by Brooke Kennedy
This December presented RR Auction’s final monthly auction of this year, with no shortage of historical artifacts for our loyal bidders. The category of science and technology was at the forefront, with items from the era of Edison’s inventions to the early 2000s when the first iPhone brought us into the future. In addition, more than 300 lots were available across 25 other categories.
One month after his election, Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy sought to strengthen Pakistan’s relations with China. A dinner was quickly arranged and October 19, 1956 marked the first Pakistani state visit to China, with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai in attendance. During this dinner, matters regarding exchange of goods and industrial development were just a few of the topics discussed. Hitting a final price of $275,000, a menu from this historic meeting became the highest selling item of the night – featuring the signatures of multiple Chinese officials.
In addition to those of Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Prime Minister Suhrawardy, influential statesman Huang Yanpei, Peng Zhen, Chen Yun, and Zhu De sign in fountain pen.
The dinner selection for the event put forth nine unique offerings ranging from the simple to the extravagant: “Consommé of Swallow Nest and White Agaric, Shark’s Fin in Brown Sauce, Vegetable Rolls in Three Colours, Fried Spiced Chicken, Vegetarian Macedoine, Roast Peking Duck, Cream of Walnut and Date, Assorted Pastries, Fruits.”
“To hold a menu signed by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai is to hold a piece of the past,” said Executive Vice President Bobby Livingston in a statement to WBUR. “A piece that tells a story of diplomatic engagement, cultural exchange, and the forging of friendships that have endured through the decades.”
Rounding out RR Auction’s science and technology category was an Enigma I cipher machine manufactured for the German military in Munich in 1943. Throughout the war, the Enigma I was instrumental to the armed forces in encrypting their military messages.
The Germans adopted the Enigma as their primary cipher in 1926, leading to the efforts made by Polish codebreakers – led by Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki, and Henryk Zygalski – to crack the code. After Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, this task turned over to their Allied counterparts to continue their research. Alan Turing and other codebreakers at Bletchley Park continued their work, speeding up the time it took to break the Enigma codes. Historians credit these efforts as having shortened World War II by roughly two years.
The machine – still housed in its oak case – sold at last week’s auction for $206,253. This is just the fourth Enigma cipher machine RR Auction has ever offered.
In another one of his checks, Steve Jobs makes it out to the Boston-based RadioShack. The now defunct electronics store was once at the forefront of the computer revolution, and Apple owes a lot to it.
As a teenager, Steve Wozniak spent hours in its aisles, and eventually saved up enough money to purchase RadioShack’s then-revolutionary TRS-80 Micro Computer System. With this new gadget, Wozniak built his well-known ‘blue box,’ an illegal device that could perform long-distance phone calls free of charge. Thanks to this ‘blue box’ Wozniak and Jobs began their business partnership, and the duo was able to sell about 200 of their boxes for $150 each. In an interview with the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association, Jobs recounted that if it hadn’t been for Wozniak’s blue boxes, ‘there would have been no Apple.’ The world has RadioShack to thank for putting the computers in our homes and the internet in our pockets.
This particular check – sold for $46,063 – was issued just a few months after Apple’s official founding and contains the address of a mail drop and answering service they used while working out of Jobs’s family garage.
Though this was RR Auction’s final monthly auction of 2023, there is much more to come for 2024’s Fine Autographs and Artifacts auctions. We are currently accepting items to feature in our February, March, and April monthly auctions, as well as our Apple and Steve Jobs and Space and Aviation auctions. Head to our auction estimate form by clicking the button below or call us at 800-937-3880.
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