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Here is a copy of a page from the 1938 Leica Catalogue coming from a dealer in Dublin and altered by hand to reflect prices increases and new models which were available around 1949. For example, IIIb becomes IIIc, but the model change does not really account for the huge increases in price. In 1939 a IIIb with Summar cost £43, but in 1949 a IIIc with Summar cost £86, an increase of 100%. This cannot be just explained by the change in model from 'b' to 'c'. In 1938 a IIIb with Xenon cost £59-6-0 and in 1949 an equivalent IIIc with Summarit cost £98-10-0. The war had obviously caused inflation effects and wage increases and material prices and shortages would also have had an impact. The dealer in this case was largely an optician business and I suspect that the supply to Dublin may have been from the Leitz office at 20 Mortimer Street in London. At that time the Irish pound was linked on a one for one basis with Sterling. Any information on British prices in the post war period would be welcomed. There may have some tariff differences by that time.

 

 

US and European price increases over that period would also be interesting.

 

William

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Yes, there were certainly a lot of factors causing the post-war price increases, and I doubt if model change was much of a factor. The IIIc design with the die-cast internal chassis instead of the fabricated IIIa-b reduced complexity and likely cost less for the factory.

There were also significant price increases between the late 1960s and early 1970s, I believe due to the changes in German work-week schedule and such. in 1968 an M4 in the US was $288 (when I bought mine), while in 1972 it was $450. Part of the M5 sales problems were the perceived high price ($627 in 1972), but I think people hadn't realized how the price of the M4 had climbed by then also. The M5 price compared to an M4 & MR4 meter together in 1972 seemed reasonable. I think the other factors for the large increase in German camera prices compared to the Japanese were more a factor than the new model.

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Weren't there high duties imposed on cameras imported to the UK after the war?    I may be remembering this wrong though.

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Looking through some early Wallace Heston Blue Books, after the war, upto 1959/60, they do not list new Leica/Contax/Rollei cameras as there were import restrictions. To get one you had to prove that you wanted a Board of Trade import licence for “medical, research, technical, industrial use” or other important business. You could buy new accessories.

The cameras reappear in the 1960/61 edition, a Contax 111a with Sonnar was £122, a Leica 111g with Summicron £116, Leica M3 with Summicron £158, M2 with Summicron £138.

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There are a number of issues here. Shortage of supply of top quality was a factor in the UK market for many years after WWII. A fellow collector here in Dublin who started his career as a professional photographer in England during the 1950s has told me about the difficulty which he and his employers faced in getting such cameras at that time. He also mentioned that it was, in fact, cheaper for British photographers to come to Dublin to buy cameras because of UK sales tax issues. The same also applied during the 1960s when it was cheaper for US photographers to fly to the Shannon Duty Free shop in Ireland and pick up M3s, M2s and M4s than to import them into the US. The cost of the flight was considerably less than the US import taxes. The sellers here in Ireland always took the attitude that US and UK taxes and duties were entirely a matter for the purchaser and his/her conscience.

 

Going back to the UK/Dublin issue, I believe that, ironically, some of the Leica cameras sold here in times past were supplied by or through Leitz in London. Such cameras would not have been subject to UK Sales Tax when they were exported to Dublin. I have a 1930s Leica with an engraving from a Dublin dealer. I intend to follow up on this with the Leica Archives when I am in Wetzlar next month. I would be surprised if this were not supplied in the first instance to Leitz in London.

 

This is just a little side note to the history of Leica cameras. I am sure that other forum members have similar stories.

 

William

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In general a comparison between prices from times shortly before and after the second world war is very difficult - especially for  products made in Germany.  One main factor for big differences was productivity. Even though the Leitz factories at Wetzlar were not directly harmed by the war, productivity was much lower in early years after the war. There was a general lack of raw material, skilled labour (since many former workers  were either dead, wounded or in captivity) and severe impediments for transportation etc. So the output was much lower. It was an economy of scarcity. In the first years after the war Leitz almost exclusively produced for exportation, so import duties and in some cases high taxes had to be added to the prices.

 

This changed during the early 50s when the former shortages were overcome and productivity underwent a steep increase, soon becoming better than in prewar times  - this was called the "German economic miracle". During the 50s you can see a constant decrease in prices - even for Leica equipment which we take now for granted to become more expensive every year. But Leica was no exception; you see the same development for cars or for tourist voyages.

 

The time of constant price decrease only came to a halt in the early sixties when wages started to rise from  lower standards than in most other western states to a level which was considerably higher than abroad. 

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