75-year-old Leica Reporter camera & motor-drive sets world-record price
One of Leica's 250 GG "Reporter" cameras fitted with a "Leica-Motor MOOEV,” the world’s first 35mm camera motor drive unit, has gone within a whisker of becoming the 14th camera to ever sell for more than US$1 million.
As seems almost mandatory whenever Leitz Photographica holds an auction, the historic model set a new world record auction price on 10 June 2023 when it sold for €900,000 (US$967,410).
In 1936, the Leica Reporter became the first 35mm camera to feature a 1/1,000 second shutter speed, so the logical development of a larger film housing and a motor-drive ensued, with the resultant package capable of shooting four frames a second.
When fitted with a 250-frame cassette housing and the MOOEV electric motor drive, the resulting “GG” model cameras became an important technological advantage for the Luftwaffe (German for “air weapon”) arm of the German military during World War II, and a special compartment was made to house the camera in the Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bomber for aerial surveillance and to measure the effectiveness of bombing runs.
The Stuka was the only aircraft that made that distinctive trumpet-like sound as it dived and zeroed in on its target, and it was so effective at inducing fear that it is invariably used in any WW2 movie involving air-to-ground combat. If you were one of the unlucky ones on the ground, you knew that precisely-targeted bombs were incoming, so the sound chilled opposing combatants and civilians alike to the bone.
The distinctive piercing sound and its easily recognizable inverted gull wings, resulted in "Stuka" becoming a household term in Britain, and an enduring and iconic symbol of WW2 for many decades thereafter.
Thanks to the difficulties in manufacturing these technological marvels 85 years ago, only 92 cameras were equipped with an electric motor drive MOOEV and used for aerial reconnaissance, and almost all of them ended up in Stukas.
That's one of the reasons they are now ready to breach the million-dollar mark – rarity.
Though the Stuka was pinpoint accurate in delivering its bombs, and scared the bejesus out of ground-based combatants, it was no match for the Supermarine Spitfire, P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F6F Hellcat, Hawker Hurricane or almost any of the Allied planes once the war got underway, and its attrition rate was appalling.
It seems those stylish booties that carried the landing gear and the ram air trumpets were not very aerodynamic, making the Stuka unwieldy and slow and too much of a handful in any air-to-air encounter.
Only 16 of the 92 units are thought to have survived the war.
Leitz Photographica's Auctions dominate the camera market
Twice annually, Leica Camera Classics, a subsidiary of Leica Camera, holds what is known as the Leitz Photographica Auction.
Held at Vienna’s Hotel Bristol, it has become the world’s largest vintage camera auction, and over the last two decades the Leitz Photographica Auction is entirely responsible for having elevated the world’s most important cameras into the same realm of collectibility and appreciation of technical excellence … and professional investment … as the art world.
Every single year the auctions have set world records as they have increasingly become a destination event for the cream of the world’s camera collectors and investors, and they have also come to serve as a reference point for the market value of historical cameras.
The auctions aren’t just for Leica cameras either, with a Giroux Daguerréotype from 1839 fetching €732,000 (US$897,578) in 2010, and a Susse Freres Daguerréotype fetching €576,000 (US$774,893) in 2007.
This year the first of the two Leitz Photographica Auctions of historical cameras and vintage camera accessories saw equally extraordinary results and in addition to the Leica 250 GG Reporter and MOOEV Leica-Motor that fetched €900,000 (including buyers premium) after a fierce bidding battle, a Leica M3 black paint "First Batch black dial" sold for €540,000 (US$580,446).
The previous record price for a Leica 250 GG Reporter fitted with a MOOEV Leica-Motor was set almost a decade ago in 2014 when one of the very first units produced (#6 of 92) was sold for €576,000 (US$785,088).
The next Leitz Photographica auction is scheduled to take place in Vienna on 24-25 November, 2023.