- Sold on Ebay
- Comes with “original box”
- Comes with a bunch of brochures
- Seller claims it was “special ordered”
- Description of camera includes reference to “Dad’s Notes”
- Has passed through the hands of Third Man Cameras in Stuart, Florida
- Looks like it’s never been used
- New Vulcanite, period
- Ebay seller’s mugshot found on web
- Serial number has asterisk
- Owned previously by Lenny Kravitz
- Found in trunk with 3 pristine Black Paint Noctilux (all for sale separately)
- Seller studiously avoids mentioning serial number
- Ebay seller has history of posts on camera forums asking how to paint M bodies
- Owned previously by “Busby Catanach” of Wawatosa, Wisconsin
July 16, 2002: Chrome Dual Range Summicron, #1531090, sells for 235 GBP ($364) at Christie’s Camera Auction.
March 6, 2011: Black Paint Dual Range Summicron #1531090, offered by private seller “jdiconsult” from Andover, Hampshire, United Kingdom, sells on UK Ebay March 6, 2011 for 4600 GBP (about $6500). Seller claims it was his father’s:
A chance to purchase a very unusual early Dual Range 50mm F2 Summicon in black paint finish. The lens is in its original box with matching number and instructions. We are told the Leica logo on the lens eyes is the very early version. The lens dates from 1958. We have shown this lens to Leica experts and have been told the lens was probably commissioned as a special order as the number has a star at the end. There are no special markings on the box apart from the matching number on the base. The condition of the lens is beautiful and the glass on both the lens and the glasses is clear and bright. It does not look as if the lens has been used very much. The front cap is we are told very rare and the correct early Summicron type and the rear cap is there too. This part of my father’s collection and from his notes it looks as if the lens was purchased in 1972 but we cannot be totally sure. [Emphasis Added]. The is a beautiful piece of Leica engineering and are informed it was one of the sharpest lenses they ever produced. We have tried to show everything in the photos but please ask questions and we will try to answer them. Payment by PayPal, personal cheque from UK buyer or International Bank Transfer
On 01-Mar-11 at 09:59:27 GMT, seller added the following information:
PLEASE NOTE WE HAVE JUST BEEN ADVISED BY A LEICA EXPERT THAT THIS LENS HAS THE SAME NUMBER AS A LENS SOLD BY CHRISTIES AUCTIONEERS IN 2002. IT IS POSSIBLE THEREFORE THAT THIS LENS HAS SINCE BEEN EXPERTLY PAINTED IN A BLACK FINISH AND MAY NOT BE AN ORIGINAL FINISH. WE WILL STILL LEAVE IT FOR SALE AS IT IS A BEAUTIFUL ITEM BUT BIDDERS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS INFORMATION AS IT CONFLICTS WITH THE PREVIOUS INFORMATION WE GAVE. WE ARE ADVISED IT IS TOO MUCH OF A COINCIDENCE TO BE A DIFFERENT LENS THAN THAT SOLD IN 2002
December 12, 2016: Black Paint Dual Range Summicron #1531090, offered by private seller “ween_111” from Dunfermline, Fife, United Kingdom, sells on UK Ebay for 3101 GBP (about $4000). Seller claims it was his father’s:
“A chance to purchase a very unusual early Dual Range 50mm F2 Summicon in black paint finish. The lens is in its original box with matching number and instructions. We are told the Leica logo on the lens eyes is the very early version. The lens dates from 1958. We have shown this lens to Leica experts and have been told the lens was probably commissioned as a special order as the number has a star at the end. There are no special markings on the box apart from the matching number on the base. The condition of the lens is beautiful and the glass on both the lens and the glasses is clear and bright. It does not look as if the lens has been used very much. The front cap is we are told very rare and the correct early Summicron type and the rear cap is there too. This part of my fathers collection and from his notes it looks as if the lens was purchased in 1972. [Emphasis added] This is a beautiful piece of Leica engineering and are informed it was one of the sharpest lenses they ever produced. Payment by CashorBankTransfer”
To recap: the chap from Andover’s father bought the lens in 1972 (as best son can tell from his father’s notes). Somehow, after 1972 and before 2002 it made its way to Christie’s and was sold as a chrome version in 2002. Subsequent to this sale, it came back into the possession of the original owner’s son, now as a pristine black paint version, who re-united it with its original box and then sold it to a chap in Dunfermline for $6000 after having confirmed its legitimacy with Leica Experts. The chap from Dunfermline died (presumably) and left it to his son, claiming in his notes (admittedly also inconclusive) that he bought it new in 1972. His son sold it for $4000 to some guy on Ebay (after he (the son) also confirmed its legitimacy with Leica Experts), payment via Bank Transfer only.*
*A possible interpretive heuristic to make sense of all this : Quantum physicists claim that multiple versions of us are living in alternate worlds that interact with each other, what they refer to as “parallel worlds.” In the “Many-Worlds Interpretation”, each universe branches into a bunch of new universes every time a quantum measurement is made. Thus, according to Howard Wiseman, a professor of Physics, “All possibilities are therefore realised – in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonized by the Portuguese.”
