A good indicator of Rolleiflex’s amount of previous use is the condition of the original paint on the crank side of the camera. The circular rim around the crank, and on later models, the small “button” are two spots to check to judge a Rolleiflex's general condition. The red arrows highlight typical wear points on a Rolleiflex.
This camera’s wear is indicative of moderate use and handling.
As a Rolleiflex is "cranked," the user's hand, thumb, glove – whatever - rubs up against the “button” and the crank's edge. Over time, the repeated friction and abrasion cause paint wear and eventual loss. A minor amount of paint loss can also come from the camera being taking in and out of the leather case. In any event, I have found a large correlation between the condition of the paint finish in these two areas and the camera's overall condition. The more wear on that paint, the more likely the camera has been heavily used more and correspondingly, the lower value the camera should be.
A “minty” camera will have absolutely NO paint loss in these areas - in fact, the paint shouldn't show ANY marks or abrasions in the paint at all. The paint should have an unbroken, beautiful, soft gloss, enamel paint finish.
The paint finish should be impeccable on a minty camera as in this photo =====>
A professionally, used Rolleiflex will reveal “brassing of the button ” or significant paint loss on the crank edge.
I’d recommend staying away from these purchases as they usually require significant tune up costs that can run $ 300-400 ! Unless sold at a dirt cheap, price – walk away. There is a large supply of used Rollei’s – be patient and look for a camera with clean paint and a fair price. Lastly, also look for signs that these areas may have been re-painted over to conceal previous paint losses. Again, this should negatively effect overall value of the camera.
Here is an example of a photo from an ebay auction where the seller calls the camera “mint.” I disagree, the paint loss on the button, while relatively modest, does not qualify it – in my eye – as “mint.”
All this isn’t rocket science, but it is a reliable and simple way to judge a Rolleiflex just by looking at some photos of this area.