A Guy Walks Into a Flea Market

I just love this story. The opening sounds like a joke. A guy walks into a flea market, buys an old typewriter for €100 and sells it for €45,000. It was an Enigma machine and the guy was a professor of cryptography and knew what he was looking at. From the BBC:

A 100 euros typewriter has sold for 45,000 euros (£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.

It was sold to an online bidder in Bucharest, Romania, on Tuesday.

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.

The pictures are pretty neat, too.

What I like about this story is not just the turning trash to treasure aspect of it but that the cryptography professor saved the machine. It might have been scrapped. We’ll never know how many things have just been thrown away because people didn’t realize what they were.

I’ve literally pulled valuable rarities out of the trash. Not $45,000 rarities but still. I’ve got the base of a rare epergne sitting on my piano that the owner of the store I bought it from obviously had no idea what it was. Just a few months ago I purchased a piece of pottery for a buck at a garage sale that’s probably worth $100. The seller didn’t know what it was.

1 comment… add one
  • Guarneri

    Not of similar historical significance, but….. In the 60s Acushnet (now Titleist) made a brass, very old school looking putter used most recently by professional Corey Pavin and by yours truly for 20 years. The Bulleseye. Small sweet spot but they feel like “buttah.” Lesser versions look like this:


    If you could find one – but of course you can’t; that’s the point – with the original rounded edges, Acushnet logo, George Lowe model, fluted shaft and leather pistol grip in great condition you would have not a $30 piece of crap/scrap, but a $5000 collectors item. No kidding.

    As much as I loved my Bullseye, It’s a long way to the Bettinardi Queen Bee #9 in the bag now.

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