HCB’s LTM Summicron
WestLicht Auctions just auctioned off Cartier-Bresson’s 35mm Summicron, shown above.
“Unique lens used by Henri Cartier-Bresson with his black paint IIIg camera: the black paint 8-element lens (with very clean optics) was transformed from the original M-mount lens (0.7m, red plastic dot) on special order by removing the bayonet ring. Also the focus-tab was modified by removing the infinity lock and an extended lever was built-in. The lens has the same index dots made with nail gloss as the famous 2/5cm black paint collapsible Summicron used by HCB. It comes with both caps and a confirmation of authenticity by Lars Netopil from April 2015.”
Final Hammer price: 38,400 euros
This, as Best I Can Tell, is a “Real” Black Paint Leica M2
I think I’ve made it clear I’m not a big fan of the “Black Paint” Leica craze. There was a reason Leica started producing their black cameras in black chrome starting with the M5 in 1971 – traditional black paint Leicas looked like crap after a few years of use. Black paint finishes quickly wore away or bubbled up, to the consternation of owners who expected their Leicas to be durable. Black chrome was much hardier, not wearing away, flaking or bubbling. A definite improvement.
Somewhere along the way – I date it to the late 90’s – a guy named Shintaro in Japan started painting M cameras black for about $500 a camera. He had learned to do so by painting a few of his own cameras black, experimenting with various techniques until he could produce a black paint M almost indistinguishable from an original. He did so not for any nefarious reason but because he liked the look of a black Leica M2/M3, and the originals were scarce and, when found, usually beat up looking. He had started by simply posting his results on the net, and soon other M owners were contacting him asking that he paint their Leicas. A cottage industry was born.
A few years thereafter, I started seeing other people get into the game, offering to paint your chrome Leica black for a fee. The results ranged from the really bad – chrome cameras simply sprayed black with enamel – to those dechromed and refinished almost to Shintaro standard. By the mid-aughts, everybody seemed to either have, or want to have, a black repaint, the point being to have a black Leica M2/3/4, not a collectable.
An effect of all this was that the original Black Paint Leicas – M2’s, M3’s and early M4’s painted black by Leitz – came into vogue as collectables. And then, of course, the scammers got into the game, with varying levels of cleverness, offering to sell you an “Original” Black Paint Leica at collectable prices. It was easy enough to do. While Leitz produced black M’s in official batches, allowing a potential buyer to cross-check Leitz records to determine if a given Black Paint Leica was legit or not, the fact is that, back in the day, Leitz itself would paint your M2 or M3 black by request, giving you an “Original” Black Paint Leica even though the serial number of the camera didn’t place it in a run of official black models. On such exceptions to the general rule, a lot of repaints were pawned off on unsuspecting buyers, usually on Ebay, as originals, some even with fake paperwork claiming to prove their provenance.
