[SIGCIS-Members] enigma for sale

Jonathan Coopersmith j-coopersmith at tamu.edu
Fri Sep 4 23:07:24 PDT 2015

Bonham's is offering an Enigma at auction in two weeks:  In case you have a
spare $160-180,000 lying around, here is the description:

A Rare Early 3-Rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machines (aka Heeres
Enigma), Berlin, early 1930s.

An early Enigma machine in working condition, serial number 1024, in
original oak box with hinged front panel and leather handle, inner front
panel with "ENIGMA" and "Klappe schliessen" stamps, rotors I, II, III and
reflector with matching serial number A1024, standard QWERTY keyboard of 26
keys, white on black backgrounds, battery switch, ebonite Steckerbrett
[plugboard] with 12 stecker cables (12 plugged into the Steckerbrett and 2
spares stored in the top lid of case), battery case with 2 packages of
functioning spare light bulbs, upper lid with 10 bulbs, green glare filter,
and replica "Zur Beachtung" sign. 13 1/4 x 11 x 6 1/2 inches. Split in oak
at lid, glass on key "Q" cracked, internal wires in wiring maze replaced to
avoid problems with deteriorating insulation.
WITH: A 1934/1936 German Ta.P. Baumuster T1 Telegraph key; 2 facsimile
Enigma operating manuals; 1 copy of Dr. Tom Perera's book,*Inside the
Enigma; The Secrets of the ENIGMA Machine and other Historic Cipher

indicates that this machine was made in the early 1930s, making it among
the very first Enigmas to be delivered to the German Military as they built
up their armed forces in violation of the Versailles Treaty. A video of the
machine operating can be viewed on our website at *www.bonhams.com/video/19793/

Patented by Arthur Scherbius in 1918, the Enigma machine utilizes three
interchangeable rotors which scramble plain-text messages and produce a
cipher text message which is then sent, generally via Morse code, to a
receiving party with an Enigma set up in the same configuration as the
sending Enigma. All of the machines could use the interchangeable wheels
from any enigma, so to find a matching set of wheels with the same serial
number as the Enigma is quite rare. Though the German military was familiar
with the Enigma, it was not adopted as their primary cipher device until
1926, when they discovered that all German naval coded messages had been
intercepted and read by the British during the latter half of WWI.
It is unknown exactly how many enigma machines were made, but we know that
few survived the war. Rather than have the machines fall into enemy hands,
they were destroyed by the Germans upon retreat and documents pertaining to
their manufacture were burned or in many cases simply lost. On top of this,
Churchill ordered all Enigma machines to be destroyed at the end of the
war, so few machines remain intact.

This example of the standard three rotor enigma machine "Modell 1" was used
principally by the army (Wehrmacht), and was their favored enciphering
device. British attempts to break the Enigma code were fruitless for years.
The breakthrough eventually came after the creation of the famous British
codebreaking center Bletchley Park. Using the technology transferred to
them from the brilliant Polish codebreaking team, as well as documents
supplied by the French Intelligence from a German spy, the great Alan
Turing, along with Knox, Foss and many others were able to break the Enigma
code, shortening the war by en estimated two years, and saving countless


Jonathan Coopersmith
Associate Professor
Department of History
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX  77843-4236
979.862.4314 (fax)

* FAXED.  The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine* is now available from Johns
Hopkins University Press.  The press is offering a 30% discount if ordered
from its website using the code HNAF (
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