Why would someone have etched "Leitz" off a lens

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by gabe_joynt, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. I was given a Leica I converted to a II or III; it has the original collapsable 5cm nickel Elmar, part of a well used kit from the original owner (who is long gone). Along with it is a 3.5cm Summaron -- on the Summaron (only), the word "Leitz" is etched out like someone took a dremel to it, on the face of the lens.
    Of course there must be a good reason for this, and I have read of other old LTM gear that is defaced this way. But I would love to understand more about why.
    I asked about this on another forum and someone suggested that at the end of WWII USA military personel who had purchased Leica gear in Germany were required to etch out the name before bringing it back. This sounds pretty logical, in a US Army kind of way.
    Can anyone share more history, or stories, about this? Other rationale?
    Thank you!
  2. For reasons unknown to me, both Japanese and German photo equipment were often allegedly defaced by customs people for import restrictions? I have owned such equipment at one time or another. At the moment the only item I still have is a 50mm f2 Nikkor LTM on a Tower IIIa (Leica Copy) that has the beauty ring defaced.
  3. Some folks do this because it drops its used value ; but its value as a tool.
    You do this on tools so folk will not steal them; or to get them through customs as used; to avoid being a target while on vacation.

    With tools humans are like rats; they like steal shiny objects. So just an ugly black poor paint job with a hint of barf color can drop the chances of a tool being stolen.
    In the USA we have absurd tax laws; some places tax your businesses capital assets you have each year; whether you use them or not .
    Thus a 55,000 dollar paper folding machine here was taxed at 1350 per year; and it was only used on a few hundred dollars worth of jobs. The first few years we just defaced half the machine; and pushed it into a corner to avoid taxation. Later the tax man said if it was in the building; and the motor pieces placed back on; it has to be taxed. Thus I cut up the machine and sold the steel as scrap.
    If it the camera item was us military; some post WW2 stuff was crushed or defaced/devalued so the camera markets would not be flooded with surplus camera stuff.
    For testing; some of us have gotten beta units of items and the item is defaced; or in different skins.

    Some folks deface the items because they are hot; stolen and then are just using them as tools. ie do not want somebody coming around in 5 years saying it is their camera.
    In cameras and lenses and stuff for schools defacing drops theft. ie you want the item to not be collectable; but more like a doorstop.
    In movies lenses and camera names are blacked out unless they are a sponser.
    Some items too are sold on two markets; ie Nikon to Nikon users and say Nikon lenses that Sears sold as the Tower brand. Some lenses have the EXTRA ring with the 2nd tier name; it covers up the regular ring (with the defaced name)

    In Toilets; one maker makes the best ones of the line be their Premium brand name; the one that work but have some cosmetic issues are defaced; ie the logo is ground off and this has more glaze added.