The end result of all of this is it’s now difficult to know for certain if the Black Paint Leica you’re looking at is original, and thus exponentially more valuable as a collector’s item, or a “fake” repaint. Not that a good repaint isn’t nice for what it is; I’ve had Shintaro paint both an M2 and an M3 for me back in the day, and they were beautiful, but they were what they were – Shintaro repaints, and I eventually sold both as such. God only knows where they are now, and who might be claiming what about their legitimacy. And this is the problem. There’s so many repaints floating around, the distinction between real and fake is now extremely problematic.
Which leads us to the larger issue – with all of these Black Paint Leicas floating around, most with varying degrees of questionable provenance, what’s the value of the real thing? The real thing, of course, is just a Leica painted black. Whatever value it might possess over and above its practical value as a Leica camera is artificial, a function of its perceived desirability, which is itself a function of its rarity, and Black Paint Leicas are now seemingly everywhere. Insofar as you can prove the legitimacy of your particular camera as an “original” Black Paint, the current market dictates that it possesses an extra value as a collectible. This in turn is predicated upon the requirement that there be clear means to authenticate its legitimacy – serial numbers certainly are a first step – but, in the era of the ubiquitous repaint, one never knows. It might be claimed to have been painted on special order from Leitz, or it might be a legit Black Paint that’s been repainted along the way, or, to muddy the waters further, it may be a repaint whose provenance has been purposefully faked with supporting documents and gains legitimacy after changing hands a time or two. Who knows? The point is this: no matter how much due diligence you do, there’s a chance your $10,000 “Original Black Paint M3” is a fake. And, given that reality, even if you own a real one, astute collectors are going to be skeptical.
As an example, I recently received an email from someone inquiring where he might get a reasonable valuation of a black M2 he had come into possession of. It’s the camera you see above, and at the beginning of the post. It sure looks nice, which, prior to the repainting craze, would have made it highly desirable. Unfortunately, now, you could argue it makes it highly suspect. This is what he told me about the camera:
I have a button rewind m2 (from the first batch of 500) that was used for a year and then stored away in a closet and never touched again. It is in such amazing condition that no one believes the top isn’t a repaint (even though the serial 948896) puts it right in that group. The man I purchased it from at an estate sale was probably in his late 70s/early 80s said he had purchased it and then bought a nikon SLR and never used it again. It does look a little too good to be true although there is minor brassing on the advance lever and the back edge of the top plate as well as on the front edge of the matching summicron lens. Anyway I was wondering about avenues for appraisal/info on the camera etc. I am not eager to sell but may if the price was right.
I have every reason to believe his story. The serial number certainly puts it in a batch of original black M2’s. The explanation sounds reasonable, but then again, it’s an explanation we’ve all heard before, and you can see from his description that he’s already encountered a healthy skepticism when in fact all obvious signs point to its legitimacy. And that’s the dilemma increasingly encountered by folks trying to monetize their collectible Black Paint Leica. It’s also the dilemma facing a prospective buyer. Are you willing to take a $10,000 chance it’s real, or that it hasn’t been repainted, or that it isn’t an elaborate fake concocted in a basement in Stuart Florida? Not me, and my bet is that fewer and fewer future buyers will be as well, which doesn’t bode well for the market.
******UPDATED BELOW: AFTER FURTHER INVESTIGATION, IT’S CLEAR THIS IS A 100% FAKE. SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS******
Another “Original Black Paint” Leica, this one an M2, for sale by “Third Man Cameras” on ebay (Ebay http://www.ebay.com/itm/332015997511?rmvSB=true). Is it “real”? Who knows. If by “real” you mean an actual Leitz made M2, yes, it’s real. If you mean an actual Leitz M2 painted black by the factory, debatable. The serial number, 929348 puts it in a 1958 lot of 2000 chrome M2’s. The first known factory BP M2 starts with serial number 948601. However, it could be a camera done in black by Leica on a client request, which wasn’t unusual back in the day.
