My Collecting Story

Jun 7, 2016  By William Fagan


Leica users everywhere derive pleasure from using their Leica cameras.  The cameras were made to be used but, as mechanical and historical objects, classic Leica cameras, lenses and accessories can also give pleasure as collector items.  A well known website, Collectiblend(, which gives auction results for various types of collector cameras, lists about 650 types and variants of Leica camera and about 530 Leica lenses. This is far greater than most other camera makes. I was surprised to see that there are more cameras than lenses on the lists, but Leica always had many types, variants and evolutions long before the M6 ‘special edition’ days. At most camera auctions the Leica cameras and lenses are the largest group and also the ones with the highest percentage of items sold.

When I first started to use Leica cameras about 8 years ago (this makes me a comparative neophyte by LHSA standards!) I quickly became conscious that Leica had a long history and I bought Denis Laney’s book, Leica Collector’s Guide. It is a very large book and I decided to leave collecting for a year or so until I became semi-retired and had more time on my hands.

About 5 years ago I was walking through Grafton Street in Dublin when I actually saw an assistant putting a Leica II Model D in the window. This is a modern shop which nowadays largely sells digital cameras,  so that event was remarkable in itself. I went into the shop immediately and checked the item. I then went home and checked the Laney book and the price from online sources. The following day I went into town again and bought the camera. Thus my ‘collecting career’ was born.

At this point I would like to say that while, at this stage, I have over 30 Leica cameras, with ‘dates of birth’ from 1926 up to the present time, in my collection. I am not just a collector and I still use the film models ‘in the field’ as well as the current digital models. There are, maybe, 2 or 3 very old models in my collection which have yet to be used as they are somewhat ‘delicate’.  I regard myself as an ODC or ‘Ordinary Decent Collector’, and my collection is neither very exotic nor hugely valuable. My main interest is in screwmount models but I also have all the main M film models from the M3 up to the M7.


Auctioneers or Retailers?

My collecting started with retail dealers but soon migrated to auctions as it seemed to me that there were many models which which were rarely seen outside of auctions. I have used a number of auction houses in Europe and North America to build my collection, the main ones being Westlicht in Vienna, Austria, Tamarkin in the USA,  Rahn in Frankfurt, Germany, LP in Sweden and SAS in the UK. I have been, generally, very pleased with my dealings with those auction houses and also with retail dealers, such as Red Dot Cameras and Peter Loy in the UK and Leicashop in Vienna.

TLS Auctions and Collecting 2 Grey IIIc and IIIcK (1 of 1)-Edit

These are two grey IIIcs from 1942. One is a IIIc and the other on the front left is a IIIcK, the K standing for ‘Kugellager’ or ‘ball bearing’ in English. These grey models are sometimes treated as military cameras but neither of these cameras appear in Dr Luigi Cane’s book of military serial numbers produced for the German Leica Historical Society (Leica Historica e.V.), which I treat as my ‘bible’ on this subject. Some cameras from this period were produced in grey paint not for any military requirement but because chrome materials were in short supply because of the war.

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1 Comment

Excellent article, William! Thank you very much for sharing your experience in such a clear way.

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