I have a reasonable collection of vintage cameras, so I can see the allure of them, and particularly a rare one. However, if you wanted to win an auction of the rare 1923 Leica that recently went up for sale, you needed the deepest of pockets.
This week, Leica Cameras announced that a record auction result had taken place during the 32nd WestLicht Camera Auction in Vienna. The camera — a Leica 0-Series no. 122 — was manufactured in 1923 as a batch of only 25 prototypes, two years before Lecia had even launched as a company. The initial creations were intended to test the water and see if they could enter and compete in the market. This sort of rare find does mean it's legitimately part of photography history and the auctioned piece contained all original parts, paintwork, matching lens cover, and folding finder, not to mention it is still in working order. However, the price that it fetched is eye-watering. This Leica 0-series went for €2.4 million which is just shy of $3 million. The buyer is a private collector from Asia and this purchase is believed to be the most expensive historic camera ever auctioned.
What struck me the most about this auction wasn't the money; that price is so far out of my frame of reference it might as well be in Schrute Bucks. What I was most surprised about is the styling of this little camera. It's fast approaching 100 years old and yet you can tell it's a Leica. It has the Leica look we are used to, despite being a prototype designed and manufactured 2 years before Leica even really existed. I can't think of another brand that has such aesthetic identity persisting through decades so relentlessly.