An extremely rare Leica 0-series camera from 1923 is headed to auction next month and is expected to draw upwards of $2,140,000.
Described as one of the most significant Leica cameras after the UR-Leica, only between 22 and 25 0-series cameras were produced in 1923 for the sake of testing — two years before the first Leica camera was launched publicly.
“Based on the assessment of the Leica 0-series by the experts involved, Ernst Leitz II decided in 1924 to mass-produce the camera designed by Oskar Barnack,” The Wetzlar Camera Auction writes. “The ‘revolution in photography’ that was initiated as a result took its course. The Leica-0 series is therefore not just the prototype of the Leica I, but the prototype of all Leica 35mm cameras to date.”
Today, only 16 are still known to exist, and this camera is one of them. Obviously, due to both rarity and significance among all Leica cameras, any Leica 0-Series is considered extremely exciting to collectors. This particular camera, number 121 of a series starting with 101, comes from a private Italian collection and was last sold over 30 years ago.
“In the delivery list for cameras from the Leica 0-series, which is still in the Leica archive, there are a total of 20 entries in the number range 101 to 125 — the lines with the numbers 116 and 121 and 123 to 125 are empty,” the auction house continues.
“It is still unclear whether cameras numbered 123 to 125 were completed. On page 115 of Oskar Barnack’s workshop manual, there is a table showing the delivery of 13 Leica 0-series cameras from the period between March and September 1923, as well as the names of the recipients.”
The camera has its original black paint and is considered to be in “very nice” condition. It comes equipped with a five-element Anastigmat 50mm f/4.5 lens with an aperture that closes as far as f/12 with what are described as “very clean” optics.
The Wetzlar Camera Auctions has listed a starting price of €800,000, or about $857,000, with an anticipated selling price between €1.5 and €2 million (between approximately $1,607,000 and $2,140,000).
The last time a Leica 0-series camera went to auction (number 105), it sold for significantly more: $15 million. It had a similar original estimated price, but the final sale was driven up by an additional wrinkle of rarity, as it was personally used by Oskar Barnack. The number 121 Leica 0-series doesn’t have that going for it, but it is still an incredibly rare piece of camera history that will undoubtedly attract collectors. It is scheduled to be auctioned on October 7, 2023.
Image credits: Wetzlar Camera Auction