According to the seller,
This camera was ordered through Leica New York in 1958 and then the camera was produced at the Leitz Leica factory in Wetzlar, Germany. The original owner said that he had to contact Leica via postal service to order the camera. This is why it still has an original L-seal. It was produced by Leica / Leitz Wetzlar in 1958 at the factory in Wetzlar, Germany. The original owner had some position in photography while in the military because he has many camera items in his Air Force trunk. This website shows the camera to be an original black M2 ( http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-…n/index.php/M2 )
First of all, that explanation looks awful suspicious. It claims both that “the original owner said,” implying that he had spoken to the owner….and that the original owner “had some position in photography because he had many items in his Air Force trunk” – implying he doesn’t have first hand knowledge of the owner (it’s called a “tell.”) Erik van Straten, who generally knows such things, thinks it’s fake, and posted the following two photos below of a legit early BP M2 on a popular Leica forum to illustrate the difference. (Editor’s note: I think any reasonable person not completely blinded by Leica insanity would say most BP Leicas look like shit– if you want to see a black Wetzlar made Leica film M that doesn’t look like its been beat to death the way black paint M’s invariably do, find yourself a black chrome M4. I’ve got a BC M4, made in 1974, that looks like it just came out of the box).
The wear on the camera looks contrived to me, less a product of long usage than someone’s idea of what that usage might produce ( google “Lenny Kravitz Leica” for further edification). For me, the ‘tell’ that it’s not legit is the documentation. Real Black Paint Leicas, sold through reputable sources i.e. not Ebay, almost never come with original purchase documents…because almost nobody would have saved these documents for 60+ years. It was just a camera, a working camera for someone. Nobody buys a a BP M2 back in 1958 and then fastidiously files away the paperwork for 60 years with the idea they’d someday need it to prove its authenticity. I could be wrong, however, but, like most things Leica, I’m probably not.
OK, so this one is a stone-cold fake, sold by Third Man Cameras in Stuart, Florida (whose motto is “Measuring Integrity.” True). I ‘thought’ it looked suspiciously like a previous “Original Black Paint M3” I had written about some time ago. I went back and compared the two auctions. In the first auction, for the M3, is a certificate of ownership said to be from Leitz Wetzlar to the original purchaser, a “Busby Cattenach” from “Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.“. In this new M2 auction is included a certificate of ownership from Leitz to the original purchaser who is listed as “Archie Baldwin” at the exact same address as Mr. Cattenach in “Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.” So, either Busby Cattenach and Archie Baldwin lived together back in the 50’s and shared a fondness for one off Black Paint Leicas; and both kept all the supporting documentation; both made sure to leave it all with the camera once they died; and then this seller just happened to find both cameras at different estate sales at different times, both in Florida…or these are fakes.
I contacted a genealogist friend and asked her to track down any “Archie Baldwin” who had served time in the Air Force and lived in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin in the 50’s. Nothing. No Archie Baldwin showing on any census records or public directories in Wisconsin, now or ever. No “Busby Cattenach” showing on any census records or public directories in Wisconsin, now or ever. Clearly, the provenance of these cameras – Leica M2 #929348 and Leica M3 # 756902 – have been extensively faked.
The larger question is whether Third Man Cameras is an unwilling dupe or a scammer. It just so happens that Third Man Cameras happens upon a lot of extremely rare Black Paint Leica items with extensive provenance. Third Man Cameras eventually sold the fake Black Paint M3 mentioned previously, Mr. “Busby Cattenach’s,” for over $10,000 to someone through Ebay, even after they, the seller, had been alerted that the camera was a fake and had responded to the person alerting him of that fact as follows:
“My God your [sic] right. Thank You so much for pointing this out. I acquired this item at an estate sale. Before I purchased the camera I checked to see if this company called Leica ever made cameras in black during that time and I found that they did. So I proceeded with the purchase. I checked your information and you are 100% correct. I am going to contact the estate sales lady in the morning. I guess I will also remove the auction. This is terrible news for me. I wonder if there is any way that this could still be authentic? Any more information you have would be appreciated greatly. Thank you so much for pointing this out. I have a lot of work to do to cancel this auction. I’m going to start now. Thanks again and please let me know if you have anymore info regarding this camera. Regards”.
