Enigma Machine Sold For Record $269,000 at Auction
Enigma Machine sold for record $269,000. The famous German 3-Rotor Enigma Machine has set a new world record when it sold at Bonhams Acution.
Enigma, as you know, is a three-rotor ENIGMA, the standard German electronic ciphering machine used in World War II.
It derives from a 1919 patent of a Dutch inventor, H.A. Koch; an early design marketed by Dr. Arthur Scherbius was bought out by the German military in 1929 and placed in service.
ENIGMA in several variants was used by the German Navy, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the state railroad system, the Abwehr (intelligence) and the SS.
It was designed with a complex, interchangeable series of three rotors bearing the 26-character alphabet, a ‘reflector’ and a plugboard with movable connecting cords that connected pairs of letters.
As an added precaution, the base or starting settings for the rotors was changed every 24 hours, according to pre-printed setting registers furnished in advance or supplied daily by courier.
It has been calculated that the 3-rotor ENIGMA, with plugboard in use, made possible a total of 15 billion billion possible readings for each character.
The Enigma I Enciphering Machine (aka Heeres Enigma) in complete working condition sold for $269,000 (almost 1.5 times its high estimate) at Bonhams’ Fine Books & Manuscripts sale on April 13.
The machine, with serial number 18660, was manufactured for the German military in Berlin in July of 1944. Few of these machines are known to have survived the war and surprising this is one of them.
Patented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, the Enigma Machine uses three interchangeable rotors, which scramble plain-text messages to produce a cipher text message, a virtually unbreakable code.
The first time Germans used this machine was as their primary cipher device, back in 1926 to encrypt naval coded messages.
The code was finally cracked by a team of young British code breakers at Bletchley Park led by none other than Alan Turing. The film ‘The Imitation Game’ did a great job describing the situation, didn’t it?
At the auction was also a 56-page manuscript by Alan Turning which was sold for $1,025,000. The manuscript, written in a simple notebook bought from a stationer in Cambridge, UK, is the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing in existence.
The next Books & Manuscripts auction will be held on June 16 entitled “Voices of the 20th Century.”
The Enigma machine was first offered for sale in 1923, but had few takers. Fortunately it was sold in 2015 for $269,000. That is a lucky buyer who now owns a piece of history.
Because today, Enigma machines are a collector’s item, a standard Army Enigma has increased in value from $20K to over $100K in the past decade. A record price of over $208,000 was achieved in a Christie’s auction on 9/29/2011.