Industry News

Nikon L Rangefinder Prototype Auctioned Off for $468,850

October 17, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

The second annual Wetzlar Camera Auctions (WCA) took place last week, offering up 254 historical cameras for sale, most of them Leicas. But the big draw of the day was a Nikon L rangefinder prototype that resulted in a world-record-setting sale price of $468,850.

Nikon L Rangefinder Prototype goes for record amount at auction.
This Nikon L rangefinder camera prototype from 1947/1948 with a Leica screw mount set a new world record price for a Nikon camera—$468,850.

With current coronavirus safety precautions and conditions in place, the auction took place in the Wetzlar Hotel Bürgerhof in Germany with only a few floor bidders present and the rest online and by telephone. Two online customers tried to outbid each other for the early prototype Nikon L rangefinder with a Leica screw mount that Wetzlar Camera Auctions (WCA) co-owner Lars Netopil says took “the highest price ever achieved at auction for a Nikon camera.”

[Read: Warhol’s Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera Sold for $13,750]

According to the WCA, this particular Nikon is different from later experimental cameras with a Leica screw mount, such as the L1101 in the Nikon Museum or other cameras based on Nikon M and S models. Furthermore, the auction house says the camera appears to be made in Japan around 1947. “The camera’s number of L11004 suggests it is number four of the L1100 series, which dates back to the very early prototyping for a Nikon 35mm camera when the company was yet to decide to go with a Leica screw mount or the Contax bayonet mount.”

Apparently no other specimen of such an early Nikon prototype camera with such a screw mount has ever been documented, which added to the historical significance of the camera and its value.

Other top-performers of the day (though they were still pretty far off in final sale price from that of the Nikon L rangefinder) included a Giorgio Moretti FAF Helios prototype that went for $80,000, a Giorgio Moretti FAF Helios prototype for $80,779, and a Leica M3 Olive “Bundeseigentum” for $110,067.

View the rest of the very interesting auction results here.