    In Ballbearings; some that are less than all house specs have their premium house name brushed off; and these are sold to another market.
    A couple if items I sell on Ebay are national brand names; but they are returns/refurbs/dented. I get them at a discount; with the brand name removed/defaced. I resell them as used; under my own brand name. ie I am the warranty owner now.
    Many times items are defaced for legal reasons. Thus when I bought a mess of auto test equipment at the metal junkyard by the pound; it was defaced. Name removed; smashed. Being a crafty engineer I spend 20 to 30 bucks and bought 50,000 bucks worth of toys. The scrap yard is happy; it was just stuff with not much metal; but had circuit boards! This too was "stuff" destroyed to get it off the tax rolls
  4. "...a Leica I converted to a II or III." How can you not know if it's a II or a III?
  5. It's pretty simple in most cases.
    The US importer often had absolute legal right to the brand name, so if an American citizen purchased a lens or camera body overseas that was in this class, then customs would allow it in only if the offending trademark name was erased. Some camera importers would allow a certain number in, but beyond that would deny entry if the name were not defaced.
    Unlike today, the dollar was kept at artificially high values, so overseas purchase of a Leica or a Mercedes was often enormously cheaper than in the USA. At one time, it was possible to fly to Germany, pick up a Mercedes at the factory, and save enough to pay for the airfare and even some vacation; all the more, since after being driven all over, the "new' car became a 'used' car.
    Defacement of names had nothing to do, per se, with the Army or even Customs, but with the US holder of the trademark. It wasn't "stupidity," it was capitalism pure and simple: Protecting the ownership of the trademark name.
    The situation was exacerbated as the Cold War ramped up when something like a East German Zeiss Jena lens was brought into the USA where Zeiss Stuttgart had the right to the Zeiss name. Das war am strengsten verboten!
    Hence widely varying names for many East German camera, depending on where they were selling them and who owned the trademark names.
  6. ...if an American citizen purchased a lens or camera body overseas that was in this class, then customs would allow it in only if the offending trademark name was erased.
    This makes even better sense. Thank you. I wonder who did the etching -- did the overseas dealer bust out the drill at the point of sale? Not that it matters, just a curiousity.
    Mr. Dube... I hadn't consulted what I had written down previously, which was that it was serial number 26691 (1930) and matched up to the description I'd found of a Leica II except it has a 35mm viewfinder. I actually don't recall the distinction between the converted II's and III's. It has speeds from 1/500 to 20-1 (?).
    Here's a picture of the kit; the defaced Summaron is in the lower middle. The shutter needs servicing but otherwise the camera is in great shape.
    Oh, and a picture from one of our first sojourns.
    Thanks everyone.
  7. I think the defacing was done over here; probably customs had an ancestor of the Dremel. I think a dealer in Europe would have done it more cosmetically. Often rebadged cameras like some of the DDR cameras from Peerless camera, for one, were defaced underneath the new badge. Since the stores often sold the camera for more $ under its original name, they clearly didn't want people prying off the new name to get the original underneath.
    I'm sure that was not a factor here with your Leica, of course.
  8. There is always the possibility that some ignorant person thought the word Leitz had some Nazi connotation. Whatever the reason, it's a travesty and an awful shame. I really hate to see things like this.
  9. No slow speeds (1 sec. to 1/20 sec.) means a II. A III would have had a slow speed dial on its front. Also, at the eye-piece, a means of adjusting the focus of the range-finder.
    So far as I know, no Leica was built with a view-finder for any focal length other than 50mm. In the picture at the bottom right corner there's a VIOOH finder which includes a 35mm frame. That would have been used with the Summaron.
  10. I believe, though not 100% certain, that when Honeywell marketed the 'Honeywell Pentax,' any Pentax bearing the name 'Asahi' Pentax coming into the USA, had the name erased.
  11. In Swiss survey levels made by Wild Heerbrugg I have bought used ones from different individual folks in Canada that the name is buzzed off; but the serial number is still there. It is the same level ; same green color; same case; same to every single screw as a regular Wild Heerbrugg level; except the name is ground off. One has the top case's cover with Canadian military; thus probably military surplus. Wild from Heerbrugg Switerland is sort of like Leica in Survey stuff; high end; expensive; excellent optics.
    I am shocked that defacing bothers folks; for the alternative is often crushing the item; ie total destruction
    Thus is your heart heart better today that a nameless grand item survived the crusher; or would you prefer no defaced items exist and they were crushed long ago?
    Here I have some enlarging lenses and prototype variants that I was allowed to keep; that we used for testing with a check sorter microfilm unit. All the names are buzzed off ans the condition that I could have them; and I was the main optical/mechanical guy on that project about 30 years ago. Some folks would prefer things not exist; that are are defaced; others would prefer free tools to play with.
    With Carl Zeiss; one had two differnet companies in east and west post WW2; thus the import with trademarks had a mess of legal issues.
    With Leica; I would think it got defaced not by customs; but by a user who wanted to avoid paying duties; ie it jsut looks like a used Zorki! :)
    It really is had to figure; since the trade restrictions and duties varies by year; by camera. Sometimes one could bring in say one body and lens per year.
  12. Kelly, As you maybe aware, the companies (Leitz & Wild) were once "Wild Leitz Inc." Late '70's to '80's I believe.
    Very high quality stuff; e.g. Wild microscopes, etc.
  13. Since this thread is still going on, and for the record, here is a note from the old Modern Photography "too hot to handle" column from April, 1966, that I serendipitously found yesterday while looking for something else. It's not a question of "duties" but "permission."
  14. Colin has that right. At that same time Ehrenrich Photo Optical Industries (EPOI) had a death grip on Nikon importing into USA. Nikons bought overseas HAD to have the "Nikon" ground off before it could be brought into the USA. The "grey" market stuff that is available today was unheard of in the 1960's. I bought a 35mm f3.5 Summaron in the mid 60's that had the serial number ground off, but I think that's another issue.
  15. When I bought a Canon F1 in 1972 by mail-order from Hong Kong, it came with the brand name obscured. On the prism housing there was a blob of black putty of some sort, which pulled off cleanly. The lens had a wide black ring screwed into the filter threads, covering all of the type for the brand name and serial number, and that took no time to undo. So nothing was actually defaced. But the instruction book was shipped seperately and it took me a while to figure out how to open the back (pushing a release button and lifting the rewind know, as I recall).

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