Three-Rotor Enigma Machine Up for Auction

Expensive, but it's in complete working order. They're also auctioning off a complete set of rotors; those are even rarer than the machines -- which are often missing their rotors.

Posted on November 6, 2012 at 12:17 PM • 19 Comments

Comments

Dirk PraetNovember 6, 2012 5:03 PM

As usual, the article does not give any credit to the Polish cryptanalists who IIRC beat the British to breaking the code.

GregNovember 6, 2012 6:10 PM

From the pictures I guess you don't get any rotors nor plugboard cables.

Reckon this will go for a lot more than the estimate

itgrrlNovember 6, 2012 7:35 PM


Interesting that both the discovery of the skeletal pigeon with message capsule and the announcement of the auction of an Enigma machine seem to have occurred on the same day... Coincidence, opportunism, or PR hoax? :-P

Cool stuff, regardless.

itgrrlNovember 6, 2012 7:38 PM

Gah. My [tinfoil hat] ... [/tinfoil hat] markup (originally with angle brackets, obvs.) got swallowed. Far less amusing now. :-/

FigureitoutNovember 6, 2012 9:42 PM

Bruce, if I had £40,00-60,000 handy (or maybe more), I would make a bet; to think that German officers pushed secret codes on that machine is pretty cool. I would also buy a pile of your latest book too; but you know what's happening in the world today (very unstable/fragile).

@itgrrl
Coincidence! :) If WWII history doesn't interest you then Idk what will!! (Just b/c it's interesting doesn't mean I "love" hearing about the death and destruction, it was the last time the "world" was at "war"!! Maybe we can recognize the signs and stop it from happening again!!)

FigureitoutNovember 6, 2012 10:14 PM

As an addition to my comment about WWII (Moderator plz let it be) All humans on this planet are basically the same, it doesn't make any sense to try to kill each other; we have to think about living off this planet!!. I personally have made friends (and done "other things") with almost all countries/cultures...We should all find comfort in that we are all very similar (when looked at from the right angle), I know we won't all sit around and sing "Kumbaya", but the internet may change that!!!!

Mark J. Blair, NF6XNovember 6, 2012 10:38 PM

My cold war era Soviet "Fialka" 10-rotor machine was quite a bit more affordable, at a bit under $3000. The least expensive military mechanical cipher machines I've seen on the collector's market are the US M-209 machines from WW2, typically selling for about $1500-$2000 lately. Surprisingly, the much simpler M-94 machines (basically just Jefferson wheel devices in a pocket-sized form factor) sell for a lot more than the M-209 machines. Anyway, one can enter the ranks of cryptographic machine collectors for far less than the cost of a genuine military Enigma, and there are also plenty of nice simulators out there.

johnNovember 7, 2012 4:45 AM

Dirk Praet, there is a monument to the Polish cryptanalists at Bletchley Park but they are often missed from items about this.

DavidNovember 7, 2012 5:05 AM

Love the fact that as well as the Enigma machine and spare rotors the item also mentions a bird box in the auction. Can't think of any connection unless it was for the pigeon?

Dirk PraetNovember 7, 2012 5:24 AM

@ John

there is a monument to the Polish cryptanalists at Bletchley Park

I've been there ;-)

Steve GeistNovember 7, 2012 2:25 PM

On a recent episode of something called "Bid and Destroy" where demolition companies give low-ball bids in order to get salvage rights to anything they find in the building, they found some cool old German typewriter stashed away in the garage during their one-hour long scrounge through the property before it gets razed. Sure enough, it was an Enigma, and it just barely escaped being crushed in the rubble. The other people in the room must have thought I was possessed when I cried out "That's not a typewriter you idiot! It's an Enigma! It's f-ing priceless!"

I'll just have to settle for having had the opportunity to poke at one at the NSA's booth at an RSA Conference.

Scott David DanielsNovember 7, 2012 2:50 PM

Imagine how wonderful it would be to have this at Bletchley Park in an exhibit where (at least upon occasion) visitors might actually fiddle with it.

KaitheNovember 7, 2012 3:15 PM

@ Scott David Daniels

Imagine how wonderful it would be to have this at Bletchley Park in an exhibit where (at least upon occasion) visitors might actually fiddle with it.

They do already! When I visited about 3 months ago, there were 13 on exhibit. One of which was (under very tight supervision) accessible to the public.

RogerNovember 7, 2012 5:50 PM

Bonhams doesn't just fail to credit the Poles; they also repeat the confused story that Colossus was built to attack Enigma.

Still, they're auctioneers, not historians of cryptanalysis.

Alan KaminskyNovember 10, 2012 11:23 AM

If only Curt Herzstark had invented a handheld enciphering machine instead of a handheld calculator! How cool would that be?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curta

Of course, Hertzstark's calculator could do an RSA encryption, which is just a series of multiplications and divisions. Might take a while, though . . .

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