On November 22, 2014, Westlicht Auction will put up for sale, among other things, two Leica MPs, MP-375 and MP-24, both with matching Leicavit. Both mechanically sound. The only difference between the two cameras is that one is chrome ((MP-375) and one is black paint (MP-24). The chrome MP-375 could easily be described on Ebay as “MINTY!” The MP-24, not so much.
Westlicht expects MP-375 to sell for a maximum of €60,000 and MP-24 a maximum of €180,000. In effect, the guy who buys MP-24 will be paying a €120,000 premium for the black paint, most of which, given a quick look at its photo, has already worn away.
‘Black Paint’ is one of those serendipitous features that has assumed incredible importance for ‘collectors.’ Years ago, some professional users wanted cameras that were less apparent in the field (usually PJs in Korea and Viet Nam getting shot at), so manufacturers like Leica and Nikon started producing black cameras along with traditional chrome using black paint (as that’s all that was available at that time). The black paint wore much quicker than the traditional chrome finish and a well worn black paint Leica or Nikon usually signified a professional user. Most amateurs avoided the black cameras because they looked old and beat up much too fast for their tastes. As a result of customer complaints about the lack of permanence of black finished models, Leica offered new black chrome models, black anodized chrome over brass meant to be much more durable, starting with the M5 and the Leicaflex SL.
Leica resumed offering black paint models again with the M6 TTL, mostly due to nostalgic demand from fondlers. Today, the black paint fetish has assumed the irrationality of the Tulip Mania of 1636-1637, usually doubling or tripling the value of any pedestrian vintage Leica or Nikon. Like all matters of style, speculative investments based on such ephemera are tentative at best. My advice: buy the chrome MP and use the extra €120,000 you’ve saved to buy an original Thomas Kinkade painting.