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Be a code breaker: Enigma machines up for auction

Bid on a piece of WWII spy history with an unprecedented collection of cipher machines and accessories up for sale at Christie's auction house through Dec. 3.

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Send coded messages the NSA will have trouble reading with your own working Enigma machine. Christie's

You can own a piece of Bletchley Park history thanks to Christie's online auction of two Enigma machines and other rarely seen ciphers.

One of the cipher machines up for auction is the 1941 M4 Enigma, which was one of the first 4-Rotor M4 Enigmas to be manufactured by the Germans for use by their Navy. This original Enigma machine is in working condition and has a very unusual feature that includes the appearance of numbers on the top and bottom rows of keys.

"All of the Enigma-encoded messages sent during the war consisted of only letters," states the Christie's auction page. "The full name of a number was spelled out in letters whenever a number was required. Therefore, the purpose of placing numbers on the keyboard keys is unclear. They are not seen in later Marine Enigmas." Currently, the bid is at $240,000.

The auction also includes a three-rotor Enigma machine from Konski and Kruger circa 1931 with the starting bid at $110,000. "Very few Enigma machines survived the war and it is particularly unusual to find one that was made in the early 1930s that remained in such good condition," states the Christie's auction page.

There's also an Enigma UHR Box from Konski and Kruger circa 1944 for $16,000 starting bid. This Enigma UHR is an add-on device for the three-rotor German Enigma cipher machine. Collectors can also just bid on a single Enigma cipher machine rotor circa 1943 for $4,200.

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Even the Cold War had its own encryption machines that used electromechanical cipher wheels to scramble the letters. Christie's

This isn't the first time the Enigma machine has been up auction at Christie's. In August, code breakers and historians bid on a 1939 three-rotor Enigma machine that included a wood case and includes a green nighttime filter.

For those wanting other cryptography artifacts, this current Christie's online auction also includes a 1938 British Typex Cipher Machine at $20,000, a Swiss 1948 NEMA Cipher Machine at $16,000 and a U.S. Army 1944 M-209-B Cipher Machine at $4,200.

Cold War collectors will be interested in other machines in the auction, including a Russian 1975 Cold War R-014D Burst Encoder at $1,500, a Russian 1956 Cold War M-125-3 Cipher Machine codenamed "Fialka" at $12,000, a Russian 1960 Cold War RT-17/R-353 Clandestine Pocket-Sized Burst Encoder at $1,500 and a German 1960 Cold War Clandestine RT-3 Pocket-Sized Burst Encoder for $1,500.

The oldest item in the auction is a US Pocket Spy Telegraph Set circa 1864. Sets like these were used during the American Civil War by Union spies to tap in and listen to Confederate telegraph messages. Sets like these are indeed a very rare find. The starting bid is at $2,000.

The auction ends quickly, so if you want a piece of international spy history, bid now and often. Good luck, soldier!

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Long before texting there was the telegraph. Christie's