sold in 2018 garnered €2.4M at the same auction house; a record price for a camera sold at auction according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This time around, the price shot past the estimate by four times the high estimate, selling for €12M (€14.4M w/p – $15M).

On a side note… as we were packing up for our move to the new space, Howard found an old camera (see image titled: Could Be Yours!). I doubt it is worth anywhere near $15M, but if anyone wants it, please let us know; it will just cost you shipping 😉!