Antique Weekly

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Wartime Cipher Machines for Sale

NEW ORLEANS - A few times in the past, this column has highlighted very rare or unusual art objects that have come up for sale by one of the nation's top art galleries specializing in the world's fine arts.

M.S. Rau Antiques is now featuring two post-war-time cipher machines, one used by the Swiss and a second used by the Dutch navy and air force and the Norwegian army.

The Swiss NEMA cipher machine was designed as a 10-wheel rotor device used by the Swiss Army near the end of World War II as a replacement for their Enigma machines after its own code had been broken by both Allied and German cryptanalysts.

It was declassified in July 1992 and sold publicly two years later. Only 640 of the devices were manufactured. It's for sale for $24,500.

The second cipher is the lightweight and portable Hagelin C-446-A device designed by Swedish cryptopher Boris Hagelin about 1944. Rather than having pin-and-lug cipher wheels, it features a five-level paper tape reader. It's being offered for $9,850.

Collectors and others are drawn to the fascination of owning a vintage cipher machine because of their historical significance, primarily the role they played in ending World War II.

As described by Wikipedia, cryptanalysis of the German army's Enigma cipher enabled the western Allies to read substantial amounts of secret-Morse-coded radio transmissions of the Axis powers that had been enciphered using the Enigma.

This decoding yielded military intelligence that was considered "decisive" to the Allied victory, according to Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Others, too, are intrigued by the mathematical genius of the cipher and its enciphered complex system.

The Enigma Museum of Hancock, Vt., has a variety of cipher machines for sale ranging in price from $190,000 to $260,000. In 2015, Sotheby's sold a rare 1943 Nazi Enigma cipher for $232,000.

30-6721_4 German Enigma I Cipher Machine


Antique Cipher Machine

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