View Full Version : Are people dumping their Leica collections in the trash?

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David H. Bebbington
05-26-2007, 01:42 PM
I don't think so, but this article
seems to suggest a seismic shift in camera collector behavior. What experience do people have of this? Are the traditional blue-chip camera investments (like rare Leicas in mint condition) still holding value, or are they following the general downward trend of the rest of the secondhand market? Or is it that the supply of traditional collector's items is drying up and that more modern cameras (even original Nikon Fs, etc.) are not so interesting to collectors?

05-26-2007, 02:33 PM
I think the part about aging and declining collector base, is something I read a few years ago in another article. Quite simply the collectors are getting older, less interested, or simply dieing off.

People who actually want to use Leica cameras might find the situation better in the next few years. The too high prices of the past might reach more reasonable levels, actually allowing enthusiasts to use some of these cameras.

However, with Leica increasing new prices, this somewhat offsets more recent vintage used gear prices. So the newer M6 TTL, MP, and M7 are still somewhat pricey. Older M6, M4, M4-2 gear has been more stable in used prices through the last four years.


Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

05-26-2007, 02:33 PM
I don't see how the market could sustain this genre of collectibles when there has been so much talk out there as to the demise of film, whether true or not. Certainly Perez's comments last year didn't help the market for something that one day may become nothing but a bookend, unusable as film ceases to exist. What is it worth then? At least an old sword, saw or ceramic can be used. Of course we all confirm, at least on this forum, that film will continue, but there are alot of people out there that can be swayed by the opinions of others with an agenda.

I remember years ago hearing that the market for photographic collectibles was being fueled by Japanese investment, especially in Leica. Maybe they and others have decided that it is the product of photography that is worth more then the tool that was used. Surely this has been shown to be the case in recent photographic art auctions where pictures have exceeded the cost of camera collectibles by tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds. It is the art now that is the collectible. As noted in the text, if a camera accompanies the art then they will continue to offer equipment. Now will this lead to a dumping of equipment. My answer would have to be, cut your losses and invest in what is going up in value.

Photo Engineer
05-26-2007, 03:00 PM
A friend of mine had at least a $60,000 collection of old Hasselblads. During a fight with his ex during their messy divorce, she threw the cameras in the trash while he was off at work. When the divorce came to the discussion of money, she wanted a load from him and he pointed out that he was now nearly destitute as she had destroyed not only his high end professional equipment, but it represented the bulk of his net worth.

He said she started crying in the attorneys office when she was told the value of the cameras.

That was about 3 years ago. It shows that there was still value attached to camera equipment and it was used for real income. But, here is the other side of the coin.

I own a lot of camera equipment and so do friends. We cannot sell them as there is no market around here and George Eastman House refuses to take any donations of collectors items now due to the 'glut' on the market.

Yes, they do accept some items to flesh out their remaining darkrooms for the instructors, but they also laid off about 50% of their staff last year due to declining attendance at the museum and the shows.

Basically, analog cameras are becoming valueless antiques and it is happening rather rapidly. The introduction of other new technologies did much the same resulting, for example, in a lot of old B&W tvs going into the trash. No one thought of them as collectors items. Same thing with radios.

Now, the remaining tv sets and radios are becoming valuable again. Today, just three years later, my friend would have probably seen a big drop in the value of his hassies. In a few years more they might regain their value as people trash equipment.

Just some thoughts.

BTW, up until a few years ago, the items with the biggest increase in value over 100 years were Lionel Trains. Other model trains followed suit. The empty shell of a Lionel Blue Comet engine was selling for over $1500.


George Hart
05-26-2007, 03:06 PM

05-26-2007, 03:08 PM
I tried collecting classic D*****l cameras as an investment.
DANG! They all lost 95% of their value within Six months. :(

Ian Grant
05-26-2007, 03:30 PM
Flotsam my D*****l SLR has been a great investment, it paid for itself remarkably quickly (2 days) and continues to allow me to re-invest in LF.

More seriously there is a glut of equipment on the market at the moment, and plenty of dealers selling second hand Leica's etc.

Perhaps it's interesting to note thte cameras now rarely appearing on Ebay, Exacta's quirky but extremely capable they are great cameras but what's happening to them . . . . . .


Tom Duffy
05-26-2007, 04:18 PM
No empirical evidence to base this on, but I think a lot of black and white 35mm photographers have moved "up" to medium format, based on the tremendous deals available on used equipment and the increase in used medium format film equipment as working photographers moved to digital. I've heard that there was a lot of Leica dumping in the 60's as people moved to the Nikon F and other "modern" SLRs.

The prices on Hasselblads and Nikon F3 and F4s are shockingly low. Yet the really good or rare equipment is still hard to find. Certain special finish Leicas (eg titanium), Contax 645 accessories (my lens shades are worth more than when they were new, and try to find extension tubes) and certain classic lenses (Nikor 50 f1.2 Noct, 110 f2 Zeiss) have become very hard to find.

For the more ubiquitous equipment, many photographers are hanging on to it, since it's worth so little currently. As they die off, and the equipment hits the market, prices on good, working equipment should remain low.

I think the really rare stuff will continue to appreciate.

Take care,

Ian Grant
05-26-2007, 04:31 PM
You are totally right Tom, speaking for myself I moved up to medium format in the 70's while also using 5x4 for work. In the 80's I moved up to 5x4 for most of my personal work, and 2 or 3 years ago to LF 10"x8".

