Iloca serial number location
Most Iloca cameras have serial numbers that can tell you something about when they were made. The early models, including the Iloca I, II, Iloca Ia v.1b (with Iloca embossed on shutter), the Stereo I and possibly early Iloca IIa's had no serial numbers.
The later Iloca Ia and IIa versions had a serial number stamped in the base of the body, visible after removing the bottom plate. All subsequent models (Quick, Rapid, Stereo, etc.) had a serial number stamped or printed on the back of the body, usually near the base.
Serial number location of Iloca Ia and IIa. It is not found on early versions of these models.
The serial numbers were six digit numbers until Iloca started adding three more digits indicating the quarter and year of manufacture. Introduction of these three digits occurred rather sporadically. It was first used as early as 1954 on rebranded cameras like the Tower 50, 52 and 83, but not on all and not on contemporary Iloca cameras. Not until 1957 started Iloca adding the three digits to all serial numbers of their own brand cameras.
Location of serial number on later Ilocas, in this case an Iloca Quick v.3.
Iloca model identifiers
At first glance the serial numbers appear to increase with production date of the cameras. However, since all Iloca models up to the Quick had Illing/Iloca lenses with serial numbers, I did wonder why the body numbers appeared to indicate much larger production numbers than the lenses. It then occurred to me that the first digit of the serial number was different for each model. All Iloca Ia have a number starting with 1, all Iloca IIa numbers start with 2, the Stereos with 3. Also, all rebranded cameras show the same pattern. For instance, Tower 83 and Realist 45 cameras, both rebranded Ilocas Stereos, have serial numbers starting with 3.
The pattern continues with the Iloca Quick series (all starting with 4, including the Quick-B). But then it gets complicated. The 5 series are all Iloca Rapids, but the 6 series appear to be all Iloca Quick-B's (including rebranded version), but with higher serial numbers on the lenses than the ones form the 4 series. The 7 series are various Rapids again and appears to continue into the 8 series. However, around that time (early 1957) Iloca started adding the quarter/year indicator, at which point they seem to have jumped to the 9 series. For unclear reasons the numbers start with 6 again from 1959 (now including the added 3 digits), whereas the last models, including the Iloca Electric have serial numbers starting with 8. The last 3-digit number recorded was 160, in agreement with production ending and the company filing for bankrupcy in April 1960.
||Iloca Stereo II and up
||Iloca Quick series
||Iloca Rapid, Rapid-B series
|8xx xxx (qyy)
||Iloca Rapid-B series
|9xx xxx qyy
||Iloca Rapid I, II series
|6xx xxx qyy
||Iloca Rapid I, II, Aut-o-Matic
|8xx xxx qyy
Iloca production estimates
Serial numbers of bodies and lenses can be used to estimate production numbers, but there are a few caveats. As said, early models did not have serial numbers on the bodies. Also, lenses and bodies do not always correlate and lenses with similar numbers were used on different models. Finally, it appears that for the first four series, the numbers may have started at 10,000, but this could be due to the scarcity of camera body numbers (mostly from my own collection or fomr scouring the internet).
A word about Iloca lenses
As a rough estimate, it appears that at least 50,000 Iloca Stereos were made, most of them Stereo II and IIa. Iloca IIa production could be as little as 8,000, Iloca Ia appear to have been produced in excess of 10,000. The Iloca Quick series starts with lens serial numbers around 40,000 so the total production of earlier models (Iloca I, II, Ia, IIa, Stereo Ia, Ib and II) is around 40,000. The Iloca Quick series itself is probably at least 60,000. It is difficult to say anything about the Rapid series, although there is a large spread in serial numbers, they often cluster and it is unclear if they are continuous. Nevertheless, it looks like the numbers must have exceeded those of the Quick series. If the Iloca Electric restarted the 8 series, at least 4200 must have been built (including Graphic 35 Electrics).
I thought initially that Iloca made their own lenses, but in a brochure for the Iloca II it says: "The Ilitar lens delivered by the well-known factory Optische Werke Göttingen Gmbh., is also suitable for taking coloured pictures." It thus seems the lenses were made by what was later called ISCO, known from Westar and Isconar lenses. This should not have come as a complete surprise, because several Iloca cameras and many rebranded ones feature ISCO Westar lenses. Interestingly, these lenses have serial numbers that match those of cameras with Iloca lenses from the same time. For instance, I have seen for sale a Photrix Quick-B body #612999 with an ISCO Westar lens #234394 as well as an Iloca Quick-B #614796 with an Iloca Ilitar branded lens #238556.
As the Iloca (or rather Illing) lenses started at (or near) serial #0, this raises an interesting question: was Iloca the first camera company that ISCO made lenses for? ISCO was founded in 1936 as Optische Werke Josef Kreuznach & Co Göttingen Gmbh, a sister company of Optische Anstalt Jos. Schneider & Co. in Bad Kreuznach, a.k.a. Schneider-Kreuznach. The new company produced special optical devices for military use. After the war the company started producing specialty lenses, and perhaps they wanted to branch out into consumer products.
Whatever the story was, it looks like the first 50-70,000 lenses were all made for Iloca. After that there are rather big gaps in the lens serial numbers, suggesting that these were used by for other cameras, such as a lens marked Opt. Werke Göttingen GmbH Westar with #122234 on a Braun Paxette IIM in my collection. Not long after lenses were marked Isco-Göttingen instead, like on a Westar #124876 on a Aka Akarette II, also in my collection. There is little to no info about this name change (ISCO = Iosef Schneider & Co?).
Iloca used ISCO-made lenses until and including their Quick series. Rapid series cameras nearly all have Steinheil Cassar lenses.