Which, of course, is such incredible bullshit it defies logic that anyone with any critical reasoning ability would not see through it – He sees this camera at an estate sale, knows nothing about Leicas (“this company called Leica”) yet holds off buying it until he confirms that the company made cameras in black at that time? Right.
They’ve since sold a Black Paint screw mount Summicron (with sketchy looking certificate) for $15,000, and another for $4500. The interesting thing about this seller is that seemingly every vintage Leica item he sells is accompanied by suspicious amounts of “original paperwork” claiming to authenticate the item for what it claims to be. Invariably, the Black Paint items are accompanied by a surfeit of certificates, invoices, letters, sales tags, boxes etc. How this guy in Stuart, Florida keeps finding these incredibly rare collector’s gems, while reputable auction houses almost never turn up the same amount of stuff, and certainly nothing with the extensive purported documentation this guy seems to produce for every item he sells, I’ll leave to the reader’s better judgment.
And clearly, this seller knows a lot more about “this company called Leica” than he cares to admit. From trolling through his feedback, it looks like he came into possession of a bunch of spare parts from Leitz – “Leica Camera Parts – Massive Inventory – New Stock – M2 M3 M4 M5 M6 M7 SL” – a few years ago and probably found the means there to fake various invoices, tags, certificates etc that might establish fake provenances for repainted cameras. It was after this inventory sale that the “Official Black Paint” items start appearing for sale on his site at fairly regular intervals.
Further investigation reveals that Third Man Cameras is operated by a Henry Obert of Jensen Beach, Fl, (a mere 5 mile jaunt down the road from Stuart) in Martin County, Florida, and the “Office Manager” of Third Man Cameras is an Erica Obert. Some auspicious googling turned up the following on photo.net in 2012:
|Leica Airbrush paint
Henry Obert , Jan 29, 2012; 07:47 p.m.
and then these pictures of a “Henry Obert” and “Erica Obert” from the Martin County Sheriff’s office:
Can’t make this stuff up.
He’s been contacted and the fake Black Paint M2 auction has been taken down without explanation. In contacting him, I offered him the chance to explain the various discrepancies as noted here. I’ve not yet received a response of any sort. If I do, I’ll be happy to publish it. Suffice it to say, his explanation better be good. Really good.
OK, I’ve seen my share of camera bargains. They include an early Nikon One which sold for $12.50 at a yard sale (one of 4 cameras sold for a total of $75), another Nikon One advertised recently on Craig’s list for $375, an unsynced Nikon M four lens outfit thrown away in the trash, and an original chrome Leica MP outfit also thrown away in the trash.
Well, this beats them all hands down and comes from a retired New York City police photographer whose word I trust completely. He writes:
“Back in July 2002, I was leaving my apartment and across the street where my police car was parked a young couple was having a yard sale to help fund their wedding.
I noticed a Black and Tan Nikon duffel bag on the ground near a small table.
I walk over, and they greeted me as their neighbor but didn’t know my name. When I went to pick up the duffle bag, I noticed on the table:
•2 original Black Leica MP’s both with matching black paint Summicron 50/2
•Leica 72 Half Frame Camera
• 2 Black 50/1.2 and 1 Chrome 50/1.2 Noctilux lenses
• a 250 Reporter GG
• 3 Black Paint M3’s with Leicavits and a bunch of other stuff.
They had small round adhesive stickers on everything. The MP’s were selling for $15 each, lenses $10, etc. I added everything up on the table and if I bought everything, it would’ve cost me $115. The young man said:
“If You take everything, just give me $100 even and the bag is on me.
I asked them to give me some history behind those cameras and lenses and the young lady said:
“It was my Dad’s Stuff. He passed away a few years ago. These can look pretty as decor if you’re into photography. No one here is really into it, besides the fact they probably don’t make film for them anymore.”
