Whatever Happened To The Gold-Plated Leica Luxus II Camera From Antiques Roadshow?

"The Antiques Roadshow" — a transatlantic hit with versions made in both the U.S. and the U.K. — has built a huge following since it first aired on the BBC back in 1979. The show sees members of the public bring their antiques and heirlooms to be appraised by a team of specialist experts. Over the years, it has been treated to some truly beautiful objects, from unique and historically important paintings to priceless jewels.

In 2001, expert Marc Allum was presented with a wonderful piece of machinery — a gold-plated camera covered in black lizard leather. It was a piece by the renowned camera company Leica, and certainly looked the part: You could imagine it hanging over the backpack of Indiana Jones as he crosses the desert. Allum, who was stunned by the camera, valued it at £5,000, or around $7,500 at the time.

Viewers may well have been charmed by the antique camera, and it is certainly true that £5,000 is an amount of money. But of all the pieces that passed by the experts in the early 2000s (many of which were valued at a far higher price), it was unlikely to have been well remembered. But in 2013, the Leica Luxus II — the very same one from "The Antiques Roadshow" — was making headlines around the globe after news broke that it was to be put up for sale through Bonhams auction house. The new estimate? £750,000, or around $1.2 million, per the Express.

Below estimate, but still a fortune

It turns out that the camera featured on "The Antiques Roadshow" all those years ago is phenomenally rare. The Leica II was originally made in 1932 by a renowned German manufacturer and was considered a cutting-edge model for both professional photographers and enthusiasts for its rangefinder — a feature previously unheard of in such a small design. According to Bonhams spokesman Andrew Currie, the initial run of the popular new camera was 52,000 units (via the Express). However, Leica also took the liberty of creating four "Luxus" specimens, with gold plating and lizard leather, to be sold to wealthy customers looking for the most luxurious possible model on the market. The whereabouts of three of those Leica Luxus IIs are currently unknown, making the one brought to "The Antiques Roadshow" unique to all intents and purposes.

So when the gold-plated Leica Luxus II finally was put up for sale, it unsurprisingly caused quite a stir, with many outlets linking it back to its appearance on the beloved antiques show a decade earlier. It sold at auction for £380,000, or around $615,000, which, though far below the estimate, was about 76 times the original "Antiques Roadshow" valuation.

Marc Allum defended his undervaluation

In the wake of the Hong Kong Bonhams auction that saw the gold-plated Leica Luxus II sell for a life-changing amount, news outlets made light of the discrepancy between the fortune it sold for and the paltry value it was given on "The Antiques Roadshow" back in 2001.

But speaking to the British tabloid the Express shortly after the rare camera's Hong Kong sale, camera expert Marc Allum explained that there's an explanation why his valuation back then looks so inexplicably off the mark today. Noting that 12 years had passed between his valuation and the sale of the Leica Luxus II, Allum said: "I never said it was worth that much ever because in the years the story developed, the whole market changed. The Chinese became major collectors and a whole genre of collecting cameras in that area completely changed. The prices just went completely ballistic rather like Chinese vases have these days."

Original Leica cameras continue to change hands for a great deal of money, particularly 1932 models in good condition. However, whether any camera enthusiasts out there will ever get the chance to bid on one of the lost three Leica Luxus IIs — or whether they will ever be found — remains a mystery.