Something of a photographic sensation has suddenly struck the German speaking auction world with a new record price for a 35mm camera seen at WestLicht Photographica Auction (25% buyer’s premium) in Vienna on May 29.
A remarkable €137,000 (£91,335) was achieved for a Leica 250 GG
camera which the catalogue described as "the most important Leica
ever offered at auction".
It comes only a month after another Leica of the same model was
sold by Auktion Team Köln in Cologne for €90,000 (£60,000).
Four bidders competed for Westlicht's camera, which eventually
sold on the telephone to a private European collector. It had the
advantage over Auktion Team Köln's offering since the number
engraved on the inside of the detachable 24 volt motor was
identical with the camera number. Also, since this particular
camera was not issued until October 1945, it survived the turmoil
of the war undamaged and was therefore in considerably better
condition than its counterpart seen in Cologne. It also came with a
unique and specially made leather bag.
These cameras were created for the German Luftwaffe's Stuka dive
bombers. Of the 92 that were made with completed motors, only 15
are known to still exist. They were usually destroyed when their
fighter planes were shot down, but some, like the one seen at
Auktion Team Köln were taken as souvenirs by allied pilots.
However, after the end of the war, two of these cameras were issued
to Americans stationed in Wetzlar.
According to the Leitz sales book, the Westlicht camera ended up
with Captain Koonan of the 9th US Air Force. He is thought to have
had the bag made at the time, but the camera, however, remained
Apart from its rarity, the 250 camera is of historical importance
because it was the first Leica model to have a motor drive.
When in action during the war, the motor would be fixed in the
aeroplane, and the cameras were usually changed when a new film was
needed. Since this particular camera was never in action, the
original pairing of motor and body was maintained.