The Young Man chimed in an said:
“I don’t even know where the film goes”
I requested of the young lady:
“Would you mind fetching me a bed sheet or table cloth if you don’t mind”
“I want to cover this table while I give my broker a chance to drive up from the city because you probably have between $300,000-$500,000 worth of vintage German Camera equipment and I will stay here with you until he arrives”
The young lady had her hand over her mouth, and about 30 seconds later both of them broke down in tears.
When my photography broker arrived and did his thing, he said:
“You’re a much better man than me because I would’ve walked off with everything…But it’s pretty cool, I suppose it was the right thing to do”
“It wasn’t the right thing to do…it was the Human thing to do”
This was a young suburban couple struggling to start a life together. I didn’t even contemplate “Should I or Shouldn’t I”…
They were a young and innocent couple who didn’t know any better. I look at it from a standpoint that I wouldn’t want that done to me.”
A great yarn, no doubt, but could it possibly be true? I guess it could, but I’m betting against it. In any event, if you believe it, I’ve got a bridge I might be willing to part with on very favorable terms.
We’ve all heard the stories over the years – the Leica MP with Leicavit turning up in a dead uncle’s closet, the black paint Nikon SP on craigslist for $15, the guy who buys a black paint M3 at a yard sale in New Jersey along with all the appropriate documents attesting to its authenticity. I suppose these could really have happened just like the story says, but, knowing human nature, I suspect the stories have morphed from an initial kernel of curious truth to the status of “fish story.” [It’s not like I’m not susceptible to the phenomenon – My story of “meeting” HCB does have a kernel of truth: in 2004 I saw him at the opening of a Sarah Moon show in Paris. Of course, as I am apt to tell the story now after a bourbon or two, HCB and Sarah Moon came to my Paris exhibition and then we all went out for coffee afterwards.]
And it’s not like there aren’t some incredible finds out there if you get lucky. Probably 20 years ago a friend casually mentioned to me that he had a box in his closet filled with old junk cameras from his uncle. I asked him to get it out and show it to me. Upon opening the box I found an M2, an M3, a LTM Nicca, and 4 or 5 Leitz lenses, including a Canadian 35mm Summicron and a Super Angulon with finder. Being the good guy I am, I fought off the urge to offer him $25 for the lot and helped him clean everything up and sell it on Ebay, netting him a cool few thousand bucks and me a free M2 for my labors. And then there’s been an item or two bought from ignorant sellers in arms length transactions that have netted some seriously nice kit for bargain prices – a IIIg with a W-Nikkor 35mm 1.8 LTM lens I bought for a few hundred and then turned around and sold for $2500 ($1900 for the Nikkor, $600 for the IIIg); a IIIg with pristine collapsible Summicron for a few hundred, etc.
But there’s something about the reported event that doesn’t pass the smell test. First, how is it that the “Dad” just happens to accumulate an incredible amount of rare, collectible stuff, it and it only? You’d think there’d have to be a few pedestrian items too, a Canonet or a Minolta SRT-101 in there somewhere. Three Noctilux? Really? And think of it this way – if “Dad” really was as important a guy as his camera collection indicates, don’t you think his kids might have some sense that what he had was valuable? But the kicker for me, the “tell” as it were, is in the inconsequential details (isn’t it always?): “they probably don’t make film for them anymore….” Sounds like a reasonsble thing for a clueless kid raised in digital to say in 2016, but in 2002? In 2002 film cameras were normal; it was digital that was esoteric.
So, In spite of my sense that the original poster honestly believes the story, I’m calling BS. It is, however, a lovely fish story.
Oh, and did I ever tell you about the time HCB and Sarah Moon came to my show in Paris?
Found this picture of two well-used Leicas floating around the net and know nothing about their provenance except the obvious: two black paint M2’s, one with an MP Leicavit and what looks to be a collapsible mount uncoated Summar 5cm f2, (although the serial number indicates a production date of 1933, which is claimed to be the last year Leitz made the Summar in a rigid mount prior to introducing the new type collapsible).
The Summar was Leitz’s “fast” 50mm, produced between 1933 and 1939. It was generally considered inferior to the Zeiss 5cm 1.5 produced in Jena for the Contax and for a limited run in LTM during WW2.