Leica M3: Minty model and a stunning rare lens arrive in the mail
“Would you like to buy an M3 with a couple of lenses, boxed, mid 1960s?” The call came to Ivor Cooper at London's Red Dot Cameras a couple of weeks ago. Yes, he would. But when the large box arrived in the mail there was more than one surprise. This turned out to be totally unexpected and unusual buying opportunity.
For starters, everything was in absolutely as-new condition. I’ve seen some pristine M3s but this one looks like it is still sitting on the dealer’s shelf in Plymouth back in October 1964. It is without a doubt the cleanest M3 I have ever seen and truly deserves the “mint” moniker. It isn’t often something like this happens, according to Ivor.
There were four enticing boxes in the group, containing the M3, with original Leica tags; a couple of lens boxes and a box containing an unused, wholly unblemished brown leather case. Ivor tells me that the seller, the widow of a keen photographer, confided that the entire outfit had been purchased new in the early 1960s and never used. It was still under the bed, complete with the original bill.
Back in 1964 the camera body cost £121.19s.6d¹; the 50mm lens was £77.4s.8d, the ever-ready case, £6.1s.6d and the UV filter £2.16s.0d. At some stage, the owner had ordered a spare shutter-speed dial and another accessory shoe—just in case—but they are there and still in their original plastic egg pods. The surprise lens had been added later.
The lenses proved to be more than interesting. First off came a fairly ordinary 50mm Dual Range (close focus) Summicron, complete with specs. There is nothing very outstanding about this, other than that it looked as though it had left Wetzlar yesterday. But the second box contained a stunning surprise.
This optic had been described over the phone as a "35mm Summilux ASPH", which is interesting enough but would normally sell for little more than £1,500. This, however, was no common-or-garden ASPH. It was the rare two-aspherical-element lens marked ASPHERICAL instead of ASPH. Ivor has only ever seen one of these before; he sold it in 2010 and still regrets his rashness. A limited series of 2,000 of these lenses was made between 1989 and 1994 and this particular version came from an early batch, giving it an added cachet.
Buying in always produces a dilemma when an item has been approximately valued over the telephone and when it is not as described. In this case the description was a gross understatement. Ivor is always fair and offered the seller a market value for this very rare lens. Indeed, he had great difficulty placing a true value on the ASPHERICAL because of the few examples on the market, but he reckons it would sell for at least £5,000, possibly for as much as £6,000. That's six thousand pounds, no shillings and nopence in 1964 money—enough to buy two houses and pocket the change.
Above: The M3 in its birthday suit; only the box shows signs of ageing. Right: The careful owner even squirrelled away spares in case of need, which did not occur in the next 52 years
Form an orderly queue in Old Street. But…. unfortunately for would-be collectors, Ivor is keeping this remarkable 1960s mintery and its 1980s rare companion for his own arsenal.
Photographs by Red Dot Cameras
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¹ A note for younger readers: These prices are shown as originally entered on the bill. They are in pre-1973 pounds, shillings and pence. There were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence to the shilling, thus 240 pence to the pound. Hence, £121.19s.6d equates to £121.97½. The abbreviation for penny in those days was "d" which was a hangover from the Roman denarius. Now it is "p" (pronounced "pee", although sensible people say "pence", as of old) which was coined by someone who who had led a very sheltered life. There was probably a good reason we stuck with the Roman heritage for the best part of 2000 years. No one ever said "dee", so "pee" royally p****s me off. It should be "penny" or "pence" (and definitely not pennies unless you are admiring a number of individual penny coins as in "pennies from heaven"). Just thought I'd put my tuppence ha'penny in. Here endeth the lesson.