It wasn’t exactly Antiques Roadshow, but it might have been more interesting in the long run:
A €100 typewriter has sold for €45,000 (£40,000; $51,500) at auction, after it was discovered it was actually a German Wehrmacht Enigma I.
The World War Two cipher machine was bought at a flea market by a cryptography professor, who apparently recognised its true worth.
Enigma machines were used to carry coded military communications during the war.
First developed in Germany in the 1920s, the codes created by the electromechanical encryption devices were eventually cracked by mathematician Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park.
And these were pretty spiffy devices for their time, too:
To avoid merely implementing a simple (and easily breakable) substitution cipher, every key press caused one or more rotors to step by one twenty-sixth of a full rotation, before the electrical connections were made. This changed the substitution alphabet used for encryption, ensuring that the cryptographic substitution was different at each new rotor position, producing a more formidable polyalphabetic substitution cipher. The stepping mechanism varied slightly from model to model. The right-hand rotor stepped once with each keystroke, and other rotors stepped less frequently.
Artmark, an auction house in Bucharest, put the machine on the block at a starting price of €9000. The eventual selling price was formidable, but well short of the auction record: an Enigma was sold last month by Christie’s for $547,500.
(Via The Glittering Eye.)