The earliest known Nikon camera fetched twice the original estimate at the WestLicht auction over the weekend, breaking records as the highest price ever paid for a Nikon camera — about $407,900. The annual Leica-hosted auction sold several iconic cameras and images along with incredibly rare and historic Leica gear.
Dozens of cameras, lenses, accessories, and photographs were available for bidding, including portraits captured by world famous photographers and camera equipment used by iconic photojournalists. One of the standout offerings was a black Leica M3 (No. 915252) used by German Magnum photographer Herbert List, which sold for $82,930. This particular camera, which is incredibly rare and one of only 90 ever produced, was manufactured in 1958 and was used to capture assignments for Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and others.
Prototype cameras were also up for auction, including a special edition Leica made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the flagship Leica Store in Vienna. This particular set includes one of the 25 Leica M-A cameras produced for the special occasion, which comes with a reconstructed Leicameter M4 and a silver Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 lens.
In addition to Leica gear, equipment from other manufacturers was auctioned off as well, including that earliest surviving Nikon camera in existence. This Nikon One rangefinder, manufactured in April 1948, was the 11th camera ever produced by Nikon according to the serial number.
The auction also included several iconic photographs, including two images that could easily be the most recognized shots from World War II. The “VJ Day Kiss” of a sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt sold for $48,000 while the Joe Rosenthal’s image of soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima fetched $25,550.
Story originally published in November 2016. Update on 11-22-16 by Hilary Grigonis: Added details about camera’ record-breaking auction number.