A fire-damaged Leica M4 rangefinder camera with a Summicron 50mm lens has been sold for £1,488 ($2,070) at an auction in the United Kingdom, showing that even inoperable Leica cameras somehow hold value.
As described by the U.K. auction house Flints, the “chargrilled” Leica M4 — which comes with Leitz Summicron f/2 50mm lens — has been damaged by fire. Dated in 1968, the ashen camera is described as a collectible piece since the first-ever M4 was released just two years prior in 1966. That said, the fire damage makes it more of a statement art piece rather than a usable piece of equipment, even if the lens was swapped for one in working condition.
The camera sold for £1,200 ($1,670) at an auction on Thursday, 29 April 2021. The added premiums and taxes increased the final price to £1,488 ($2,070).
The auction house has not shared any details on how this antique camera ended up in this condition, however, Kosmo Foto quotes that photographer Jonathan Bloom — once the owner of the camera — told the Facebook group Vintage Camera Collectors that the 1968 camera had been damaged in a house fire.
I owned this actual camera. years ago. Bought it at a camera show. Sold it to a collector. Wound up in an auction. Now it’s here. so random. FYI; I paid $900 for it at the time. Maybe too much. Maybe too little. I thought of it as pared down to the basics of design. An object, perfect in its form. Stripped of its utility but perfect in its design. That is what’s cool about this. Anyone who bemoans the broken camera is full of s–t.
Buying and selling damaged photography gear is nothing new as spare parts are always in demand, but it is rarer to find cameras and lenses that have sustained as much damage as this particular example and still have any value.
A similar unique story was reported by PetaPixel in 2018 where two heavily moldy Hasselblad 500c cameras with 80mm planar lenses and film backs were auctioned on eBay.
Although the speed focus handle was in working condition, the seller cautioned buyers: “people with mold allergies should NOT bid on this item.” At the time of publishing the article in 2018, the bidding for this damaged Hasselblad had increased up to nearly $400, well short of the burned Leica’s value.
It is not known what buyers do with their damaged antiques but a user on the Leica forum, by the username of 250swb, calls the burned Leica M4 a “very, very expensive ornament.”