Rare cipher machines lead Bonhams Scientific sale

Tin Man

Tin Man

2015-10-06 10:57:33

A selection of rare military cipher machines will be amongst the top lots in the Bonhams Scientific, Technological and Mechanical Music Instruments sale in London this month.

Dating from the 1930s through to the Cold War, the machines offer an insight into the history of 20th century cryptology across Europe.

“It’s unusual to find so many different types of cipher machines in one sale," said Bonhams’ technology specialist Jon Baddeley.

"The German Enigma is, of course, well known, but the others are fascinating variations on a theme and reflect the central role of protecting intelligence before, during and after World War II.”

Leading the line-up is a highly rare four-rotor M4 Enigma machine from 1941. The machine was developed for use by the German Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic, and proved a much tougher task for the team at Bletchley Park who had only just cracked the codes of the three-rotor machine.

Most of these four-rotor machines were destroyed during the war, and this example – originally used by the Navy High Command in Norway – is expected to sell for £80,000-£120,000.

Collectors will also have the chance to bid on a NEMA enciphering machine built in Switzerland and developed during World War II, estimated at £10,000-15,000; a Swedish Hagelin B-21 cipher machine, built in 1932 and valued at £40,000-60,000; and a Falka M-125 three-rotor cipher machine, used extensively by Soviet Russia during the Cold War and estimated at £7,000-10,000.

The Bonhams Scientific, Technological and Mechanical Music Instruments sale takes place on Tuesday October 27.

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