But I've gone back to 35mm as well, I have things to say and this format is an ideal medium.


Photo Engineer
05-26-2007, 04:42 PM
Yes, you have hit it right on the nose. There has been an uptick in sales of LF and ULF film lately. Of course, here we use 4x5 rather than 5x4. ;)

Just kidding around.

Actually the panoramic sheet sizes are seeing a comeback as you may notice.


05-26-2007, 05:21 PM
Of course, here we use 4x5 rather than 5x4. ;)

Depends on which way I have my back attached. :p

Andy K
05-27-2007, 04:03 AM
Well someone still sees value in old cameras as this BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6695739.stm) from yesterday shows. Although I think the £400,000 (US$793,760) final bid was more down to historical value.

05-27-2007, 04:40 AM
hopefully as the aging and declining collector base die, these cameras will be set free into the hands of photographers.

05-27-2007, 04:50 AM
I think that the decline in value of 35mm is more due to the fact that the interest in analogia is now concentrated on the TRULY, quirkily, unrefutably analog - hence the huge price put on the daguerrotype camera. Being a BIT of a HiFi fan also- I saw the exact same thing happen there. For the first several years of the CD's ascendancy - there was a major depression in the sales of analogue gear. Then - things sort of shifted and the high end just BOOMED - setting record prices for (especially the uniquely analog) tube amps and turntables. It's almost as if it were a means of the market itself distinguishing the two. I could be wrong - but it seems to be following a similar pattern in photo hardware. Pray that 2nd hand LF gear doesn't skyrocket!

05-27-2007, 10:13 AM
As analog photography increasingly becomes the province of people that do their own processing, as opposed to those that drop off film and pick up prints, I wonder if 35mm equipment will struggle more to to hold value on the used market than other formats. Perhaps people that do their own processing gravitate to larger formats because for the same efforts, one can have a higher resolution negative to print from.

I know that for me, with convenience no longer a relevant concept when shooting film, I'm considering dumping my 35mm bodies altogether. I just don't use them anymore.

The remaining appeal for Leica's as tools would seem to be portabilityand stealth, which are not trivial reasons for continuing to use them. In most other regards, I'd find medium format more useful. I'm sure the appeal of the 1:1.5 aspect ratio and grainier enlargements still has appeal as it resonates with a certain tradition.

There will be collectors for absolutely every marque, I'm sure. No doubt there are Miranda completists out there. But among 35mm brands, what other than Leica has a really significant collectors market?

I think those collections will ultimately be poor financial investments. If posessing the collection gave the owner pleasure during their lifetime, that's great. When that equipment finds it's way out from under the bell jars and into camera bags at reasonable prices, that's going to be just fine.

Jim Chinn
05-27-2007, 11:23 AM
There are a lot of folks who own collectible cameras and have no idea as to thier worth. I have a friend whose father was a dentist in the Army Air Corps in Libya during WW2. After the war ended he was stationed in Germany and bought a Leica kit that included a body (can't recall the actual number) a set of optical rangefinders, and a full set of prime lenses (IIRC 4) as well as a custom factory case. It sat in the closet for 50 years and then my friend inherited it. He showed it to me about ten years ago and I urged him to have it appraised. After some research by a local camera repair person it was appraised at close to $10,000. I don't know if the value had to do strictly with the rarity of the camera, its provenance etc. But he told me his mom thought it was worthless because of its age and would have sold it at a garage sale for pennies compared to its actual worth. That is pretty much the same as throwing it in the garbage.

Black Dog
05-27-2007, 11:53 AM
If people are throwing their leicas, etc away, I hope they use a rubbish bin down my waay!

05-27-2007, 11:59 AM
Well, I announce a pioneering new recycling program, "LHI --Lemme Haveya Leicas"! Donors of worthless Leica bodies and lens collections, now will get a framed certificate of Enron stock good for 100 shares!

If your donation exceeds 1000 individual parts, we will even throw in the latest blogster's guess as to where Kenneth Lay is hiding in Central America!

Hurry, its a limited time offer; (limited to the days I live on this Earth) so act now!


05-27-2007, 04:21 PM
Well, I announce a pioneering new recycling program, "LHI --Lemme Haveya Leicas"! Donors of worthless Leica bodies and lens collections, now will get a framed certificate of Enron stock good for 100 shares!

If your donation exceeds 1000 individual parts, we will even throw in the latest blogster's guess as to where Kenneth Lay is hiding in Central America!

Hurry, its a limited time offer; (limited to the days I live on this Earth) so act now!


Ha Ha..over my d*** body will you get one of my Leica's! I REALLY LIKEA all my LEICAS!!! :)

05-27-2007, 04:58 PM
Well someone still sees value in old cameras as this BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6695739.stm) from yesterday shows. Although I think the £400,000 (US$793,760) final bid was more down to historical value.

You can check the results of the Westlicht auction of May 26 at:


I went through all of the Leica results and it looks like most offerings, with the exception of some truly rare specimen, barely made the lower estimate. Most went for the start price or just over. This is quite a change from their previous auctions. I wonder whether this is incidental or a harbinger of a decline in price for vintage Leica equipment. Westlicht's next auction will be in November. We'll see.