The personal camera owned by Ernst Leitz II, the man behind Leica, has sold at auction for €102,000 – approximately $121,000 / £88,000 / AU$162,000.
The Leica I Mod. A was potentially a Christmas present, received by Leitz on Christmas Eve 1924, and looks to be the first such camera to be delivered, as nobody else received theirs until at least February the following year.
• Read more: Best Leica cameras (opens in new tab)
Part of the recent Leitz Photographica Auction, which also saw a prototype Russian camera rifle (opens in new tab) sell for over $170,000, the lot exceeded its top estimate of €103,000.
ORIGINAL STORY (27 May 2021): A bona fide piece of photographic history could be yours next month, as the personal camera of Ernst Leitz II is going up for auction in Vienna with a top estimate of €100,000 – approximately $122,000 / £86,000 / AU$158,000.
The Leica I was delivered to Leitz on 24 December 1924, and is speculated to have been a Christmas gift to the man who made the decision to manufacture the camera in 1923.
• Read more: The name behind Leica cameras: Ernst Leitz II (opens in new tab)
While it can't lay claim to being the best Leica camera (opens in new tab), this particular Leica I – numbered 165 – also holds significance as being potentially the first Leica I Mod. A delivered. According to the listing at Leitz Photographica Auction (opens in new tab), all other cameras from the batch were delivered in February or June 1925.
This one, delivered on Christmas Eve 1924, seems to be the first – which you'd expect, if it was indeed a Christmas present for the brains behind the company.
From factory service records, it has been revealed that the camera was sent to the workshop on three occasions and upgraded several times to reach its finished form. It has beautiful brassing, which has historic as well as aesthetic value as it would have been caused by Leitz capturing his own personal photographs.
The listing also includes an unnumbered, nickel Elmar 50mm f/3.5 lens and an unnumbered Fodis rangefinder (as the camera is an early one without an integrated one), along with two film spools and a leather Etrin case.
"The only other camera of such significance was the Leica 0-Series no.102 that, according to the Leica archives, was also given to Leitz Junior," says the auction listing (notably, a Leica 0-Series prototype (opens in new tab) was auctioned last year). "The offered Leica is the only camera ever offered for sale that belonged to the man."
The 38th Leitz Photographica Auction (opens in new tab) takes place on 12 June in Vienna.